EUHS grad, Nevada's Governor & FCC Wall of Famer

By Brenda Benadom

When Governor Kenny C. Guinn received a letter on June 4 from Fresno City College notifying him of his selection for induction into the Football program's Wall of Fame, he knew that it was important for him to attend.

Later in an interview with KGPE Channel 47, he would say that he thought it was something he really owed to FCC to come back and to show his appreciation -- not for what City College was doing for him that evening, in terms of his induction into the Wall of Fame, but to honor the institution for what they've been doing in both the past and the present.

Governor Guinn had initially planned to slip in and out of town to attend the event on Sunday, Aug. 22 in the sole company of a member of his security detail. First Lady Dema Lane Guinn had an important event scheduled in Las Vegas and was unable to make the trip. The Governor had planned to travel by car to Fresno with little or no hoopla. He had declined to submit an invitation list to the organizers, lest his friends feel obligated to attend the event. But once his sister, Shirley Guinn Blair of Las Vegas, learned of the dinner planned at Pardini's banquet facility in Fresno and the 300 or more guests that were expected to attend, she moved into action. Shirley arranged for private air transportation from their friend, Gary Guinn of Guinn Construction of Bakersfield (no relation but now officially "adopted" into the family by Governor Guinn), thus enabling the First Lady and Shirley to attend.

At the same time, she picked up the phone and contacted her friend of more than 50 years and classmate from the EUHS Class of '59, Brenda Benadom of Fresno, to rally the troops. Within a day, formal invitations were obtained from FCC, hand addressed by Shirley and Brenda's classmate, Linda Sue Savage Lee of Fresno, and in the mail to family and special friends. Concurrently, articles appeared in The Fresno Bee and The Exeter Sun, further getting the word out and inviting the public to attend.

Imagine Governor Guinn's surprise as he entered Pardini's, to be met at the door by his life long friends and Exeter classmates, Tom Dungan, Melvin "Pingie" Turner and Kermit Roberts. To say he was absolutely stunned is an understatement. Then, as time unfolded, more and more friends of Governor and Mrs. Guinn began to appear. In addition to the above friends, the Governor and Mrs. Guinn were joined at their table by his sister, Shirley Guinn Blair; Gary Guinn; Stan Pearcy of Bakersfield, pilot of the Citation II aircraft that brought the Guinns to Fresno; Kermit Roberts' wife Beverley of Exeter; and Brenda Benadom. Other friends seated at surrounding tables included: the life long friend of the First Lady, Mary Lou Millsap Deathriage of Exeter; Anna Allen Nelson of Exeter; Judy Anthony Stimson of Farmersville; Richard and Donna Allen Wilson of Kingsburg; Jesse Robinson of Exeter and his son, Randy Robinson, of Farmersville; Harry Van Ness of Visalia; Jim Coiner of Fresno; and Linda White Smith of Fresno.

The guests enjoyed a delicious dinner of a spring mixed green salad with candied walnuts and cranberry raisins, grilled marinated New York steak with a demi-glaze, Potatoes Anna, garlic green beans and dessert of a lemon berry jazz bar. Afterwards, everyone raved about the meal. Governor Guinn was heard to say that he thought the food was fantastic.

Following dinner, this year's six inductees were introduced in turn and afforded the opportunity to briefly address the gathering.

Governor Guinn was the first to be honored and he spoke of the significant role that FCC had played in his transition from the small town environment of Exeter to college athletics and the pursuit of higher education. He expressed particular appreciation to the coaches, mentioning by name Coach Richard Handley among others, who had given him guidance and direction necessary to achieve maturity and set him on the path to success.

He spoke directly to the FCC Rams football team lined up at the rear of the room in their red football jerseys when he cautioned that the transition from a small town and high school athletics program into a city and collegiate athletic program is never easy.

But, he offered encouragement and said that the FCC coaches and staff would be there for them, the same as they had been for him. After the ceremony, many of the players came forward to meet the Governor and speak personally with him. Governor Guinn's name will soon be inscribed on the FCC Ram Football Wall of Fame on the west side of Ratcliffe Stadium near Blackstone Avenue in Fresno.

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