Bennie Gatto

Bennie Gatto


Bennie Gatto has devoted much of his life to the service of citizens of the local area. Mr. Gatto has been active in representing a wide spectrum of the citizens of Manteca and Lathrop including youth, adults, and senior citizens. His governmental service has always been characterized by the philosophy of what he can do for people without any strings attached.

Mr. Bennie Gatto's service to the community began in the 1950's as a young man who volunteered his services to help in developing a central water system in Lathrop. Since that time, he has served as a volunteer fireman for 22 years in the Manteca/Lathrop Fire District and been an active member of the Fast Union High School Athletic Boosters Club for 31 years after helping organize it in 1970. Bennie's additional community service for the past 30 years included four years as a Commissioner of the Manteca Metro Recreation Commission (1974-77), active membership in the Lathrop Senior Club, and is presently involved with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

In recent years, Bennie Gatto has served as Mayor and member of the City Council of Lathrop and the Lathrop Water District Board of Directors. His governmental service continues to this day. He is still on the City of Lathrop Planning Commission, the Manteca/Lathop Fire District Board of Director's, and is a member of the Manteca Ambulance Board of Trustees.

Cutler Salmon

Cutler Salmon


Cutler Salmon was born in New York on August 25, 1809. He began his progression to the West in 1825, with stays in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Wisconsin. In 1828 while living in Wisconsin, he fought in the Black Hawk War, serving as a captain. On October 19, 1829, he married Janet (Jane) Reynolds. Four boys and six girls resulted from this union.

In the latter part of 1853, Cutler came to San Joaquin County and purchased 700 acres of land for $3,000. The "farm", as he called it, and the residence are still in existence on French Camp Road at the end of North Union Road. On the farm he raised cattle, wheat. alfalfa, and many varieties of vegetables. The site is still called "Dutch Point" and at one time was used by travelers as a stopping point on their way to the gold mines in the Sierra. The first well in California producing gas for domestic purposes was discovered at this location.

Evelyn Prouty Thompson, in her book about Manteca writes, "Cutler Salmon and his descendants have done much to make this area a better place for us all to live.” Cutler Salmon died on January 24, 1893, at the age of 83. His wife died in 1899, just before reaching the age of 86. Two of their children married children of Joshua Cowell.

Cutler Salmon was an adventurous man, who had a vision, courage, and leadership. He was a true pioneer of the Manteca area.


Dennis Crockett

Dennis Crockett


The multi talents of Denny Crockett have made major contributions to the broadcasting and entertainment industry for many years. He is a nationally published composer, arranger, vocalist, and keyboard artist, as well as a respected musical producer of record, radio, and television entertainment.

He served for six years as the musical director with Donny and Marie Osmond and the Osmond family. He served for over a decade as the National Musical Director for the Childrens Miracle Network Telethon. He has also co-hosted the Manteca Boys and Girls Club Telethon for many years.

Being very active in the Salt Lake City scouting program, he served as Relations Chairman for the Lone Peak District and in 1990 was elected Vice President of Public Relations on the council level. While in scouting, Denny spearheaded canned food drives which have now brought in more than $20,000.000 worth of food relief.

Denny and his wife, Teri, are the parents of five children. He has always been highly involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where he is currently serving as Bishop of the local ward. This calling is non-paid and he spends long hours in meeting the needs of his ward.

Denny has touched the hearts and lives of many people, especially young people, in his involvement in scouting, church. USO performances, telethons, pageants, and many other community activities.

James Rettig Barber

James Rettig Barber


James Rettig Barber was the first Mantecan to be named a college football All American and a National Football League All Pro team member, as a lineman.

Mr. Barber moved to Manteca in about 1916 with his parents from Mufreesboro, Tennessee. After graduating from Manteca High School in 1931 he attended the University of San Francisco and gained Walter Camp All American status. After college graduation, he was selected to play in the East West Shrine Game and the college All Star Game in Chicago. In the former he lined up against another All American, Gerald Ford, who would later become President of the United States.

In 1935 he joined a professional football team, the Boston Redskins. He was selected as an All Pro in 1939 and 1940. Mr. Barber was on the world championship team in 1937. His playing days came to an end when he joined the Navy in 1941. After World War Il he was a line coach for the New York football team until 1949, when he retired.

After his football days Mr. Barber entered the business world in the State of Washington. At one point he owned the L.E. Nicholls Co. brokerage firm in Spokane until he retired in 1977.

Mr. Barber passed away in January 1998. He was inducted into the Manteca Athletic Club’s Hall of Fame in 1983 and is now being inducted into the Manteca hall of Fame,

Joseph Widmer, Jr.

Joseph Widmer, Jr.


Joseph Widmer's family emigrated from Switzerland in 1924, with Joe being eight years old and speaking no English. After a brief stop in Canada, the family eventually settled in the Banta area. Less than lO years later, Joe graduated from Tracy High School at the head of his class. After two years as a student at the University of California, he returned to the family farm. In 1941, Joe bought a section of land in the Lathrop area which nobody wanted. Working long hours installing pipe lines and pumps, leveling the ground, he developed it into a productive farm.

He was a pioneer in growing asparagus, tomatoes, alfalfa hay, and sunflower seeds. During the summer months, he would employ young men from the area to help, thus enabling them to learn a trade.

Despite the tremendous time commitment required of a farmer, Joe Widmer made himself available to the community on a personal level. He as an active leader in the Lathrop Chamber of Commerce, several service organizations, and his church, as well as his children's schools. Fluent in five languages, Joe had a great interest in education. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Manteca Unified School District for some 25 years. A school, currently under construction in the Lathrop area, has been named in his honor.

Joe and his wife, Alice, parents of two Sons and three daughters, operated his farming operations until his death in 2000. His beautiful farm has been an asset to the community for many years.

Leroy Darling

Leroy Darling


When high school band instructor Leroy Darling brought his family to Manteca in 1953, the Manteca High School music department was small. In just a couple of years, the band and choir changed from very few in numbers to 70-1O0 in each class. New courses were added as music classes became more and more popular. Music concerts which were once sparsely attended became so popular that the same concert had to be performed on up to three different evenings to accommodate all who wanted to attend. Mr. Darling soon became known in Manteca as "Mr. Music Man."

In the 29 years he spent in this community, over 80 awards and trophies were won by his hands for musical superiority, field competition, and street marching. In 1955, he was named Manteca’s "Man of the Year." In 1957, Mr. Darling founded the California Band Directors Association and was its first president. Four years later, his band became the first from Manteca High School to march in the Rose Bowl Parade.

Besides the tremendous amount of time spent in teaching, Mr. Darling and his wife, Frances, raised six children. The music building at Manteca High School was named Addie Hall after his oldest daughter’s tragic death.

He, indeed, impacted hundreds of lives as he not only taught music, but also emphasized discipline and morals. Many of his students in later life credited him as one of the greatest influences in their lives.

Leroy Darling retired in 1982 after 37 years in education. Upon his death in 1984, the Manteca City Council dedicated a day in his memory.

Maurice "Augie" Agostini

Maurice Agostini

Community Service

For nearly 40 years, Maurice "Augie" Agostini has served as a pillar of the Manteca sports community. He's been a tireless force at many levels of service: coach; volunteer worker; fund-raiser; board member; and always, as a sports fan. The ideals by which he’s lived his life - hard work, high energy, competition, sportsmanship, and compassion - have been passed on to hundreds of young athletes. When asked once why he contributed so much, he said simply, "I saw a need."

His public service and support have cut a wide swath. The City of Manteca, the city's youth baseball program, East Union High School, and even local golf have benefited from his countless hours of service. Years ago, East Union — which bestowed diplomas to all three of his children — recognized the contribution of arguably its first grass-roots backer by giving him a lifetime pass to all school sports events. The full measure of his impact was felt in the spring of 1996 when the East Union baseball field was named "Maurice Agostini Field".

Augie's service to the Manteca community includes the following: commissioner and chairperson for the Manteca Metro Recreation Commission(1968-l982); a founder of the East Union Lancer Boosters club; coached Youth Baseball teams for 15 years; and was active in forming the Ripon Golf Association in the early 1960's.

In 1982 Aggie was honored by the City of Manteca for his years of service and received the "Friends of Education" award for distinguished public service from the Manteca Educator's Association.

Robert M. Piccinini

Robert M. Piccinini


Bob Piccinini earned his first grocery store paycheck from his father’s store, Mike’s Market on North Main Street, at age 12, earning 50 cents per hour pressing labels onto packaged meats. A 1959 graduate of Manteca High School, Bob now owns Save Mart Supermarkets, the highly successful chain of grocery stores started by his father and uncle.

Although he followed family footsteps into the grocery business, Piccinini has clearly left his own imprint on Save Mart. With more than $1 billion in annual gross sales, the company has 8,000 employees working in stores from Vallejo to Tehachapi. In the 18 years since he became chairman/CEO at Save Mart, he has seen the Modesto-based company expand from 30 stores to 102.

He has expanded into the warehouse grocery market with 10 Food Maxx and Food 4 Less outlets, and was instrumental in developing a processing plant that produces both the Sunnyside Farms dairy line and Sunny Select dry goods and deli products. Piccinini is also chairman of Yosemite Express Co., a trucking company better known as SMART Refrigerated Transport, and is a board member of the Western Association of Food Chains.

Piccinini has served as president of both state and national grocery organizations and, in 1997, was honored by being named to the California Grocers Association Hall of Achievement.

His love for sports got him into professional baseball where he owned California league franchises in three Valley cities. A few years back he assumed sponsorship of the Save Mart 300, California's best-known NASCAR race, held annually at Sears Point in Marin County.