Charlene Klinger, daughter Brenda Negley, and Klinger’s brother, Rick Hawksworth have been named the 20th Annual Mountain Heritage Days volunteers of the year.
For this family, the love of the Mountain Area and its history is generational, passed down by Klinger’s parents, John and Marge Hawksworth, who were the first Nelder Grove volunteer hosts in 1975-95.
With family roots going back six generations, Klinger actively volunteers not only because of the area’s history, but because of a scaled-down sawmill her father built prior to his death in 2004.
“It’s the Madera Flume and Trading Company Sawmill number four that stood in Nelder Grove in 1888-92,” Klinger said. “It’s a replica with a tram, mess hall, wagons, and even an outhouse with a magazine. The main mill, at 3 x 9 feet, has more than 10,000 hand-carved shingles.”
The sawmill was donated to the Fresno Flats museum in 2004. However, due to space constraints, it is only partially displayed there. Klinger and her family hope to raise funds for the entire mill to be exhibited in a garage-size building. Once that’s accomplished, Klinger believes more visitors will be drawn to the historical site.
A lifetime Fresno Flats member, Klinger, 68, served two years as treasurer until recently. For about four years, beginning in 1978, she also served as secretary for Mountaineer Days.
“Charlene has been a great volunteer and treasurer for Sierra Historic Sites Association and Fresno Flats Museum and Park,” Mountain Heritage Days Coordinator Gwen Dunn said. “She has done many things for the good of Fresno Flats, and has always put the Flats and community first when getting things done. She has a great family who are members of the mountain community, and are dedicated in their service to the community, as well, which is why Charlene and her family were chosen as our volunteers of the year.”
Klinger, 68, is married to Wayne. She has three daughters, Brenda and twin sister Beverly, who was a past Oakhurst Chamber president and Mountain Belle in 1984, and Brandy who lives in Northern California.
She has also been an Oakhurst Elks Lodge member for 19 years, was the first female exalted ruler, and the first woman to serve as district vice-president. She has worked at Sierra Tel, off and on since 1978, as senior executive administrative assistant to the president.
Negley has been a Fresno Flats member since 1981, and a docent for a year. She is director of Friends of Nelder Grove, and is in her ninth year volunteering for Sierra National Forest. She was also named volunteer campground host of the year for the region and nation in 2012. Her first book was just published, “Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias - A Granddaughter’s Stories,” in honor of her grandparents, John and Marge.
Hawksworth, retired from Sierra Tel in 2011, is a collector of antique trucks and cars, and has “a lot of history stored in his brain from my dad,” Klinger said.
Keeping history alive
The family sees a dire need for volunteers at the Flats.
“I’d like to see an increase in membership,” Negley said. “There’s a lot of maintenance that’s not getting done, and we need more volunteers to share the extensive history of this area.”
“I’ve lived other places, but this is where I want to be,” Klinger added. “Our connection to the area is strong and there are so many family memories here. All the new people coming in don’t know the area’s history because they weren’t living here then, and many of the older people are gone. We’ve got to preserve the history ... to keep the history alive.”
Over at Fresno Flats following the parade, which begins at 10 a.m., Sept. 17, Negley will talk about the history of the sawmill and Nelder Grove, while Klinger plans on helping out wherever she is needed.
“We hope the community comes out to support Heritage Days ... and remember to visit the Flats museum to see the Hawksworth sawmill,” Dunn said.
Details: Gwen Dunn, (559) 265-2608.