World traveler gathers ideas to plant in his garden

Visiting historical places around the globe is a good fit for a history major who loves to travel. Len Stohler has always enjoyed exploring new places – even as a young man, he sold two steers in order to raise the money for a Boy Scout trip that stretched from his home in South Texas up to New York, Chicago and St. Louis. He also made a couple of trips to California to visit his great grandmother in San Jose.

After graduating from Baylor University he began attending Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, located in Marin County. His original plans were to become a minister, but eventually he switched directions and decided to become a teacher. He finished the credential requirements at San Francisco State.

In 1969 he came to Red Bluff to teach junior high. Len also served as the district’s Technology Mentor Teacher. With a major grant from Apple, Inc, he was able to work on a project that was presented at a national computer conference. During this time, he also oversaw school activities such as the yearbook and newspaper as well as photography.

Back then, photography was mostly the art of shooting and developing black and white film. He mentioned that the Daily News gave Vista a much-needed projector during that time. Today, photography is quite different, but Len has kept abreast of the latest technology. He even gave me some tips on how to use my new iPad.

He also introduced the “Bay Area Writing Project” in the district, a form of writing that focused more on fluency than form in the first drafts. It promoted more creativity in writing making it more enjoyable. He marveled that when encouraged, junior high students were so insightful and good at writing.

Len Stohler stands in the beautiful garden he created to enjoy year-around color and a variety of wildlife.

After retiring, Len spend many years as a member of the School Board. In 1995, Len experienced a heart problem that required open heart surgery. That episode offered him a second chance in life and the opportunity to consider new projects and activities. One thing that blossomed from his new lease on life was the idea to plant a garden similar to the style he had observed on a trip to China in 2006.

The concept of a Chinese garden is that it should be compact, asymmetrical and pleasing to the eye. The garden should also have a focal point. Len’s beautiful backyard garden has a wooden walkway surrounded by a wide variety of colorful flowers, shrubs and trees.  His delightful garden is an attraction to a multitude of bees, birds and wildlife. While visiting with Len at an outdoor table in the shade, I was fortunate to watch, among other things, flocks of tiny finches, big black bumble bees and darting humming birds appreciating the flowers.

When asked why he gets involved in so many different things, Len responded, I’ve always want to learn new things. I know I don’t have the answers – there’s always something to learn.”

A multitude of other interests compete for his travel and gardening time. His great love of theology has led him to become active in a number of ministries and activities at the Presbyterian Church in Red Bluff.

Len has also been a long-time member of the “Sons In Retirement” group known as SIRS. He has held many offices in SIRS including ‘Area Governor’, a position whose area includes Mt. Shasta, Redding and Red Bluff.

Len has a son, Bill who lives in Hawaii. He is a Senior Project Manager for AECOM. He loves diving and is a very talented underwater photographer (Len’s living room wall display many of his son’s photos).

Exploring interesting bridges has been added to his love for traveling, as well as writing Travelogue articles for the Red Bluff Daily News.  A love for theatre and movies are also part of Len’s world – which all adds up to a life that is well lived and well-traveled.


Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and  tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

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Avid hiker explored the world and now captures local history

Hiker, backpacker, mountain climber. These are just a few of the interests that have driven Gene Serr to explore the great outdoors. As a young man, he climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the “lower 48″ states, three times – once he even spent a very cold night on top of the mountain. He has also climbed Mt. Shasta and over 20 other 14,000-footers in California and Colorado.

Gene holds an ice axe passed down to him by his father that he used to climb Mt. Shasta and for a winter climb of Mt. Lassen.

Born in Yuba City in 1925, where his dad was a Farm Advisor, his family moved to Stockton where he spent his formative years before moving to Davis where he graduated from high school.

Selected for the Marine College Training Program at UC Berkeley, Gene received a Civil Engineering degree as well as a commission in the USMCR as 2nd Lt.  He was called up for the Korean War, and served a few months at a supply depot in Philadelphia.

His education continued at Colorado State University – receiving a MS in Irrigation Engineering. His Master’s Thesis caught the attention of the US Geological Survey in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he worked for two years before moving back to California with the Bureau of Reclamation in Santa Barbara. While there, Gene helped plan the Casitas Dam on the Ventura River and the Twitchell Dam on the Santa Maria River.

Gene married his high school sweetheart, Nancy Wilson, in Davis in 1951. They eventually had two sons, David and Jeff, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, with another on the way.

Nancy, who passed away in 2005, was a wonderful artist. A memorial exhibit of her work was held at the Tehama County Museum in 2011. She worked in a variety of media, particularly oils and watercolor, also silk screen and batik. Beautiful paintings hanging on the walls of Gene’s lovely home attest to her talents. Gene established a Nancy Serr Art Scholarship at Red Bluff High School in 2016.

Gene and Nancy loved to travel. They were able to visit many countries and continents, including Australia – with stops in New Zealand and Tahiti as well. Other trips included China and several visits to Europe. Gene was able to find the small village in Germany where his family had lived before immigrating to the United States a few generations before. Places in the U.S. also provided fun and adventure for them when they took their jeep to Alaska for a driving tour. The beautiful pieces of pottery and carvings Nancy brought from their travels adorn their lovely home.

They spent many of the hot, summer days up at a cabin they owned in Mineral, which was the ideal base camp for their numerous hikes in Lassen Park and surrounding areas.

Starting in 1957, Gene worked for the California Dept. of Water Resources in Sacramento until 1966, when he was transferred to the Northern District in Red Bluff.  Here he worked on various projects and programs, notably the Davis-Grunsky program, which provided loans to small water districts to construct water systems. He retired from the DWR in 1988.

Curiosity about the lumber flumes that came down from the mountains led Gene to discover a second career in researching and writing articles about the history of Tehama County. He became an active member of the Tehama County Genealogical and Historical Society and served as editor of the Tehama County Memories for several years. Gene also helped write Tehama County, 1856-2006; Tales from Ishi Country; and Mineral-Mill Creek Place Names. He served as Regional VP, Conference of California Historical Societies.

A member of the Red Bluff Presbyterian Church, he is also involved in Kiwanis, Sons in Retirement, Nature Conservancy and several historical organizations.

Gene usually has several history projects going at the same time. He said, I enjoy the research and try to fit the puzzle together . You’re always missing pieces, but you do the best you can to fit the pieces together.

One of his current projects is Mary Ellen Place and Trail, about 20 miles west of Red Bluff.  It is a remote area that will require some serious hiking to reach. He is considering the use of an ATV to get there, assuming he can get permission from the property owner.

Gene intends to keep working his history puzzles as long as he can.


Has your world been touched by dementia? My recent book, “Finishing Well: Finding Joy in the Journey”, is a collection of stories and  tips finishingwellinlife3Dcoverabout doing life with my Mama. May it encourage and inspire you to find the joy in your own, unique journey.

Find our group on Facebook 

Will sleep help prevent dementia?

So it turns out that sleep may not be overrated after all. The amount of sleep you get may have an impact on whether or not you get Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers are beginning to see a more definite link between sleep and beta-amyloid and Alzheimer’s. Beta-amyloid build-up in the brain may lead to a vicious cycle – it disturbs sleep and impairs memory, which can trigger an additional build-up of Beta-amyloid  — the protein that makes up the toxic plaque that is the most common suspect behind Alzheimer’s.

Wayne Owensby is demonstrating a sleep-inducing yawn.
Wayne Owensby is demonstrating a sleep-inducing yawn.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have also found compelling evidence that poor sleep – particularly a deficit of the deep, restorative slumber needed to maintain memories — is a conduit through which the beta-amyloid protein may trigger Alzheimer’s disease attacks the brain’s long-term memory.
Our findings reveal a new pathway through which Alzheimer’s disease may cause memory decline later in life,” said UC Berkeley neuroscience professor Matthew Walker, senior author of the study to be published in the journalNature Neuroscience.

How does it work?

“Sleep is helping wash away toxic proteins at night, preventing them from building up and from potentially destroying brain cells,” Walker said. “It’s providing a power cleanse for the brain.”

According to a recent research study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that analyzed the sleep patterns of adults 70 and over found that those who slept for shorter amounts of time and had poorer sleep quality, had higher levels of Beta amyloid, a brain plaque that is an indicator of Alzheimer’s. That’s not to say that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re destined to get Alzheimer’s disease, but there does seem to be a link between the two.

“These findings are important in part because sleep disturbances can be treated in older people. To the degree that poor sleep promotes the development of Alzheimer’s disease, treatments for poor sleep or efforts to maintain healthy sleep patterns may help prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer disease,” said Adam Spira, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health.  

How can you get more sleep?

Besides avoiding the usual suspects of caffeine and alcohol, there are other of practices that can help. The easiest one is yawning and stretching – in fact, it’s so easy that you are probably trying to stifle a yawn right now.

Get a  great going-to-bed routine. Begin by opening your mouth wide to simulate a big yawn. Reach out your arms and give them a good stretch. At first, you’re just going through the motions, but after several yawns and stretches, your body and brain will get the message that it is time to sleep. Then notice what this does to the quality of the sleep that follows. What you will discover is that something about stretching and yawning prepares the body and brain for sleep.

Here’s a video to get you yawning: Contagious Yawning: Why We Do It, What It Shows About Us

I don’t know if my Mama had sleep issues in the early stages of dementia, but sadly, in the late-stages of this disease, sleep seems to be one of her superpowers.

Sweet dreams.