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Obituaries

KEN WEMPLE

Kenneth Jay Wemple (also known to many as “the mayor of Milford”), cattle rancher, cowboy and lifelong resident of Milford, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on June 17, at the age of 80 years old. Ken is survived by the love of his life, Kathryn French Wemple, sons Keith Wemple (Diana Wood Wemple) and Kyle Wemple (Anna Wemple); grandchildren Ryan Chase Wemple (Jody), Reg Winchester Wemple (Bobbie), Cash Leo Wemple (Sydney), Kattie Marie Wemple (Casey Awbrey), and Artem, Abigail and Alia Bgatov; great grandchildren Levi Kenneth Wemple, Lexie Joy Wemple and Layne Florence Wemple; and numerous nieces and nephews.

He was proceeded in death by his beloved daughter Kristine Ellen Wemple, father Don Wemple, mother Gay (Corder) Wemple and sister Donna Gay (Wemple) McClelland.

Ken was born in Susanville, on Sept. 19, 1940 and was raised on the Wemple family Ranch in Milford. Growing up, he was very active in high school sports, including field and track, basketball and football. He was also involved in 4-H and FFA, raising beef project cattle throughout his school years and later becoming a 4-H horse leader.

Ken and Kathryn were married on Aug. 12, 1961 in Reno, Nev. Over the next nearly 60 years, Ken and Kathryn took great pride raising their family in Milford on the Wemple Ranch, where there was always an abundance of work, laughter, sarcasm and love to be found. Ken was an excellent horseman and always made sure good horses were underneath his family. Even with all the responsibilities of the ranch, he always made time for some weekend travel and could be found in rodeo and roping arenas alongside his family and friends. He was a member of the Califiornia Cattlemen’s Association and ACTRA and always made the time to haul his kids and grandkids to their Junior and High School rodeos.

Ken served as a school board member with his first board position being at the Milford Schoolhouse where he replaced his uncle, Glen Wemple. The Milford School closed and was moved to Janesville Union School where he continued serving the community as a board member from 1969 to 1992 (22 ½ years). He also served as a representative on the Agriculture Stabilization Conservation Service for 10 years.

Ken was beloved by many. His quick wit and strong work ethic were only matched by his love for his family and friends and cowboy traditions.

A celebration of life was held June 26 at the Wemple Ranch/Wemple’s Pumpkin Patch in Milford. In Ken’s memory, donations can be made to St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Ken Wemple’s memory or to a charity of your choosing. Ralph Leroy Clark, of Plymouth, passed away on Wednesday, March 10, from complications after surgery. He was born Sept. 23, 1937 in Venice to his parents, James and Virginia (Meyers) Clark. Ralph is survived by his wife Susan Clark of Plymouth; children, Gay (Loch) Ockey of Fresno, Jim (Sherri) Clark of Snelling and Barry (Shannon) Clark of Ione; brother, William Clark; grandchildren, Sierra Zamora, Casey Clark, Brand Ockey, Michaela Clark, Sydney Clark and Peyton Clark; and many wonderful nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by his sister, Barbara McCaleb (Win).

In his early years, Ralph attended Fresno State College where he competed on both the judging and showing teams as well as a year on the rodeo team. In 1966, Ralph accepted a position at Chico State College as herdsman and married Susie Crump. A year later, he became the secretary manager of the Western States Angus Association which he held for four years moving the Western Angus Futurity from Las Vegas to Reno where it became the second largest Angus show in the country.

Ralph took a management position with MC Angus in Madera to be near his kids Gay and Jim. after son, Barry Clark was born. Ralph loved his career, but family came first, and he loved his children and would do anything for them.

Ralph managed the Amador County Fair for 26 years from 1978 to 2004. The Amador County Fair enjoyed his leadership as its chief executive officer. He enjoyed the many aspects of the fair from the arts as well as the addition of a wine competition and the betterment of the junior livestock show and auction. His reputation in the livestock industry attracted events such as Angus Days, Hereford Gold, California Shorthorn Sale and the establishment of the Cattlemen’s Jackpot Show.

Ralph’s career revolved around the Fair Industry, and to him it was a “calling.” It was the life that he loved.

Friends and family gathered for a celebration of life, June 26, at the Amador County Fairgrounds. Contributions in his memory can be made to Amador County Fair Foundation at P.O. Box 1072, Plymouth, CA 95669.

John Ascuaga, the son of Basque sheepherders who became a northern Nevada gambling icon after he bought a small coffee shop with a few slot machines in 1960 and turned it into a major hotelcasino he operated for more than a half century, died on June 28 at age 96. Ascuaga and his twin sister Rosa “Rosie” were born on Jan. 7, 1925 to Jose Ascuaga and Marina Equiluz in Caldwell, Idaho. Raised in the small community of Notus, Idaho, John was a self-made man who built an entertainment empire in Reno as well as a large ranching enterprise. His father Jose emigrated from Spain in 1914 and Jose’s wife Marina joined him two years later, and they raised John and his three siblings on a farm in Idaho. John started in the hotel industry as a bellman in McCall, Idaho, while attending college. He followed family friend Dick Graves to Nevada. Dick opened the Nugget in 1955, and three years of growth later, moved it across the street to its current location. By 1960 Dick was ready to retire and sold the business for $3,775,000 to John, who at the time was only 34 years old. He put nothing down on the loan and still managed to pay it off in seven years.

He didn’t let the expansion of Interstate 80 get in the way of growth plans for his Nugget Casino in downtown Sparks during the 1970s.

He just built the casino under the major thoroughfare that connects Northern Nevada with Northern California. Pillars that support the freeway were incorporated into the Nugget’s casino area.

Though he was known as a pillar of Nevada’s gaming industry, those in the ranching industry who knew him personally say you would be hard pressed to find someone as authentic and humble as John Ascuaga. A Herefordenthusiast and proud rancher, it was always John’s pleasure to welcome livestock events to the Nugget. For many recent years, California’s cattlemen and women paid the Nugget a visit during their annual CCA and CCW Convention. Western Video Market sales have also been held in the resort hotel’s ballrooms and possibly most notable for the cattle industry were the Hereford cattle that graced the main stage of the nugget as Leroy Van Dyke’s “The Auctioneer” boomed from the speakers, with Van Dyke himself once making an appearance. The Nugget Hereford Sale began in 1967 in the parking lot of the hotel before moving indoors to the big stage. Only recently did the event change venues.

It was in the Nugget Steakhouse where Ascuaga met his future wife Rose Ardans. The two went on to build John Ascuaga’s Nugget into a major resort destination in the Reno area. Rose passed away in 2020.

John owned the Nugget Casino in Sparks for more than five decades before selling it to Sheltie OPCO in December 2013.

Ascuaga was known for roaming the floor and greeting patrons personally at the casino he named John Ascuaga’s Nugget along Interstate 80 in Sparks, just east of Reno.

John and Rose lived at their Jacks Valley Ranch, 50 miles south of Reno near Carson City, Nev. The ranch is one of three originally owned by the Ascuagas. At one time they had 1,700 head of Hereford-based commercial cows and a small flock of sheep. Today the ranch includes 300 head of Hereford cattle.

Throughout his career, John was recognized by multiple cattle and livestock trade associations and breed organizations for his long time support of the beef and ranching industries.

In November 2013, CCA gave its highet honor, the Gordon Van Vleck award to John Ascuaga in recognition of his long-time support of California’s cattle producers.

“I have always believed in doing business with a handshake,” said the nearly 89-year-old Ascuaga, who recently sold the hotel and casino venue. “I am proud to associate with men and women like you who still do business with a handshake… as I slow down, I look forward to new adventures and going back to my roots. Ranching was my first love and has remained one of the greatest joys in my life,” Ascuaga said upon recieving the award.

John is preceded in death by his parents, siblings and his wife Rose. He is survived by children, Camille Bressler (Mark), John L. Ascuaga (Teri Hiratani), Michonne Ascuaga (Dr. Kevin Linkus), and Stephen Ascuaga (Priscilla), grandchildren Gabriel, Noah and Miriam Bressler; Sean Ascuaga and Kai Hiratani; Jonathan and Rosie Linkus; Malia and Marisol Ascuaga; and numerous nieces and nephews.

TERRY JOCHIM

Terry R. Jochim, age 73, of Amarillo, Texas, passed away on June 19, following a brief illness. He was born on September 24, 1947, in Sacramento, CA to the late Sebastian and Julia Jochim. Terry was an Air Force Veteran and retired after 38 years of Federal Service. He was an avid cattleman and greatly contributed to the cattle industry being President and Executive Director for the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association. It was a great honor for him to be the Deputy Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus Council 4621, working tirelessly on projects with fellow Knights.

He enjoyed sharing his extensive knowledge and passion for wine with all. That joy for wine took him and Brenda to travel around Italy on two occasions. He did everything with conviction and dedication that surpassed most people, with humility and a generous loving heart.

He is survived by the love of his life, Brenda; son, Brian Jochim (Rose) of Bend, OR; daughter, Ginger Fontes (Mat) of Chicken, AK; three siblings, Dennis, Bobby and Mark; four grandchildren, Alyshia, Anthony, Mathew, and Lucian; and four great-grandchildren.

Services were held June 23 and June 24. Burial followed at Dreamland Cemetery with military honors in Canyon, Texas.