Tracing Tracy Territory: Our links to the Winter Games
by Sam Matthews/ TP publisher emeritus
Feb 19, 2010 | 4363 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Yes, Tracy has several ties to the Vancouver Winter Olympics as the competition continues in British Columbia.

The surprising success of Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley in winning two silver medals — with chances of garnering more — has suddenly propelled her into the Olympic limelight.

Her father, Ciro Mancuso, spent his early years in Tracy before moving to the Lake Tahoe area, and there are still members of the Mancuso family living in the Tracy area with renewed pride because of Julia’s recent accomplishments in the women’s downhill and alpine combined events on Whistler Mountain.

The Mancuso name became attached to the Winter Olympics four years ago, when Julia won gold in the giant slalom at the Torino (Turin) Winter Olympics in Italy.

Now, with a gold and two silvers, she is the most successful American woman competitor in the history of Olympic alpine skiing. And there could be more medals to come.

The other Tracy tie to the Olympics is Bill Tavares, a 1982 graduate of Tracy High School who is an assistant coach of the U.S. bobsled teams.

Bill competed in the two-man luge competition in the Winter Olympics at Albertville, France, in 1992. His team finished in sixth place, a few seconds out of medaling. Bill continued to be active as a coach while living in Lake Placid, N.Y., and was coach of the 2002 U.S. women’s bobsled team that won gold in Salt Lake City.

We in Tracy don’t hear as much about Bill as we once did. The reason is a sad one: His dad, Tom Tavares, died a few years ago, stilling a voice (and it wasn’t a soft one) that gave his coffee buddies, including me, up-to-the-minute reports on his son’s Winter Olympics fortunes.

Some Tracyites may recall seeing the Olympic five-ring flag raised to the top of a flagpole in a yard on Roosevelt Avenue. That’s where the Tavares family lived — and where Tom filled the yard with topiary animals.

Three years ago, I was traveling in upstate New York and stopped at Lake Placid. I went to the bobsled venue and asked for Bill. Efforts to locate him were futile, however, so contact was never made.

The Vancouver winter games aren’t over yet, and we could hear more about Bill if the U.S. bobsled teams snag some medals in the days ahead.

A sad reminder

The twin-engine plane that crashed in dense fog after taking off from the Palo Alto Airport on Wednesday morning raised eerie memories of a deadly crash here 26 years ago under similar circumstances.

It was Jan. 12, 1984, when Dr. Bob Greenwood, wife Marge and daughter Carrie were all killed when their single-engine plane crashed on takeoff on a foggy winter morning at Tracy Municipal Airport.

Like this week’s Palo Alto crash, which claimed the lives of three Tesla Motors employees, the 1984 crash here was tied to an effort to risk a fog-shrouded takeoff to reach a business meeting.

Bob, a 45-year-old Tracy optometrist, was scheduled to speak that day at an optometrist management seminar in Las Vegas, and he wanted desperately to make it there in time to do so.

His wife, Marge, 44, was going with him, and at the last moment, their daughter, Carrie, 23, decided to go along, too, after Bob’s brother, an optometrist in Elk Grove, canceled.

The three Greenwoods went to the airport early that January morning, when the Tracy area was covered with dense, low-lying tule fog. They waited a while in hopes the fog would lift, but it didn’t. And that’s when Bob decided to risk taking off in the fog, hoping to pop up through the low-lying mist into the sunshine and fly on to Las Vegas.

After racing up and down the runway several times, Bob put the plane into the air, but for some reason — perhaps the motor failed or he became disoriented in the fog, or he decided to abort the takeoff — the plane veered to the left and crashed just west of the Delta-Mendota Canal, near the home of Lester Huck. Everyone aboard perished, a tragic ending to a well-known Tracy family’s effort to fly above the fog.

Only a son, Brett, a student in 1984 at University of California, Santa Barbara, survives. Like his dad, he is an optometrist, and he practices in Elk Grove.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at shm@tracypress.com.
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