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Ed Grimes: from foster child to Mayor

Mountain Tales: First-hand stories of life in Tehachapi

When Ed Grimes first came to live in Tehachapi in 1950, the odds in life were heavily stacked against him: he was a seven year-old, half Latino boy whose father had abandoned him and his brother Jerry, and he had been bounced around in eight different foster homes after his mother, Helen Arvizu, contracted tuberculosis and was confined to the Stoneybrook Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Keene for two years until her death.

It would have been difficult to imagine that this hard luck lad would one day become Mayor of the City of Tehachapi, be chosen Father of the Year, lead several different elected boards and become a well-loved and respected citizen. And yet this little boy, who was raised on hard work with little love or affection, accomplished all this and more.

As wards of the state, Ed and Jerry were taken into the foster home of Jake and Clara Ratzlaff, who farmed potatoes, alfalfa and sugar beets for seed in the eastern portion of the Tehachapi Valley. The boys were expected to work long hours on the farm, and they were provided with room and board but not hugs or familial warmth.

Ed's favorite outlet was competing in the newly formed youth baseball team – a single team, not a league – that was organized by Karl Backes and Tom Smart in 1955 and played all 18 of their games in Bakersfield. Other team members included Ed's brother Jerry, Rusty and Bub Snider, Danny Cronin, Mike Killingsworth and others. Ed wasn't tall but he was a tough catcher and he was selected as the first ever All-Star player from a Tehachapi team. As an adult he was heavily involved in the Little League program for 20 years, serving as president for 10 years.

After graduating from high school, Ed went into the Army from 1962-65, and then went to work at the California Correctional Institution for 33 years, retiring as a captain. He then spent five more years working as a chief deputy warden for Cornell Corrections. And this former foster child with no parents became a devoted family man, who now has four children – Mike, Shelly, Ryan and Jason – and 10 grandchildren. He has served on many local boards, including the Tehachapi Unified School District Board of Trustees, where he was the chairman five times, the Tehachapi Valley Parks and Recreation District board, and more. He announced all the Tehachapi High School home football games for years and was the "Voice of the Warriors." He and his wife Ruthie also gave an annual THS scholarship that awarded thousands of dollars to local grads.

Ed was a man with a big family and hundreds of friends, and the epic journey of this former foster child is an inspiration to those who know his story.

Ed Grimes passed away in 2018 at the age of 75. He was a dearly loved member of the Tehachapi community.