Each year, the Corcoran Christmas Tree Committee dedicates the Christmas Tree to members of the community that have made significant contributions towards continuing the downtown Christmas tradition. This year the committee chose to co-dedicate the 2021 tree to Manuel Aguirre and to the memory of Morris Proctor.
“These two people have been instrumental in the transportation of our community tree for many years and we are happy to be able to honor both of them,” said Curt Rowe.
Manuel Aguirre was born in 1941 in Harlingen Texas and is the son of Gumecindo Aguirre and Maria Aguirre. Manuel’s uncles found steady work in Corcoran with Crocket and Gambogy, so Gumecindo brought his family here in 1951 when Manuel was about ten. Manuel grew up in Corcoran and attended Corcoran Schools. As a young kid, Manuel and his family would gather downtown to watch the parade, get candy from Santa, and of course, see the Christmas tree.
Manuel’s first job was with Crocket and Gambogy in the late 1950’s operating wheel tractors. After a number of years, Manuel began operating service trucks. By 1970 he moved into the heavy equipment trucking department where he stayed for the remainder of his career.
As a member of the trucking department, Manuel began making the annual treks to the mountains to hoist the community tree onto the flatbed for transport to Corcoran. Manuel worked together with his counterparts at Proctor/Crookshanks to ensure that they each had the right equipment and supplies on hand to hoist and haul the tree. Manuel’s spirit of cooperation always made this process seem easy.
Up until the late 1980’s the tree trek was a multi-day event. The group of men would travel to the mountains on Saturday, harvest the tree, spend the night, and then return to Corcoran on Sunday. As equipment became better, the group was able to do everything in one day. Over time, the tree trek changed from a boy’s night out to a family day trip. Manuel’s wife, Maria, became one of the first ladies to participate and they took the entire family along to the mountains for the next 28 years. Maria would always pack breakfast burritos and made some great tacos for the group.
“Manuel was very reliable, and we always knew we could count of him. His ability to coordinate the hoist and ensure the safety of our setup made him an extremely valuable asset to the committee,” Rowe added. “He was always looking for ways to save time without taking shortcuts that would sacrifice the safety of the operation.”
Manuel has enjoyed living in Corcoran. He saw the benefits of the community tree as a kid and has been proud of his part in placing it as an adult.
“We are happy to celebrate his hard work and endless dedication to the community of Corcoran,” noted Rowe.
Morris Proctor was born in 1944 in Boaz, Alabama and was the son of Quinton and Olgie Proctor. The Proctor family came to California searching for seasonal work when Morris was an infant. The family made the permanent move to Corcoran when Morris was four years old as his dad landed a job working for Corcoran Milling Company.
Morris grew up in Corcoran and attended Corcoran Schools. He had a job running an early morning paper route and found work with the local famers bucking hay in the field. Morris found the value of hard work both at school and on the job.
Morris graduated from Corcoran High School and continued his education at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia. In 1964 Morris married Donna Crookshanks while he was still a student at COS.
After he graduated from COS, Morris continued his education at Fresno State. While at Fresno State, he entered the family business and ran parts between Fresno and Corcoran for Crookshanks Trucking Company. Morris graduated from Fresno State in May of 1967 and went to work for the trucking company full time. Morris learned the business from the bottom up by doing a variety of jobs which exposed him to the various aspects of the enterprise.
By the mid 1970’s Morris had completed the move out of daily operations and moved into the management of the company. Morris successfully managed the trucking business as well as the farming and concrete operations of the company for many years.
Morris loved living in Corcoran and was dedicated to the community. He volunteered for various boards and served on the city planning commission for quite a few years. Morris believed it was important to always do what he could do for the community. An example of this was the donation of trucking time to help build the Corcoran football stadium and the athletic fields that are located by the RAC. Much of the land for the athletic fields at the RAC was donated by Morris and his family.
“Our community Christmas tree has been hauled using trucking time donated by Morris for many years. Even though the tree harvest occurs during cotton season when trucks could be used for hauling products, Morris always made a truck available to get the community tree. We were never told that they were too busy,” commented Rowe. “Morris loved the community of Corcoran. Unfortunately, we lost Morris in December of 2020. Now, a year later, we celebrate Morris’ spirit of dedication and generosity towards the community that he called home.”
Morris’s family along with Manuel and his family attended the tree lighting ceremony which was held Dec. 2 following the Christmas Parade.