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Thirty years ago Ron Priest came to California to seek his fortune. Instead he found something perhaps more valuable and enduring — friends who would stick by him through thick and thin.

Late last year the 53-year-old Priest and his wife, Tammy, a kindergarten teacher at Foothills Elementary School in Deer Park, were considering starting a family when doctors discovered he had advanced prostate cancer.

In the weeks that followed, the self-employed Priest continued to run his general contracting firm as he juggled doctor’s visits, listened to different theories on how to deal with the cancer — currently moving toward a stage three classification — and worried how he would come up with the estimated $60,000 needed for treatment. He found strength in his wife, his faith — and his friends.

Friends established an account in Priest’s name at Silverado Credit Union in Angwin. To date there is over $8,000 in the account. Another $800 has been collected by the St. Helena Seventh-day Adventist Church and online donations amount to $765.

More recently another friend and member of Priest’s masonry crew, Eric Payan, set about organizing a fund-raiser to help defray medical expenses, a daunting task, Payan agreed, “But we have faith that people will come.”

The event is planned for Feb. 10, from 3:30 to 10 p.m. at St. Helena’s Native Sons hall on Spring Street. Tickets are $25 and additional donations are welcome. There will be food — “a few prominent barbecue masters will be firing up their grills,” Payan promised — beverages and live entertainment provided by more friends, stonemason Bobby Gastelum and his band, “707,” and Payan’s band, “Johnny Hates the Name.”

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Priest made his way from Lincoln, Neb., to Montana and finally to California in 1972 before settling in Angwin. He worked for T&O Masonry, then Lintner Masonry. Five years ago, with a contractor’s license in hand, he started his own business, Priest Construction.

During his years in Upvalley towns he has donated his time and expertise to Foothills Elementary School where he helped build a new playground wall and purchase and install new playground equipment.

He and his wife have also gone on Adventist missions to Mexico, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic where he puts his masonry skills to use and teaches others as well.

“He is genuine people,” Payan said, “someone you can always count on no matter what the situation might be. He is very supportive of his crew.”

As for the fund-raiser, “This is a chance for all of Ron’s friends to come together and have a rousing good time,” Payan said.

For additional information call Payan at 965-2676. Donations in Priest’s name may be made to Silverado Credit Union, P.O. Box 330, 1 Angwin Plaza, Angwin, CA 94508. Friends have also set up an online site, http://ronpriest.blogspot.com

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