Ruppel top of her class at University San Diego

Gardnerville parent Willi Ruppel came by to share the news that his daughter, Renee, gave the afternoon valedictory address at the University of San Diego.

"I'm extremely proud," he said of the 2002 Douglas High School graduate. "It shows how a product of our public school system can go and compete with students at a national university and come out on top."

Willi went down to San Diego to watch Renee graduate.

Renee was one of six members of her class to have a 4.0 grade point average. She received the Wall Street Journal Students Achievement Award and the Delta Sigma Pi Scholarship Key for business administration.

She went to Meneley Elementary School and Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School. As a student, Renee's name came up several times over the years. As a senior she was the senior class representative, involved in the high school's "Every 15 Minutes."

As a junior named one of Douglas High School's students of the month, Renee was described as "very much involved in programs at DHS and is described as being extremely involved, organized, a strong student and independently driven."

In 1998, Renee was one of a handful of students to be named champions in the Academic Olympics.

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In the fall of 1991, a tall fresh-faced blonde girl came into The Record-Courier's offices on Eddy Street and asked if we needed a photographer.

At the time we'd just said good-bye to Chris Tumbusch and Eugene Jack was our main shooter, but we'd been thinking about adding a second part-time photographer to cover real estate.

We hadn't gotten around to advertising when Belinda Grant walked in the door with a portfolio under her arm.

Her material was amazing. She'd attended art school in Florida and had moved to Nevada to be with her aunt and uncle.

It wasn't long before Eugene went to the Appeal to take over for their longtime photographer Lisa Tolda and Belinda was The R-C's chief photographer.

Belinda has in many ways been the face of The R-C at events of all sorts, even though that face was half covered by a camera with a wisp of silvery blond hair rising above it.

She was bane to Douglas County's felons, using her powerful vision like a paintbrush to draw the emotion from victim or vanquished. She is capable of telling a story with her lens whether it is the passing of a plaque or a multiple-vehicle accident. And it's not just me. I was there when Belinda won her first Nevada Press Association award and when she won her last. I'm betting I was somewhere in the room when she reeled in some three dozen mostly first place awards over the years.

After a decade and a half, Belinda will be hanging up her press pass and going out on her own. She's been shooting weddings and private gigs for years, but with her daughter Adriana and the extra work, it's time for her to go freelance.

Belinda had gone part-time when I returned to The R-C in 2004 and it was only a matter of time before she decided it was time to go out on her own.

She is not the first R-C photographer to step out into the world of freelance. Uncle Jay Aldrich started out in the Valley at the newspaper. Mike Okimoto, who held the part-time slot for some time in the mid-90s also found shooting weddings far more lucrative than being an ink-stained wretch.

One night she turned to me and said it was like she was getting a divorce.

"I get to keep the kids and the house," I quipped back. Both Belinda and I are quite a bit grayer than when she walked in the door all those years ago. It will be hard to look over in the corner and not think of her there.

We're having a gathering around noon on Tuesday to say so long and good luck to her. Folks are, as always, welcome to come by.

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I got two phone calls and an e-mail about Danny Judd's T-shirt on the front page of Friday's edition.

The e-mail from John Spradley arrived first and I didn't get it, because I honestly didn't realize what Danny's shirt said when we were putting the paper together on Thursday. Neither did the other four people who looked at the page proof before it went to press. When a lady called on Friday morning I caught flat-footed.

She was actually pretty nice thanking us for covering the graffiti kids, but pointing out that the slogan on Danny's shirt didn't have any business being in the newspaper.

"It doesn't say that," I answered, digging myself deeper. "It says 'Simon Says Ou Sushi."

That's when writer Sharlene Irete came around the corner and read the T-shirt at the top of her lungs.

"She can read it," said the lady on the phone. "What kind of editor are you?"

I was prepared for the second call and admitted that if I'd realized what the shirt said, I doubt in hindsight I would have run it out front.

On the good side, we now have a person whose job it is to read all T-shirts at the top of her lungs, only this time before they get into print.

n Kurt Hildebrand is the kind of editor who is occasionally fooled by someone's T-shirt.. Reach him at or 782-5121, ext. 215


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