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Auburn Police investigate death of man on Union Pacific tracks

Lowell Grenon an Auburn resident 12 years, formerly of Fresno County
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn man was found dead today after apparently being struck by a train on the Union Pacific tracks. The victim – 30-year-old Lowell Robert Grenon – was found at about 4:40 a.m. by railroad corporation crewmembers. The train engineer stopped the westbound engine after thinking it had hit something in the darkness, slowing to a halt near the Auburn Folsom Road underpass, Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn said. The body was found on the rail right of way at Gum Lane and Pleasant Avenue, near the Gold Country Fairgrounds. The engineer discovered the body and Auburn Police were at the location about a minute later, Ruffcorn said. With no witnesses, investigators were still trying to determine how Grenon died. Ruffcorn said an apparent cause was the collision with the train. But Auburn Police are working with Union Pacific railroad police and the Placer County Sheriff’s Department to more thoroughly investigate events surrounding Grenon’s death, he said. Investigators are also waiting for autopsy and toxicology test results, Ruffcorn said. Grenon had lived in Auburn for the past 12 years, working at a variety of jobs after attending Placer High School and then serving with the California Conservation Corps for three years. Family members remembered Grenon as a happy-go-lucky youngster who grew into a man who loved nature, dogs, disc golf and family. His mother, Joann Grenon of Auburn, said she had dinner with her son on Wednesday night. Her son left her home in a good frame of mind with no known enemies, she said. “He loved life with a passion,” Grenon said. “It may have been just him going from one place to another. Walking – without a vehicle – he would cut corners to make it easier.” John Owens of Fresno – Lowell Grenon’s older half-brother – said he wondered if his sibling hadn’t perhaps had an undiagnosed brain tumor like the one that killed his father in 1994. In his father’s case, sudden loss of consciousness was one of the first signs of problems, he said. Owens also said there was no reason to think his half-brother would take his own life. Grenon was homeless in the strictest sense of the word but Joann Grenon said that her son wasn’t in that situation by choice. “He had a place, lost it and was in the process of finding another place,” she said. Joann Grenon said she is focusing on the positives in her son’s life. “His love for life, his love for his family, his love for nature,” she said. “He loved helping people. He’d give the shirt off his back to help people – even when he had nothing for himself.” Grenon was born in Thousand Oaks but spent most of his childhood in the Fresno County community of Tollhouse. He moved to Auburn in 1998, spending a year at Placer High School. “He loved going to school and the teachers adored him,” Owens said. “He struggled with a learning disability his whole life but he loved people. He was so sweet and so honest.” With an affinity for the outdoors, his three years with the Conservation Corps were happy ones, Owens said. Over the years, his nature photos would fill seven albums. One year, he lived in the backcountry for six months. In Auburn, Grenon would find odd jobs painting or landscaping. But like a lot of others, he was finding jobs hard to come by in the current economy, his mother said. On Wednesday, Grenon left after dinner with his aunt and mother. Hours later, a sheriff’s deputy would give Joann Grenon the sad news. “I’m really glad to have been together with him on Wednesday,” she said. As well as his mother and half-brother, Grenon is survived by brothers Joseph and Michael, both of Auburn, Jon of Oakley and Derek of Chowchilla, and a sister, Heather Pouncey. His father Robert Richard Grenon died in 1994. He was also predeceased by a brother, Mark, and a sister, Vickie Owens.