I look up obits in the Modesto Bee on microfilm for people. When you say "the newspapers", which ones did you try? I don't mind looking, but I don't want to duplicate your efforts. Merced has a regular newspaper, whose exact title escapes me, and there is a 12-page weekly for Hilmar.
It sounds a lot like he lived in Hilmar but was in a rest home or hospital when he passon.