ROY SAARI (1945-2008): In his youth, Saari was a world-class swimmer and won two medals at the 1964 Tokyo games, a gold in the freestyle relay, and a silver in the individual medley.
A native of El Segundo, he won a total of 33 national swimming titles during his career and was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1976.
Saari served on Mammoth’s Planning Commission since 1993. he and his wife Sheryl both worked as local realtors.
What was predictable about Roy during his 16 years of public service was the soundness and wisdom of his decision-making. What was unpredictable was how he would actually vote.
In other words, he was not a prisoner of his politics, nor was he a pushover to peer pressure. Rather, he was the ballast of the Commission. A voice of reason. As I heard again and again from friends and colleagues in the wake of his death, “Roy was one of the good ones.” A fitting description. Concise and accurate.
Saari passed away from congestive heart failure on Dec. 30, 2008.
GEOFF CARREIRO (1949-2008): A long-time area resident, Carreiro originally hailed from Hermosa Beach, Calif., but lived much of his life in the Eastern Sierra.
Upon graduation from high school in the late ‘60s, he served in the Navy and did two tours in Vietnam.
According to Inyo National Forest Service spokesperson Nancy Upham, Carreiro had been with the U.S. Forest Service for 20 years, and served nearly all that time working with the Inyo National Forest.
The Sheet spoke with Geoff’s sister, Moira Arjani, who said, “I don’t know if it was his upbringing, or Catholic school or the military, but he always followed the rules.”
This trait apparently stuck with him in later life. “Our mom lives near a National Forest trailhead and Geoff wanted to visit her,” Arjani recalled, “but he said, ‘I don’t have a wildnerness pass.’ I asked him, ‘Seriously? You work for the Forest Service. Can’t you just flash a badge and go in?’ Geoff said that went against Forest Service regulations. He refused to use his badge, so he spent the $5. That’s just the way he was.”
Carreiro died Dec. 27, 2008.
“DOC” RANDOL (1919-2009): A World War II veteran and veterinarian, William “Doc” Randol retired to Mammoth Lakes in 1980 with his wife Eleanor so Doc could pursue his love of fly-fishing. He became a legend for his creation of “Doc’s Twin Lakes Special Fly.”
TERRY SMUTNEY (1956-2009): Terry Smutney was living proof that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and change your life.
Smutney, a Gulf War veteran who spearheaded the Wounded Warrior project for Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES), died of cancer in March.
He had a long history of health problems stemming from exposure to chemical weapons during his military stint in Iraq.
“He joined the [DSES] program five years ago, and yes, that first year was a little rocky,” acknowledged Copeland. “He was a little grumpy. The exposure to those chemicals during the war affected him physically and neurologically.”
But by year two, Smutney began working on becoming an instructor, and then got involved in projects outside DSES.
As Copeland says, he performed the incredible feat of bringing all four area Rotary clubs together to help get the the handicap restrooms, parking and walkway built at Convict Lake, so a handicapped person could actually access the handicap-friendly fishing pier.
He also served on Mammoth’s Mobility Commission, and when various local businesses got slapped with handicap access lawsuits back in 2004, Terry stepped in to serve as a quasi-consultant to help business owners solve access issues and defend themselves.
Just as Terry easily and willingly gave to others, others returned the favor in kind.
After Terry moved into the new place, Mike and Tim Alexander converted his bathroom to being handicap accessible. And members of the Mammoth Lakes Fire Dept. pitched in to put a new engine in Smutney’s van.
The Wounded Warrior project, however, probably constitutes Terry’s greatest achievement. “I give him full credit for starting it,” said Copeland. “[At the outset], we went down to Balboa Naval Medical Hospital together,” she said, “and once the program got started, Terry told us how to treat the guys and gals once they got here.”
CAROL VALENTINE (b. 1910): Carol Valentine, 98, a patron of the arts, civic leader, conservationist and horticulturist, died March 16 at her home in Montecito, Calif.
Born June 11, 1910, in New York, she was a part-time summer resident of Mammoth from 1958 on. She is best known locally for her foresight and generosity in donating the property then known as Valentine’s Camp to the University of California in 1972 for use as an ecological reserve. As part of the gift, the family retained a cabin on the property, and Valentine remained a staunch supporter of the Reserve and its programs.
JEFFREY SCOTT (b. 1950): Some people just seem to have bigger hearts than the rest of us, and those lucky enough to have known long–time Eastsider and acclaimed local artist Jeffrey Scott would certainly say he had as big a heart as anyone you’d ever meet.
Scott, the man known for his exceptionally large and compassionate heart, passed away from a heart attack on March 12.
“He was an angel, an absolute gem,” said Gaye Mueller, a close friend of Scott’s and decade-long fellow Mono Council for the Arts board member. “He was so giving, always volunteering and donating his art to help others. It’s a real loss for the community.”
Born near San Francisco in 1950, he was raised and educated in San Diego. Scott moved to the Eastern Sierra in 1997 and painted numerous mountain scenes. Scott was a frequent participant in many art shows. He also produced a number of local festival posters. Scott could be found painting in remote locations, as well as from photographs he took in the backcountry.
An avid outdoorsman, he also enjoyed skiing, mountain biking, kayaking and backpacking.
Jeffrey had recently retired from a career as an electrician to focus on his painting.
ANDREA MEAD LAWRENCE (b. 1932): If Mt. Rushmore creator Gutzon Borglum were around, he’d be sharpening his chisel about now and deciding which local mountain to carve Andrea Mead Lawrence’s face into.
If Andrea Lawrence had a say in the matter, she’d tell him that the natural beauty of the mountain far surpassed her own and that he should put the chisel away.
Many of us who also love the mountains might disagree with Andrea on this point.
Andrea Mead Lawrence, Olympic gold skier, Olympic gold individual, passed March 30 at age 76.
The double-gold medalist in alpine skiing at the 1952 Oslo Olympics, Lawrence moved her family to Mammoth in 1968 and was a local resident for more than 40 years.
A political and environmental activist, she served for 16 years as a Mono County Supervisor (1982-1998) and more recently, founded ALIMAR (Andrea Lawrence Institute for Mountains and Rivers) in 2003.
Shattering F. Scott Fitzgerald’s notion that there are no second acts in American life.
Fittingly, President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, designating 472,000 acres of new wildlands and rivers, on Monday, hours before she died.
STEVE “ZIPPY” GACHO Gacho died unexpectedly from a heart attack on June 13 while working at his “Ski Ranch” in Lahontan, Nev. He was 44.
Steve was raised in San Diego and moved to Mammoth after high school to pursue his love of skiing in the Sierras. He began working for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in 1984 and held many positions during his 25 year tenure at the resort. He also owned and operated Zip’s Snow Removal for the past decade.
He had a passion for the outdoors, and was a tremendously gifted athlete and trusted friend with a talent for fixing anything.
Remembered by his friends for his quick wit, sense of humor and a never-ending supply of wisecracks and nicknames, Zippy was truly one of a kind.
JOHN BACHAR (b. 1957): John Bachar, rock climber, father, musician, iconoclast, genius, died in a rock-climbing accident at the dike wall above Lake George on July 5. He was 52.
Bachar was free-soloing the wall when he fell.
Bachar was one of rock climbing’s greatest pioneers and visionaries, with a strict code of climbing ethics that included free soloing and respect for the natural environment.
Bachar began climbing as a teenager around Los Angeles. Then, after graduating from high school, he moved to Yosemite Valley.
A natural on rock and highly disciplined – he could do a one-arm pull up while holding a 12.5 lb. weight in his free hand – Bachar quickly rose through the ranks and began climbing, ropeless, in the early ‘80s routes so difficult and dangerous (including Yosemite’s Nabisco Wall – a 5.11c) that even climbing’s elite had to take pause. In 1981, John issued a now infamous dare, offering $10,000 to anyone who could keep up with him, ropeless, on the rock for a single day. There were no takers.
At the time of Bachar’s boldest exploits, professional climbing didn’t exist. Bachar, however, elevated the sport to the point where it gained national attention. Through spots in television commercials, product endorsements and even a feature story in Rolling Stone, Bachar arguably turned himself into climbing’s first real professional athlete.
During his nearly 30 years of soloing, Bachar estimated that he had climbed 1.5 million feet of rock without a rope, at degrees of difficulty up to 5.13.
RICK BLAKE (b. 1949): Rick Blake, a man who would be a sure lock for the mortgage broker hall of fame if there were such a thing, was found dead at his home in Mammoth Lakes on July 7. He was 59.
A devoted father, Blake leaves behind two sons: Kenden, a 2009 graduate of Mammoth High School, and Bryson, who just completed his freshman year.
Stanley Loupe, who has not only worked in the mortgage business with Blake but served as best man at his 1989 wedding to Tracy Blake (nee Miller), said Blake “was an artist in this business. He was a problem solver and a solution maker and he had a near-photographic memory.”
“As Rick always said, ‘Never say never. The deal’s never dead … it’s just failed to be in my hands.’”
As Steier said, however, Rick never had much of a bedside manner. He could be gruff. He could be impatient. He could scare people. Loupe added, “He was tough to work for. Don’t look to Rick for accolades ‘cause they weren’t coming. He wasn’t going to pacify you.”
But then, there was that heart of gold. Business partner Donn Steier said he frequently had to remind Blake that they were in business to make money after Blake had slashed yet another commission. “But he can’t pay that …” Blake would protest in his own defense.
KELLY MONEY (b. 1978): Kelly Susan Money passed away at her home in Mammoth Lakes in July.
She leaves behind a devoted husband, Shon, and two young boys, Brayden, 5, and C.J., 2.
Kelly was born in Moscow, Idaho. She moved to Mammoth Lakes in 2001 and married in 2002.
Her father said Kelly was best at taking care of those around her, a sentiment expressed by other family members during the memorial service.
That Kelly, described by her mother-in-law as “intelligent, funny and beautiful, inside and out,” took her own life is something that no one’s been able to sort out yet. One can’t know another’s demons. Thinking about Kelly, it just makes you want to love people a little harder and a little better.
RON BLACK (b. 1938): Ron Black, a retired law enforcement captain and owner of The Double Eagle Resort in June Lake as well as Snowcreek Athletic Club in Mammoth, passed away Oct. 15 from cancer. He was 71.
In his retirement, Black volunteered in many capacities locally, serving as a member of the Mono County Planning Commission as well as the June Lake Citizens Advisory Committee. He also volunteered as the June Lake Fire Commissioner and spent one year as the foreman of the Mono County Grand Jury.
Black was always quick with a smile and a handshake, and possessed a laconic, subtle wit that was simultaneously innocent and devilish. He couldn’t resist his little jokes, and he couldn’t suppress the smile to let you in on them.
Ron simply exuded warmth. He was nice to be around.
His love affair with his wife was both storybook and lifelong. He and Connie were high school sweethearts at Cal High in Whittier, where Ron quarterbacked the football team and Connie was a cheerleader.
After high school, however, each went their separate ways.
Over three decades later, however, the sweethearts reunited upon learning that each of their marriages had ended, and Ron spent his remaining years happily married to the woman he loved.
In the interim, he enjoyed a long and storied career in law enforcement, finishing his career as a captain with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept.
There was a four-year period in the 1980s where Ron was placed in charge of Mens Central Jail in Los Angeles, the largest jail in the world according to son-in-law (and fellow co-owner of Snwocreek A.C., Ralph Lockhart), with more than 7,000 prisoners and a 300-bed hospital.
BILL REID: Mono County Supervisor Bill Reid died of a pulmonary embolism on Oct. 21. Reid, who moved to Bridgeport in ’73 for a job with the California Highway Patrol, served as a Supervisor for a total of 15 years.
Former Sheet reporter and current County employee Tony Dublino wrote of Reid: “It didn’t matter what you wanted to hear, when you asked Bill Reid a question, you’d better expect a straight answer. This led to more than a few dejected constituents over the years, but was also cause for great enthusiasm when Bill proclaimed something would happen … his ability to divine the bottom line from a confounding pile of arguments will not be easily replaced. If these traits were all that made up the man, he would have been exceptional, and I considered him such based solely on that capacity.”
BRUCE CAPITAIN (b. 1957): Bruce Capitain, a local painting contractor, snowmobiler and hale fellow well met, died due to complications from injuries sustained in a one-car accident which occurred Monday, Sept. 28. He was 52.
A much-beloved local figure, Bruce was described as the kind of guy who’d not only be the first one out to rescue someone broken down in the middle of the desert, but along the way, he’d stop to bring you your favorite beer.
And as friend Greg Eckert said, Bruce never had a negative thing to say about anybody.
Fred Kukulus added, “He’ll be sorely missed. He touched a lot of people.”
Kukulus said Capitain came out to Mammoth Lakes from Massachusetts for a ski trip in 1984 and never left.
“Bruce was into quality versus quantity,” said John Mueller. “That’s how he lived his life. He packed more into 52 years than others would have fit into two lifetimes.”