Friday, January 1, 2010

Tributes to friends we lost in 2009

Editor's note: The Sun Valley area is known for its scenic beauty and recreation, but the people really make the valley what it is. We've lost many friends over the last 12 months and have compiled tributes to some of them here. This isn't meant to be an all-inclusive list or to slight anyone's loss; rather, it's a sample of the people and lives that make Sun Valley special.

Hazel Stevens, 89

A second-grade teacher for more than 30 years in Blaine County public schools before retiring in 1984, Hazel Stevens passed away peacefully on Jan. 19. Though she had a busy career, Hazel found time for her own children, for family, gardening, reading and being involved with Hailey's St. Charles Catholic Church. Born and raised in Richfield, Hazel earned teaching credentials from Albion Normal School in 1939 and spent two years teaching in a one-room schoolhouse near Richfield. She was an "Outstanding Teacher of America."

Jimmy Dixon

One of a kind, Jimmy "J.D." Dixon of Hailey died Feb. 11 of cancer. Atop Baldy, the flag at the ski patrol shack was lowered to half mast in memory of the Last Cape Roller, who moved here in the late 1960s. Among other things, Jimmy was a brandy-drinking, glass-eating, blues-listening and women's-softball-coaching guy—usually with a dog at his side, one named Fartwell.

Ronda Hunt, 86

A three-term chairman of the Blaine County School District board of trustees, Ronda Hunt did just about everything you could do in Carey, where he moved with his family as a 15-year-old in 1937 and where he graduated from high school in 1940. He and his wife Betty farmed. They operated Hunt's service station and convenience store. He worked for Adamson's as a mechanic. He served his church in many capacities and helped found Carey's Cub Scouts. Ronda, who died Feb. 13, was also chairman of the Blaine County Democratic Party.

Loren Hart, 80

A man of many careers and interests, Loren Hart first came to the Wood River Valley from his native California in the early 1950s and worked as a bellhop at Sun Valley Lodge. He was an educator, a military man and founder of Idaho's Great American Video chain and Lord Nelson Yachts. He died Feb. 11. His son, Loren Hart, preceded him in death. A perpetual award for the Wood River High School boys' soccer team is named for Loren's son.

Aleene Gibson, 85

"Cookie lady" to kids in her Hailey neighborhood, Aleene Gibson was a passionate bicycle rider and cross-country skier. She was proud of making three coast-to-coast bicycle trips and was named Idaho Mountain Express "Athlete of the Year" in 1995 for her athleticism. Aleene was a gifted watercolor painter who shared her landscapes with friends. An Idaho Falls resident in recent years, she died Feb. 14.

Craig Kjesbo, 57

There was never a bad day on the mountain for the 26-year Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation ski coach known as "Cheeso." He was the first coach at the start and the last to go home. Ski team kids loved his enthusiasm. A native of Fargo, N.D., "Cheeso" had a passion for skiing that stood out even in an area replete with excellent skiers. A stucco plasterer by trade, "Cheeso" passed away Jan. 25 after a three-year battle with cancer. Few have ever made more perfect turns on Baldy.

Stella Keane, 53

A quintessential Wood River Valley mountain athlete, Stella Keane was killed in an avalanche while skiing in new snow on the west shoulder of Gladiator Peak near Galena Lodge on March 6. She was with three other local skiers. A native of Kenya, Stella also lived in South Africa, London, Canada and south Ketchum. She was one of the strongest and fastest mountain- and road-bike riders in the valley. Stella was also a world speed skiing record holder. A member of the Sun Valley Ski School in the early 1980s, she had a wide variety of interests and spent many valuable hours working for events that raised money for charity and foundations.

Shannon Erwin, 38

A member of Richfield's 1986 state championship eight-man football team, Shannon Erwin was killed in an avalanche April 5 while snowmobiling in the Norton Creek area of upper Baker Creek. He was "high marking" high on a slope when he triggered the fatal slide. Founder and operator of S. Erwin Excavation since 1991, Shannon was a successful businessman and family man. He shared his love for the outdoors with wife, Beci, and their two children.

Jim Scott, 80

One of the last of the Sun Valley ski bums, "Scottie" first came to Sun Valley in 1948. Raised in Fresno, Calif., he was known for his incredible skiing abilities on Baldy during the 1950s and 1960s. But that's not all "Scottie" did. He was a race car driver, a noted ski racer in the Sierras, a Korean War Air Force veteran, a participant in traveling air shows and a sailor so committed to the sea that he traversed the Atlantic twice in self-built sailboats—and spent many hours sailing through the Caribbean from his St. Thomas base. He died peacefully in Ketchum April 17, having lived his life exactly the way he wanted to.

Norris Earl Ward, 84

Ketchum breakfast customers in the 1970s enjoyed meals at The Colonel's Pancake House a couple of doors down from The Gold Mine. It was a business operated by Mississippi native Norris Ward, a World War II South Pacific Marine who lived in the Sun Valley area through 1975. Norris was superintendent of service in Sun Valley for 20 years, where he earned the "Colonel" nickname. He served on the City Council, was a volunteer fireman and active sportsman. He died May 31 in Meridian.


Aileen Brooks, 89

One of her favorite phrases was "I have a charmed life," and who could blame Aileen Brooks, raised near the Black Hills of South Dakota? She and her siblings migrated to the Wood River Valley where she married Bill Brooks in 1940. While raising six children in Hailey, they owned and operated the Brooks Barber Shop, Liberty Theatre and Liberty Rock Shop. Hailey's St. Charles Catholic Church was an integral part of her long life. She died June 8.

Virginia Ivie, 96

A native of Gannett, Virginia Sowers Ivie spent her younger years on Loving Creek Ranch and in Picabo and graduated from Hailey High School in 1934. She and her husband, Harold Ivie, had an interesting life together. Harold was a miner up East Fork. They ran sawmills together in Mackay and Hailey, and operated Stanley's Rocky Mountain Ranch from 1955-59. She was a telephone operator during World War II, and an active member of Royal Neighbors Lodge for 70 years.

John Francis Miller, 82

Born in Kansas, the 11th of 12 children, John Miller moved with his large family to Idaho in 1936, to escape the Dust Bowl. John attended Hailey schools and joined the Army in 1944. He returned to Hailey and started a 61-year marriage with Virginia Nelson. By trade a mechanic, John worked 25 years at Sawtooth Motors and, with his son Mark, operated Hailey Chevron for seven years. In 1993 he retired as supervisor of Hailey's Riverside wastewater treatment plant. John loved cars, was an excellent skier and also took up snowmobiling. He passed away June 10.

Milton Rutter, 88

Ever wonder how the Hailey water gets to the tap? People are responsible for that, and one of those was Milton Rutter. Born in Hailey in 1921, he was a 13-year-old water boy with the 120-man crew that hand-dug the Hailey municipal water system from Indian Creek through the streets of Hailey. A World War II Army field mess cook, Milton was a carpenter by trade and avid outdoorsman who enjoyed delivering scrap wood to various widowed ladies in Hailey for their heating needs. He was active in the Days of the Old West Rodeo. Milton died in his sleep June 9 in Jerome.

Kit Neraas, 56

A fun-loving and carefree spirit with an infectious laugh, 34-year Hailey resident James "Kit" Neraas wore many hats—radio disc jockey, finish carpenter, band roadie and ski racing announcer—but his proudest accomplishment was serving 25 years as director of the Northern Rockies Folk Festival. He died July 31 in Boise, coincidentally on the first day of this year's Northern Rockies two-day music fest in Hailey.

Halbert Hatch, 101

Still dancing in his 90s and still wearing his ever-present smile until his Aug. 3 death, Halbert Hatch was a man of many trades who knew just about everything that needs to be known about the Wood River Valley. Born in Missouri and married to Inez Wyckoff in 1927, he and his wife moved to Stanton Crossing in 1930 and operated two Bellevue ranches for the next 16 years—raising registered Hereford cattle. Halbert worked in the Triumph Mine, ran the Bellevue Hardware store, was the maintenance man at Hailey Hospital and punched tickets at the Sun Valley ski lifts. A former Bellevue mayor, school board member and Odd Fellows Lodge grand master, Halbert also enjoyed square dancing, fishing, bowling, trapshooting and telling jokes. You name it, Halbert did it. Asked his secret for longevity, he might have pointed to his 75-year marriage to Inez, but he also remarked, "When you breathe, remember to breathe back in."

Phil Poynter, 69

A stonemason by trade from southern California, Phil Poynter moved to Ketchum in 1964 and originally worked as a Sun Valley Lodge bellhop. He married Andrea Felker in 1969 and started Phil Poynter Custom Masonry. The building he owned next to Grumpy's on Warm Springs Road was the home of the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper during its formative years from 1976-91. Poynter loved having a good time, and loved the beaches of Mexico, where he retired in 2002 and died July 13 on his 69th birthday.

Bill Cary, 86

Former vice president of Paine Webber Jackson Curtis brokerage, Michigan native Bill Cary was more attuned to the outdoors and most well known in the valley for being the president, player and prime mover of the Sun Valley Polo Club. The World War II Naval Air veteran was also a longtime participant in the retriever field trial world as a contestant and judge. A cattle rancher in Nevada from 1975-86, Bill and his wife, Edie, came to Sun Valley in 1986 for the polo and the fishing. They bought homes in Elkhorn and on Silver Creek, while also maintaining a home in Palm Beach, Fla. Bill died July 14 in Boise.

Wally Young, 87

For 30 years Wally Young owned and operated The Mint bar on Hailey's Main Street before he sold it to actor Bruce Willis in 1990. Raised in the Sawtooth Valley in his early years, Wally dedicated a lifetime to his hometown of Hailey. He helped start the Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club and establish the Days of the Old West Rodeo. He helped form Blaine County Search and Rescue, Wood River Rural Fire & Rescue and served as fire commissioner for 30 years. He was a decorated World War II veteran, lifelong horseman and two time Hailey Chamber of Commerce president. Son-in-law Joe Laragan said after Wally's June 30 passing, "Wally knew this valley, every valley and every draw. He loved this earth and respected every living creature."

Helen Dow Whiting, 85

Author, philanthropist, world traveler, mother of six and wife of Macauley Whiting for 64 years, Helen Dow Whiting died peacefully in Ketchum Oct. 16. Born at Midland, Mich., in 1924, Helen Dow met her future husband at the Kingswood School in Birmingham, Mich. Married in 1945, they raised their family in Midland, but also lived in Sun Valley for more than 30 years. She maintained her interest in civic and charitable organizations through the Macauley and Helen Dow Whiting Foundation, as well as serving as trustee of the Midland-based Herbert and Grace Dow Foundation. She and her husband traveled to 94 countries and 50 states and shared a life full of family and diverse experiences.

Viki Lynn Kohler, 57

A Hailey-born woman with a joy of learning, teaching and education, Viki Kohler was proud of her 1974-2006 teaching stint at Carey Elementary School, where she was passionate about teaching fifth graders. Students loved her because she made learning fun—and also because of her crazy birthday hat, love of books, trivia, Mad magazine and Harry Potter. She was salutatorian of Wood River High School in 1970 and continued her academic success at College of Idaho. Viki died peacefully at home Oct. 14.

Ron Brady, 73

A man of many talents and interests, Ron Brady was known as "The Rainmaker" because of his work selling farm irrigation systems in southern Idaho. He was also passionate about sailing at Redfish Lake, flying private airplanes, water skiing, snow skiing and joining his friends for morning coffee at various Ketchum cafes. A native of Kansas, Ron grew up in the Spokane, Wash., area, attended Washington State, served in the U.S. Army and came to Ketchum in the mid-1960s as a Rossignol ski rep. He moved to the Wood River Valley in 1970 and worked for Sun Valley Co. as a ski instructor for many years. He loved life here, as he loved his wife, Gail, and their children. Ron died Oct. 20 after battling cancer.

Todd Johnston, 41

Four Seasons Spa & Pool owner and founder Todd Johnston was tremendously active—skiing, biking, playing ice hockey, raising children and loving his wife of 17 years, Vicki. He lived life to the fullest and did everything with vigor and enthusiasm. After growing up in Illinois, Todd grew to love the mountains of Idaho and the West. He died Oct. 23 of heart failure while mountain biking with friends in the desert near Moab, Utah.

Tina Fabiano, 63

If you visited Ketchum's Duck Soup children's store from 1981-89 or shopped around at Chapter One Bookstore after that, you probably knew Duck Soup owner and operator Tina Fabiano. She was never too busy to stop and chat. She also had time to raise two wonderful daughters, Gina and Tina, and be married for 28 years to Rich Fabiano. Tina suffered cardiac arrest en route to Jackson Hole, Wyo., and died Dec. 14 in Twin Falls, surrounded by family.

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