One of the great personages of the American conservation movement, and an esteemed member of the Angeles Chapter, Horace M. Albright, passed away on March 29.
In 1913, fresh from the University of California, he entered public service as a confidential clerk to the Secretary of the Interior, where he quickly moved into league with Stephen Mather to establish the National Park Service in 1916. As the Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park from 1919-29, Albright set the high standard for park administration that has remained the goal for succeeding generations of park managers. He continued as Director Mather's special field assistant throughout these years, researching and evaluating what would one day become the country's pantheon of national treasure lands. In 1929 he followed in the footsteps of Mather, becoming the second Director of the National Park Service until his retirement from that post in 1933.
Volumes have been written on Albright's contribution to the Park Service and the country as a whole during these formative years, but among his many accomplishments he spoke most often and proudly of his roles in the creation of Death Valley National Monument, Zion National Park, and the Civilian Conservation Corps which he helped put to work in many of the parks.
A successful career in the mining industry followed his years in Washington, but never prevented him from pursuing his lifelong interest in the park system. He was instrumental in working with the Rockefellers throughout the 1940s to add the vital Jackson Hole area to Grand Teton National Park. His long lifetime of conservation activities was formally recognized by the bestowal of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980.
Horace was very proud of his long and close association with the Sierra Club. William E. Colby, long-time Club secretary, was one of Albright's law professors, and took the young college student to meet John Muir. It was Colby, also, who helped talk Albright into taking his initial position with the Department of the Interior. So it is not surprising that among his many other honors, Albright was elected as an honorary vice-president of the Sierra Club every year since 1937. Last year the Sierra Club acknowledged Albright's contributions to conservation by bestowing him its highest honor, the John Muir Award. -Robert B. Cates, Chair, Angeles Chapter History Committee
Tom Amneus, long-time Sierra Club member and a past chairperson of the Angeles Chapter, passed away on August 22 at the age of ninety-seven.
Tom was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1907. He earned a degree in Civil Engineering at U.C. Berkeley in 1937 with Phi Beta Kappa honors. He played first violin for the Oakland Symphony where he met his wife Marywilla. Tom had a long career as a structural engineer, working for the State of California and Los Angeles County.
Tom joined the Sierra Club in 1955, and served as Angeles Chapter Chairperson in 1959. These were difficult times for both Tom and the chapter. To join the Sierra Club, you had to be sponsored by two members. However, the Angeles Chapter Membership Committee had the power to "blackball" any person they deemed undesirable--a ruse for excluding blacks and other minorities. When a Los Angeles school teacher who happened to be African-American tried to join the Sierra Club, she was rejected by the Membership Committee. Tom was outraged by this and, in the face of vituperation from some of those who wanted to keep the Angeles Chapter an exclusive social club, and with the support of Sierra Club president Nathan Clark, led a successful battle to end this form of racial and ethnic discrimination.
That same year saw the accidental deaths of Francis Foley and Burl Parkinson while climbing Boundary and Mountgomery peaks on the California-Nevada border. In response, Tom organized and taught the first Mountaineering Training Course in 1960, followed a year later by a series of courses in mountain rescue. These were precursors of what we now call the Leadership Training Course.
Tom was an active hiker who led many backpacking trips in the Sierra Nevada, both for the chapter and the national club. He earned his Sierra Peaks Section (SPS) Emblem in 1958 and his SPS Senior Emblem in 1979. He received his Desert Peaks Emblem in 1959 and was a Hundred Peaks Section List Finisher in 1989, at 82 the oldest person to complete the list. He backpacked in the High Sierra up to the age of 88.
Tom was a kind and generous person who would go to great lengths to help a friend or acquaintance in need. He was a staunch conservationist, an animal-lover and a vegetarian because of it. Those of us fortunate enough to have crossed Tom's path are forever enriched for having known him. -John W. Robinson
Sierra Club lost a good friend last year. Alex Andres died in December 2004 at age of 93. He enjoyed a long and productive life. Willis and I first met him years ago on one of the Tues. 7-8 mile S.C. hikes. He told us about some of his public services. He gave regular public school talks to students, telling them the dangers of cigarette smoking. He even carried a blackened human lung to show the students! He asked Willis to draw anti-smoking cartoons for him. He was responsible for the recycling bin at the senior center. He served on the S.F. Valley Management Committee informing us about the latest in recycling. He was always interested in sustainable energy. Only a few weeks before his death he called Willis to discuss alternate ways to create energy. It was a privilege to know Alex. May we all be as active into our 90's. -Melba & Willis Simms
Once again, the climbers and the hikers are saying goodbye to another one of our favorites--Howland "How" Bailey, who passed away the day after Christmas at the age of 94 years young.
I first met How in l982 on the DPS listed peak, Spectre. After a long, hot, and arduous day, How and I were instant friends and continued to be so over the years. His big warm smile and quiet demeanor impressed all of us. His daughters sent me his funeral program, and there were so many things about How that many of us never knew. He never bragged about his own accomplishments (and there were many), but instead asked us about ours.
How was a premature baby and frail, but he didn't let that stop him from a life of incredible adventures. He lived life to the fullest, right to the end. In his twenties he scaled school buildings, and in his nineties he was delighted when he bid and made his first seven no-trump bridge hand. How's educational background is impressive, with degrees from Haverford, Duke, and Caltech; winning scholarships until he earned his Ph.D. in physics. He was barely twenty when he landed a teaching position in Tarsus, Turkey, and during vacations he'd ride his bike all over the place, covering ground whether it was the road to Glasgow or Baghdad! Anne, his wife of fifty-eight years, said, "How never met an adventure he didn't like, and a hair-raising bad road or swaying vine bridge only improved the experience."
He taught at M.I.T. during World War II, and after the war moved to California, where he worked for Rand Corporation in Santa Monica. Rand continued to employ him well into his eighties. Of course, coming to California provided the arena for How becoming a mountain man. He joined the wonderful Sierra Club, and bagging peaks became a mission. He earned his DPS emblem in 1966, his DPS Emblem in 1967, and completed the HPS list in 1969. How was a favorite leader for all the sections, and he made a game of connecting his peak climbing routes in the San Gabriels with canyon and ridge hikes he often did by himself. The Sierra Club honored him with the Hundred Peaks Section John Backus Leadership Award (1968), Angeles Chapter Outings Service Award (1978), and the coveted Chester Versteeg Outings Award (1983).
This great mountaineer with the heart of an explorer managed to visit over one hundred countries with his beloved Anne by his side. Later, he led his daughters, Bernadine and Barbara, and his four grandchildren on many backpacking and peak adventures, starting at the crack of dawn and being picked up days later somewhere in the Sierras. How loved his friends, and his great smile will not be forgotten. Even in his nineties, this exceptional scholar, climber, and hiker met each day with joyous appreciation. There was always an adventure to be had, whether re-living memories of scaling difficult peaks or winning a hand at bridge. How blessed our lives and will be greatly missed. -Mary McMannes
Sierra Club trip leader Ron Barbour died Jan. 16 while hiking a section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) near Wrightwood.
Another in a tragic series of hiking accidents that claimed the lives of Sierra Club members, Barbour slipped on the ice and was killed. Ali Aminian, Sierra Peaks Section member, also died in an ice-related accident Jan. 10 on Mt. Baldy. The body of Charles Koh, a Hundred Peaks Section leader, was found on Mt. Baldy Jan. 17 after a two-week search.
Barbour was a leader with the Crescenta Valley Group, K-9 Committee, and Mule Pack Section. He was a member of the Crescenta Valley Group's management committee for a few years, including his most recent position as the program chair. Barbour also helped with the group's monthly moonlight hikes and summer backpacking trips.
One of Barbour's goals was to hike as many sections of the PCT as possible. He had been hiking in the local mountains and the Sierras since childhood.
Barbour is survived by his wife of 45 years, Marjorie, his five children and four grandchildren. -Bruce Boydston
Angeles Chapter member Adam Burk, a volunteer with the West Los Angeles Group, passed away on October 13, 2001.
As was apparent at a memorial event on Sunday, November 10, he will be missed by many. On that day, about 100 people who knew Adam from the Sierra Club trips he led gathered at the Radisson Hotel in Culver City to bid farewell.
Speakers remembered him as a kind, gentle man, who paid attention to details on trips and made everyone feel welcome and appreciated. He always went the "extra mile" to make sure all were having a good time and were comfortable. Some told humorous stories about Burk, remembering him with fondness.
Also in attendance was his brother, who said how touching it was to see so many Sierra Club people there. An old family friend, who knew Burk's father in Poland, spoke about the family and offered some prayers for Adam.
Burk will be most sorely missed by the members of the West Los Angeles Group. Their sentiments were aptly described by Felicia Hammond in these words from her article in the group's newsletter:
"How we loved him, even when he annoyed us, telephoning more often than we liked, complaining about his job, or telling us about some ailment which he (in those good days) did not have.
"But then illness did strike and it struck hard. Adam's cancer was already metastasized when he learned of it. His prognosis was not good. But Adam fought a good fight against his enemy. He learned everything he could about the disease, from friends, doctors, the Internet and libraries. He didn't lose the fight. He simply tired.
"When we think of Adam, there is so much to remember. There were the trips he planned and led to Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, Catalina, the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Rocky Mountain National Park, Death Valley. Was there a trip he did not lead?
"Adam was the granddad of the West Los Angeles Sierra Club Group. Chair, vice chair, outings chair, newsletter editor. Was there a job he did not do for the group? He was so steady, attended all the meetings, lent his expertise and experience to all of our projects."
"Adam, we loved you. We miss you already."
Burk considered the Sierra Club to be his extended family. He made many friends, and these people returned the love they received. Burk has made a major gift from his estate to the Friends of the Angeles Chapter Foundation. The donation be used to set up the Adam Burk Memorial Fund. It will be an endowment fund, and the interest will be used to help pay the costs of the Angeles Chapter's Schedule of. Activities.
Burk's last wish was that others follow his example by both including the Sierra Club in their estate planning as well as making gifts now to his memorial fund.
To donate to the fund, send checks payable to Friends of the Angeles Chapter Foundation to the Angeles Chapter, Sierra Club, 3435 Wilshire Boulevard., Suite 320, Los Angeles, 90010. Contributions are tax-deductible.
I met Sid Davis back in 1980, when I led him and eleven others up Spanish Needle. Although Sid was thirty years older than the others, he was as strong and as bold as the youngsters. For a celebratory dinner, we all gathered at Indian Wells, where Sid generously bought fine wine for all of us SPSers. So began a great friendship with a remarkable individual. He chaired SPS and gained his Senior Emblem in 1979. He was a member of HPS, DPS, and a generous benefactor to the Sierra Club. From 1968-1975, he served on Mountain Rescue and almost missed daughter Jill's wedding because he was rescuing a climber.
A colorful Hollywood actor and producer was Sid, standing in for John Wayne and later forming a partnership with Wayne, where Sid produced those black and white "cautionary" movies that we all saw in school. A child was once saved from a predator, because she remembered Sid's movie.
Sid climbed many peaks, but the peak he loved was San Jacinto, which he first climbed at age 47. From then on, he ascended this peak 643 times, twelve times in his eighties. Finally, he moved from Sherman Oaks to Palm Desert to be near his peak. Sid was Mr. San Jac and had a permanent pass to ride the Palm Springs gondola, daily. Many of us climbed San Jac with Sid, and we were treated as royalty by the rangers and the staff. Sid once said, "You gotta be a nut to hike the peak as many times as I did, but what can you do? I love it!"
Retirees asked Sid why he didn't give up climbing and take up golfing. His answer was, "I will when I get older." (He never set foot on the golf course! He had his peak to climb.)
Sid watched the rising and the setting of the sun on San Jac during the last six years of his life. Before his death, he was told a trail was named after him, the Sid Davis Trail (this will occur in 2011). He was greatly pleased. He is survived by his daughter Jill and devoted companion, Shirley Friesen. Time magazine, the New York Times, and L.A. Times noted this great man's passing.
Sid once wrote on his birthday: "My ashes will be cast atop San Jac, in the holes and in the crack. The pine tree will say, 'Sid, you are mine.' As I climb through the roots of the limber pine. The thrill that I forever seek is to stand atop my mountain peak. I don't know the reason why, but as a mountaineer, I'll never die."
Sid "San Jac" Davis has gone home to the mountain heart. Thanks for being a great friend and climbing companion. Rest in peace and walk with us when we climb your peak. -Mary Mcmannes, Southern Sierran, January 2007
Grand old Nature
With the passing of Muir Dawson at age 83 on February 21, the Angeles Chapter has lost one of its longest-term members and most ardent supporters.
Born into a family steeped in the Sierra Club-father Ernest served as President of the Club, while elder brother Glen was a pioneer rock climber and a Club Director-Muir was named after Sierra Club founder John Muir. In his youth he followed in the family tradition by taking up rock climbing and ski mountaineering. By 1938, at age 16, he was leading outings to Stoney Point for the Rock Climbing Section, as well as events for the Ice Skating Committee and the Ski Mountaineering Section. He continued leading chapter outings through the late 1950s.
As a protégé of Glen, Muir participated in many climbs that were at the forefront of technical mountaineering in the 'golden age' of rock climbing as developed through the Rock Climbing Sections of Southern California and the Bay Area. In 1937, he joined Glen Dawson, Howard Koster, Bob Brinton and Dick Jones in making the first ascent of the Sunshine-Peewee Route on Mt. Whitney (now known as the East Buttress Route), at the time one of the most difficult big wall climbs to have been attempted.
Muir joined brother Glen in many other climbing efforts, including a pioneer ascent of Bugaboo Spire in British Columbia, but their most lasting partnership was in the management of Dawson's Bookshop, inherited from father Ernest. Both brothers were fixtures at the store, with Muir developing particular expertise in the history of printing and in books dealing with Japanese prints, along with participating in many publishing ventures. Both brothers were always modest of their mountaineering exploits, and for those of us drawn to the bookshop by its well-stocked mountaineering shelves, it was hard to imagine the unassuming duo had participated in such high adventures.
As a distinguished bookseller and bibliophile, Muir served as president of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association and president of the Book Club of California.
When the Angeles Chapter History Committee came to grips on how to celebrate the Chapter's Diamond Jubilee in 1986, it was Muir who volunteered his expertise in producing high quality slide programs at the service of the committee. After months of rummaging through personal and chapter photographic archives, developing a script, and obtaining the services of a professional voice-over artist, Muir produced the centerpiece program for the Diamond Jubilee Party held in November of 1986. Afterwards, Muir graciously donated the slides and script to the chapter, whence they have been incorporated into the chapter eArchive. For these efforts, Muir received a 1986 Special Service Media Award from the Angeles Chapter in 1986.
Muir Dawson continued to support the chapter through participation on the History Committee, offering sage advice on archival and publishing projects right up until his death. His record of 67 years of service to the Club is truly outstanding and this kindly man will be greatly missed. -Bob Cates, Chair, Angeles Chapter History Committee
Angeles Chapter activist and outing leader Ruth Lee Dobos passed away on August 23 (2002) after a year-long battle with cancer. Along with her husband, Frank, she led hundreds of outings for the Sierra Club, primarily for the Griffith Park and Hundred Peaks sections. The couple also led outings for the Desert Peaks and Sierra Singles sections and the Central and Verdugo Hills groups.
Ruth will be best remembered as a warm and welcoming I-rated leader for the Hundred Peaks Section. During her many years of leading hikes, Ruth compiled a long list of accomplishments, such as becoming the ninth woman to finish the HPS list twice. In March of this year she added the Chapter's lifetime service award to her list of outings and conservation honors. She was also well-known for her stylish panache, always hiking in matching outfits with perfectly done hair, makeup and her signature turquoise jewelry.
Although she worked hard to coordinate the perfect hiking outfit, Ruth spent considerably more time protecting our shrinking wild places. This devotion manifested itself through her willingness to take on a leadership role in several Sierra Club sections and the Angeles Chapter Executive Committee. She was an ardent letter writer, a thorough reader of environmental impact reports and an advocate of wilderness protection. While hiking, Ruth peppered conversation with information on how the government still allows mining in Death Valley and logging in the forests, and why we should not be buying Adventure Passes, to mention a few crucial issues.
As a leader, she welcomed new hikers and eagerly provided many with encouragement to continue exploring the outdoors, despite physical or individual limitations. Many of those hikers have now become leaders, ensuring that her legacy will continue.
Ruth's interest was not solely focused on peakbagging. She and Frank co-founded the HPS Spring Fling and worked on Oktoberfest, and served on the coordinating committee for these two events almost every year. Along with Dotty and Mike Sandford, Ruth and Frank founded the annual Mt. Islip Peaknic Hike, which celebrated its 12th year a few weeks ago.
Even as she became too weak to hike herself, she continued to offer advice on new places to hike and was a good friend who challenged those to whom she was closest to take a more active role in Sierra Club activities. She was also a devoted wife to Frank, the guy whose hand she frequently held around the campfire and who she always kissed atop each new peak.
Among those who knew Ruth well, the one secret that she always maintained was her age, and that secret will not be revealed here. Let's remember Ruth as an eternally young spirit who can count many generations of Sierra Club members as her friends. -Laura Quinn and Suzanne Weil
Steve Feld, Sierra Club leader, and leader of the Puente Hills Conditioning and the Fullerton Beginner's Hikes, led with his "soul-mate" Carol Christiansen, died of a heart attack on May 7 at the age of 60. Steve was returning to his hotel in Copacabana, Bolivia, during an Angeles Chapter sponsored outing.
Feld was an environmental leader in Hacienda Heights, and was chair of the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Authority, dedicated to preserving the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife Corridor. He was very active in the 1992 fight to protect Puente Hills canyons from impacts from the expanding Puente Hills Landfill. He was also very active in community affairs in Hacienda Heights.
"Steve will truly be missed by all of us who worked closely with him," said Jeff Yann, Sierra Club member and founder of Amigos de los Rios.
Feld was also active in Boy Scouts of America, served as president of Kiwanis International, past president of Greater La Puente Valley Chamber of Commerce, director at Whittier Hospital Medical Center and contributed his time to many other organizations.
"He was the kind of person who could turn a good time into a great time - Steve will be missed," said friend Martin Tatz.
Left behind are his adult children, Jessica and Bryan Feld. -John Lajeuness, Southern Sierran, July 2006
Barbara Frankel, 80, who led hikes in Griffith Park and helped organize the Griffith Park Section, passed away Aug. 7 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Barbara, along with her husband, Jack, led evening and Saturday hikes in the park for 12 years, beginning with the Griffith Park Committee. After the Griffith Park Section was formed, the couple became active on the management committee. Their home on Bronholly Drive, at the entrance to the park in Bronson Canyon, was always available for meetings. They also led hikes for the Inner City Outings Committee.
Besides her husband, Barbara is survived by her sons John Hal and Charles Hamilton, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. -Carol Brusha
Charles Gerckens, born on December 12, 1920, joined what was then the Southern California Chapter of the Sierra Club in 1942. "Chuck" soon became a fixture on chapter outings, with only World War II and his stint in the Army preventing him from leading his first chapter outing for the Ski Mountaineers until 1948. For nearly three decades he was to lead a wide variety of outings and events for a diverse set of chapter entities-Ice Skating Committee, Sierra Peaks Section, Conservation Committee, and for the Harwood Lodge and Ski Hut Committees. During the 1950s he served on the Education Committee and was elected to the Chapter's Executive Committee on which he rose to the position of Chapter Vice-Chair.
Chuck loved winter outings, both on skis and skates. He became a mainstay of an intrepid group that kept an Ice Skating Committee going as a chapter entity for many years, coming to chair the committee from 1965 well into the 1980s. One of his favorite trips to lead was a fall overnighter to Dollar Lake in what was to become the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. After a stiff hike to this secluded pond in the San Bernardino Mountains, Chuck and his intrepid group of followers would strap on their skates and set sail on "wild" ice, as opposed to their usual weekly forays on the "tame" manicured surfaces of the ice rinks.
Ice skating not only provided Chuck with plenty of exercise, but also a wife. On an ice skating party in the early 1950s he met Lillian Steel, and they were wed on June 5, 1953. Together they had two daughters who have married and produced six grandchildren.
Gerckens rendered unstinting support to the Ski Mountaineers Section from 1948 to 1972. During this 24-year span he served as chairman, ski tour leader and test judge.
Chuck's bent for mechanical engineering was put to work on various projects at Harwood Lodge and the San Antonio and Keller Ski Huts. He assisted Art Johnson and other Sierrans in adding the Annex Wing to Harwood in 1950. But it is his nearly 40-year record of support for the Keller Hut Committee that really deserves mention. He served as chairman from 1968 to 1981 through some very lean years when often his only assistant was Lillian.
Through his contacts as an engineer for Cole Electrical, Chuck made some other surprising contributions to the Chapter. Working with a template-maker at a local foundry, he helped design and had fabricated several large metal memorial plaques that were placed on a pair of Southern California mountaintops named to honor the memory and accomplishments of two well-known Sierrans of their day. These were Heald Peak, named after chapter conservationist and Hundred Peaks Section founder Weldon F. Heald, and Mt. Jenkins, which commemorates mountaineer-hiker and guidebook-writer Jim Jenkins.
Chuck also collaborated in the design of a modern leak-proof canister-style peak register that has been placed on many Sierra Nevada and desert peak summits. He took the rough castings of these containers and finished them on his own lathe before turning them over to other leaders to put in place.
For his outstanding contributions to the Chapter, Chuck was presented with an Angeles Chapter Special Service Award in 1974, followed by the Phil Bernays Service Award (our Chapter's highest award in this category) in 1982. Until his death on January 29 of this year, Chuck continued to support the Chapter through sharing selections from his photographic collection, allowing the History Committee to scan them into the Chapter eArchive.
Those of us who knew Chuck Gerckens will fondly remember a great bear of a man who was blessed with a gentle nature, a keen mind and a superb memory. -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter Historian
Long-time office volunteer and hike leader Jack Goldberg died on November 21, 2004. He was a Sierra Club volunteer extraordinaire, putting in at least one day a week assisting at the Angeles Chapter offices for more than twenty years, while also leading dozens of mid-week hikes for the Local Walks Committee and occasional outings for the Hundred Peaks Section.
After receiving a Bachelor of Science Degree in chemical engineering from USC in 1950, Jack spent the next twenty years as an adhesives expert in the aerospace field, until growing tired of following contracts from company to company and of being forced to lay people off, he finally laid himself off to opt for early retirement.
In 1972 he and his wife Alice joined the Sierra Club because their daughter wanted to take the Basic Mountaineering Training Course. Little did the Goldbergs realize that it would be they who would soon take up the mountaineering game. Jack bagged his first of the Hundred Peaks in June of 1972, and by gradual addition over the years finished climbing all 260+ peaks on the HPS list in 1981, being the 71st person to accomplish that goal.
Jack and Alice participated and led many bus trips over the years, sometimes serving as assistants or co-leaders to well-known bus trip leaders Margaret Malm and Harry Goldstein. This was during the golden era of bus trips run by the West L.A. Group and the now-defunct Cabrillo Section, with some trips lasting up to two weeks and ranging as far afield as Canada.
According to Alice, after Jack retired, he made the Sierra Club his occupation, volunteering in the office one day a week, assisting Harry Goldstein on the bus trips, and joining the Hundred Peaks Section on weekends to work on his HPS list completion. And, needless to say, when Jack discovered the mid-weeks hikes, from then on "Wednesdays were sacred."
Over his long career in the Sierra Club, his contributions to the chapter were formally acknowledged by the bestowal of awards on four occasions. In 1980 he received a Special Service Award, in 1984 an Outings Service Award, in 1989 the Irene Charnock Office Service Award, and in 2000 the Lifelong Service Award. Those who knew, worked or hiked with Jack were rewarded many times over by his friendship. -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter Historian
Multiply-awarded outings leader Frank Goodykoontz passed away on New Year's Day. He finished the Hundred Peaks Section list first in 1977 on Heart Bar Peak and for the ninth time in 1995. He led the HPS list four times. He received the following HPS awards: the John Backus Leadership Award in 1986, the R. S. Fink Award in 1990, and the Preeminent All-Time Leader Award in 1999. He also received the Angeles Chapter Chester Versteeg Award in 1994.
Goodykoontz is remembered for his encouraging smile on difficult hikes. "It's just like going uphill, isn't it?" he was known to say when hikers were about ready to quit. He was also known for his skill at nighttime navigation.
James Gorin, an avid rock climber and active member of the Angeles Chapter, passed away on June 22 at his home in Yucaipa. He was 90 years old.
Gorin is remembered as being an enthusiastic leader within the Sierra Club and other outdoors organizations. He served as Chapter chair three times, with the unique distinction of serving over the course of three decades ('40s, '50s, and '60s).
At the age of 6 Gorin lost his leg and used a crutch up until his death. The loss of his limb did not prevent him from enjoying many activities like tennis, skiing, and rock climbing. He ascended numerous peaks, including the Grand Teton in Wyoming. He relied on upper body strength, balance, and technique to rock climb. He often climbed with his crutch tied to his day pack or left it at the base. After reaching the summit he would either rappel down or use the crutch to descend through rocks and gullies.
Gorin is survived by his wife of 56 years, Louise, his brother Victor, and two sisters Laurette Griffiths and Louise Gardner. His brother Roy, who passed away in 2003, was active in the Ski Mountaineers and Rock Climbing sections.
This past month [October, 2002] saw the passing of two Santa Clarita environmentalists and steadfast protectors of the Santa Clara River.
Joe Hoffman, a longtime Sierran, was the Santa Clarita Group's beloved right-hand man. He was born in 1918 in Archangel, Russia, and immigrated to this country as a teenager. He was a hard worker and helped support his family through the Depression. A retired postman, he was always there to walk precincts and get out mailings.
Hoffman also liked to help at tabling events, where his friendly greetings to those who came to ask questions or share stories will be remembered and missed.
Michael Kotch died of an apparent heart attack in his home in Castaic on August 11 at age 52. The date was symbolic as it is the feast day of St. Claire, a follower of St. Francis of Assisi and the namesake of the river that Mike worked so hard to preserve.
A graduate of MIT in aerospace engineering, Kotch had a brilliant mind that will be irreplaceable in our environmental community. Starting about 1985 he got involved in local planning and development issues. He was a member of the General o Plan Action Committee that helped form Santa Clarita when it was voted into existence in 1987.
That same year he also helped found Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. In both capacities he worked to address the regions increasing loss of natural resources and the lack of infrastructure created by rapid development.
Kotch first ran for public office, 1992 and was elected to Newhall County Water District in 1995. In 1996 he was appointed to Castaic Lake Water Agency. In that capacity he expressed concern that exaggerated estimates of the valley's water supply could result in overdraft of the Santa Clara River and cutbacks in water supply to residents and businesses. During the time he held office, he donated all his director fees to various nonprofit organizations, including substantial sums to the Sierra Club. His engineering background made him quick to see discrepancies in reports and his honesty made him a champion of the community.
During his memorial service, he was lauded by people from all sides as a gentle and brilliant advocate for the environment. He received memorial plaques from the city of Santa Clarita, Supervisor Mike Antonovich's office and many local and statewide elected officials, including U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Assemblyman George Runner and state Senator Pete Knight. -Lynne Plambeck
The Angeles Chapter has lost a vital friend and longtime staff member. Linda Hoyer, who served as Chapter Director and Chapter Coordinator over the course of a decade, passed away on Thanksgiving Day.
Before Linda joined the staff of the Club, however, she was also a journalist. As a young woman, she took a secondhand $40 Underwood typewriter with her to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where she was accepted on scholarship. There she met William Hoyer, her husband for the next 43 years. Soon a mother of two sons, Michael and Mark, Linda truly found her place as a community participant and activist. She joined the League of Women Voters and got her first journalism job for a local newspaper. "Journalism was something I was born into," Linda had once said. A natural complement to this was her love of photography.
Linda and her family moved to Whittier in 1972 where she again joined the local League of Women Voters. She became very involved with the American Association of University Women in 1975, was elected to the local Board in 1986 and became the Whittier Chapter president from 1991 to 1993. Linda was also President of her sons' PTA, played adult women's soccer, and received the Las Distinguidas community service award.
Linda always had a powerful love of the outdoors and frequented the Grand Canyon and her favorite, Yosemite. So, it was a natural that in 1983 Linda joined the Sierra Club and, after volunteering and hiking with the Club for years, became Director of the Angeles Chapter and later Coordinator. Linda received the Angeles Chapter's highest award for its staff, and even greater, the esteem and thanks of her many Sierra Club friends. -Southern Sierran, January 2007
Norman Johnson, who joined the Sierra Club in 1948, died on February 25 in his apartment in Long Beach. Norman would have been 92 years old in March. He was born in the Bahamas, served in the British army and after the war immigrated to the United States. He lived in New York, then in Los Angeles and finally in Long Beach. He was an indefatigable letter writer and a tireless petitioner for environmental causes. He had little patience for those who didn't join him.
In spite of failing eyesight, in recent years Norman managed to travel to San Francisco and Seattle in pursuit of his beloved Wagnerian operas. Right to the end he took pride in being able to run from his fifth-floor apartment down to get his mail and then back up. His last years were enriched when he was rediscovered by his brother's family. They welcomed Uncle Norman into their hearts and into their Canadian homes.
Norman never lost his devotion to the Club's goals. On the chest in his bedroom was a ten-inch stack of tablets in which he had copied the letters he had sent in the last years in which he was able to write clearly. -Bob Lamond
Charles Buford Jones, or Charlie to everyone who knew him, passed away on January 18, 2006, after a series of strokes. He had been active in the Angeles Chapter since the 1960s, particularly with the Hundred Peaks Section and the Trails Committee.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, he spent many of his formative years in the Northeast, where in 1940 he took a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering (with honors) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After serving in WWII as an engineer, he returned to MIT to collect his Masters Degree in 1947, also in mechanical engineering.
Charles moved to California in the early 1950s, where he performed market research for Douglas Aircraft Corporation. In 1956 he became employed by the Stanford Research Institute as an Industrial Economist, where he worked until transferring to Economics Research Associates in 1961. As a successful investor, Charles turned to investment counseling in the early 1970s, principally managing his own extensive portfolio. In 1974, he returned to the work force, gaining both a real estate license and contractor's license, enabling him to build and sell several spec houses.
Charles married Vivian Janice James in 1954, and the couple had four children--Bruce, Laura, Emily and Sarah. By the late 1960s, he had become heavily involved with the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club--not just Charles alone, but all the children as well. Charlie and his kids became a fixture on Hundred Peaks Section (HPS) outings, with Bruce climbing over 200 peaks by the age of 11 and Laura by the age of 10. Emily obtained 100 peaks by the time that she was 8½ years old.
Throughout most of the 1970s, Charlie was a notable leader in the HPS. As Vice-Chair, he was responsible for organizing and recruiting for the section's outings program, a task he undertook with the utmost zeal and with innovative organizational skills. Charlie brought a large calendar to the monthly meetings and arm-twisted leaders to fill up every weekend of the forthcoming schedule, making sure they led a wide variety of peaks. Under his guidance, the number of outings grew at a phenomenal rate, helping make the HPS the most active climbing section in the chapter, a legacy that continues to this day.
In the 1980s he became very active as a volunteer organizing and performing trail work, in which role he chaired the San Gabriel Mountains sub-committee of the Angeles Chapter's Trails Committee from 1984 until 2004. In addition, Charlie was one of the founders of the San Gabriel Mountain Trail Builders and inspired volunteer work with members of the Boy Scouts, inner city kids, and the Chinese-American Outdoor Club, among other groups. He also performed volunteer work as a trail builder for the U.S. Forest Service, and was recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1993 for having contributed more than 1000 hours of his time in volunteer service. He continued to perform volunteer work up until two years before his death.
The trails that he worked on included those on Mount Hawkins, Mount Islip, Mount Wilson, and in Bear Canyon and Millard Canyon. His most recent trail work was in support of the Los Angeles Unified School District's Clear Creek Outdoor Education Center. In 2002, President Bush called on all Americans to dedicate at least 4000 hours of volunteer work within their lifetimes. In the fall of 2003, Charles received the President's Call to Service Award for his volunteer work.
In recognition of his varied and long-term activities, Charles Jones was awarded the HPS John Backus Leadership Award (1977), an Angeles Chapter Outings Service Award (1985), and the Angeles Chapter Special Service Award (1989).
Charlie always gave 100 percent to any task he undertook. He managed to convey this exceptional work ethic to those around him, be it fellow peak-baggers, trail workers, professional contacts, and especially to his children--all of whom completed college. Bruce is a computer programmer and systems engineer; Laura works in applied mathematics, focusing on ecological problems, primarily at Cornell University; Emily is an electrical engineer employed by the Navy; and Sarah is an accountant and auditor for the Disney Corporation. Charlie is also survived by another daughter, Carol Duemler Jones, the issue of his first marriage, and by three grandchildren. -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter History Committee Chair
Norman Kingsley, who died at age 72 on August 26th of this year , was a man of great vitality, action and bravery. Whenever he saw something that needed to be done, he simply stepped forward and did it. This noble trait, for which he was greatly admired by his friends, did not always reap good rewards, as when he was near-mortally wounded while serving in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
Born Werner Kissinger on March 25, 1930, in Nuremberg, Germany, Norman was rescued from the Holocaust via the Kindertransport in 1939, and lived in London and Lisbon, Portugal before emigrating to the U.S. in 1941.
After a brief stint in the U.S. Navy, he enlisted in the Marines in 1948, serving with the 3rd Marines in North China and 5th Marines on Guam before joining the select 1st Marine Brigade that helped turn the tide of the Korean War in 1950. As a member of a reconnaissance unit, he served with distinction and valor, receiving the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star decorations.
Norman owned and operated Tool Components International and Export Kingsley Company for 30 years, based in La Canada. In the early 1990s, he and his wife Anna-Lisa moved to Whitefish, Montana, where they could fully indulge themselves in their passion for the outdoors, particularly skiing.
As to his Sierra Club activities, Norman Kingsley joined the Sierra Club in 1964 and immediately enrolled in one of the first Basic Mountaineering Training Courses to be sponsored by the Angeles Chapter. To say that he was an adept student is putting it mildly. He began leading outings for the West LA Group in 1968, and by 1975 his expertise in the field of mountaineering was firmly established by publication of his book Icecraft. He would go on to chair the Sierra Club's National Mountaineering Committee for 15 years. Norman was also an ardent conservationist, participating in the first Mineral King hike-in in 1967. Through his efforts, Arthur Godfrey began publicizing the Mineral King issue on his daily radio programs.
At the local level, upon the Kingsleys' move to La Canada in 1970 Norman organized the Crescenta Valley Group, serving as the group's first chair and then on the management committee until 1983. He single-handedly trained many of the group's early leaders in one-day sessions held in the San Gabriel Mountains. Meanwhile, in 1973 he became one of the founding members and officer of the Nordic Skiing Committee, serving on their management committee until the move to Montana in the early 1990s. The Angeles Chapter recognized Norman's many contributions by bestowing a Special Service Award on him in 1974.
Suffering from the debilitating effects of intestinal cancer and other ailments, Norman Kingsley weighed his options, saw what he felt needed to be done, and chose to embrace death on his own terms. He is survived by his wife, Anna-Lisa Kingsley, of Whitefish, Montana; and by his daughter, Gabrielle Kissinger, and son-in-law, Greg Kehm, both of Hallowell, Maine. -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter Historian
Veteran Angeles Chapter leader Al Kolb died at his home in Northridge on June 22.
Kolb joined the Sierra Club in 1985 and went on his first outing with the International Community Section in November of 1990, a car-camp at Yuma Dunes led by Franz Hirschmann. Kolb was impressed with the friendly ICS folks, and he and his wife, Miriam, became regular participants. He joined the list of leaders in 1993.
Truly international in his background and experience, Kolb was born on September 26, 1929, in Vienna, Austria. He left at the age of 9, just weeks before the start of World War II, and he survived the war as a refugee in Belgium where he was active in the Belgian Underground. He came to the U.S. in 1946 and earned a high school diploma in night school while working as a jeweler. He eventually earned a degree in business administration from Woodbury University and did post-graduate work in Mexico. While serving in the army during the Korean War, he discovered California and moved here after discharge.
Kolb worked in export management until 1964, when he started his own export company. This led to travel in most countries of the Americas, the Pacific, Europe and Asia outside the Iron Curtain. Al recalled, "Some travel experiences include a bomb set off at U.S. Consulate in Guayaquil, minutes after I left a meeting with the commercial attaché; innocently walking into a civil war in Cyprus; a press conference with Tokyo trade papers-entirely via interpreter." He considered his most memorable experience a trip to Karachi with a flat tire on the airport taxi at about 4am. With no spare tire, the tire had to be repaired. "I sat by the side of the road and watched a procession of donkeys, oxen, camel carts--a scene straight out of Kipling."
After retirement, Al and Miriam motored in Canada, Europe, Australia and Yucatan; joined tours in Kenya and Israel; and cruised the Caribbean, Aegean and Panama Canal.
He is survived by wife Miriam, son Ken and daughter Andrea. Kolb's warmth, wit and steady support will be keenly missed by all of us who have had the great privilege of knowing this kind and gentle man. -Jean Wheeler
James C. Lesperance, age 74, former longtime leader in the Angeles Chapter Basic Mountaineering Course, died in Bishop, CA, January 20, 2006, following an extended multiyear battle with cancer. He was born May 6, 1931, in Chicago, IL, and was a graduate of Lane Tech, the University of Illinois and the California State University Los Angeles. He was a long time resident of Arcadia and Mammoth Lakes, CA. He worked for Barber Coleman, American Multiplex and Western Air. He was very active in the Boy Scouts of America and was a Group Leader for the Sierra Club's Basic Mountaineering Training Program in the San Gabriel Valley in the 1960s through 1979. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1979 and had a lung removed after returning from a climb of the Mexican volcanoes and was given "six months to live". Jim had a zest for life that allowed him to continue in the mountains he loved for many subsequent years after his cancer diagnosis. He is survived by his wife, Marylin, three of four sons, three daughters, two stepsons, two stepdaughters and numerous grandchildren.
Monroe S. Levy died June 7, 2003, after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease. He was 84 and lived in Santa Monica. Monroe earned emblem status in the Sierra Peaks Section and Desert Peaks Section in 1959 and the Hundred Peaks Section in 1967. His obituary characterized him as an "avid hiker/backpacker, joke teller and irrepressible punster." He was an assistant climbing leader for both the SPS and DPS in the 1960s; served as the 1961 sec-treas of the DPS; and later was an important volunteer in the Angeles Chapter office. But, most of all, he is remembered by all for his puns! -Jerry Keating
Paul Lipsohn was an intense and goal-oriented individual. He led his first Sierra Club outing in 1969, and so great was his enthusiasm and demonstrated leadership skills that by 1971 he was chairing the Hundred Peaks Section (HPS). In 1972, while serving as HPS Mountains Records Chair, he came on board the Desert Peaks Section (DPS) as Vice-Chair and the Sierra Peaks Section (SPS) as Treasurer. The following year, as he continued in his post as HPS Mountain Records Chair, he was elevated to the dual-chairmanship of the DPS and SPS.
Paul was a meticulous recorder of routes, and some of his descriptions are still in use by the mountaineering sections more than thirty years later. He was also the driving force behind having a peak named after Weldon Heald, the founder of the Hundred Peaks Section and a noted conservationist.
In 1974, Paul accomplished one of his most cherished goals, that of completing the Desert Peaks List on South Guardian Angel in Zion National Park, this after already attaining emblem status in HPS, DPS and SPS. But what probably gave Paul an even a greater sense of satisfaction was his role in helping his elderly friend Fred Bode complete the DPS list.
This sense of caring for others became central to Paul as he moved away from mountaineering and into volunteerism with the American Red Cross. But he still made good use of the route-finding skills he had honed during his climbing days. As he traveled to various disaster sites around the nation, he always packed his hiking boots in order to work on his last great project-to walk the perimeter of the United States. With his crossing of Michigan's Mackinac Bridge in 2002 he accomplished this unique goal.
A recipient of many awards, including the HPS John Backus Leadership Award, HPS R.S. Fink Service Award, and the Angeles Chapter Chester Versteeg Outings Award, Paul never let it go to his head and always remained approachable by friends and newcomers alike. During his active years he was an inspiration to a generation of younger mountaineers, such as R. J. Secor, who wrote, "Paul was one of my mentors during my teenage forays into the High Sierra....Thanks for all the good times, Paul." -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter Historian
Cookie Matson died in Irvine on July 4 of valley fever. She was 69. Cookie was an active Sierra Club leader for many years, mainly with the local Gay and Lesbian Sierrans section. Her peaceful, cheerful, encouraging disposition and her well-planned trips to wonderful places built her a devoted GLS following unlike any other leader. She was known for her backpack, mule pack, and car camp trips, and for her birthday celebrations with elaborate costumes and wilderness entertainment. In 2001 the Angeles Chapter GLS named Cookie Sierran of the Year.
Valley fever is primarily a disease of the lungs that is common in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It is caused by a fungus that grows in soils.
Duane McRuer was an avid mountaineer and contributor to the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, which he joined in 1962.
He was instrumental in creating the Leadership Training Program that serves as the model for the entire Sierra Club, and wrote and edited several versions of the Leadership Reference Book (LRB).
McRuer met the demand from the Angeles Chapter for leadership standards, certifications, and training. He conceived the training system, wrote much of the LRB, organized and ran many of the snow, rock, and navigation practices and checkouts and, perhaps most importantly, set the whole structure off on its own power, tapping various people on the shoulder, urging their involvement, and encouraging their efforts.
He served as the Chair of the Sierra Peaks Section of the Club in 1976 and continued to be an active climber and mentor. He climbed all of the 297 mountains contained on the Sierra Club Sierra Peaks List by 1985, and by 1997 had visited or climbed the high point in all 50 \ states, save one (Mount McKinley in Alaska). He also climbed all of the 97 mountains contained on the Sierra Club's Desert Peaks list twice. Duane also completed the entire 276 peak Hundred Peaks Section List twice, the second time at age 70. He was awarded the National Sierra Club's Oliver Kehrlein Award for Outings Leadership (1997) and the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter's Lifelong Service Award (1998) among many other honors.
Duane continued to climb peaks well into his eightieth year. His energy, endurance and knowledge of geology made him a favorite and inspirational companion to all who accompanied him on the many hiking trails and climbing routes here in California and across the United States. -Mary McMannes
Born November 8, 1918 in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Fadil went to college in Vienna, Austria, and then during World War II immigrated to the United States. He settled in Nebraska, where he was employed by a seed company. In the 1960's Fadil moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a stockbroker for Dean-Witter until he retired in 1996.
Fadil started leading hikes in Yosemite National Park around 1962, where records indicate he led hikes with Park Ranger, Will Neely. Will writes in his journal about the handsome Slav.
As his involvement with the Sierra Club grew, Fadil purchased some land at Juniper Hills (near Pearblossom, CA) and invited his Sierra Club friends to camp out there on weekends to enjoy the quiet sounds of the high desert and wonderful potlucks and meals where he presided as chef.
His accomplishments with the Sierra Club are many. He was appointed by the Angeles Chapter in 1968 to serve as Chair of the newly formed Sierra Singles Committee, and he led the Committee for two years. The founding group met at Harwood Lodge in March of 1968, calling themselves the "Sensational Six." This group became the first officers of the new Committee. Fadil said that he was chosen to lead Sierra Singles because he was a good cook.
Fadil was active in the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club for 34 years, leading more than 113 activities for the Sierra Singles, along with his involvement with many other groups and sections.
In 1980 the Angeles Chapter honored Fadil with the Outstanding Service Award for the following list of services:
Sierra Club members and friends will miss seeing Fadil's smiling face. -Contributors: George Thuro, Bob Lewis, Marilyn Baker, Judy d'Albert, Jeanne Karpenko.
Sierra Club activist Susan Nelson died from injuries sustained in an accident with a vehicle. She was 76.
She was crossing the street at 10pm on Saturday, May 3 , in the Echo Park neighborhood where she lived when she was struck by a slow-moving van. She was transported to USC Medical Center where she later died.
An active member of the Sierra Club, as well as the Peace and Freedom Party and the Green Party, Nelson displayed a lifelong commitment to environmentalism and social justice.
Her areas of involvement were many. She was closely linked with the development and protection of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and lobbied Congress throughout the early to mid-1970s on behalf of its creation. Former congressman Anthony Beilenson described Nelson as "the spirit behind the founding of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area." As chair and newsletter editor for the Central Group, Nelson was effective in the pursuit of environmental justice for communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. She had completed the latest issue of the Central Group newsletter just days before she died.
She was active in fighting to stop the 710 Freeway from going through the El Sereno neighborhood. She was also a member of the Ballona Wetlands Task Force.
Her reputation for ferocity was well known. Yet she also garnered the respect of the very people she often fought against-the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and the State Legislator both acknowledged Nelson's death. The Elysian and Belvedere Parks are both putting up memorials on her behalf.
She is survived by her four children, Earl Bradley Nelson, Sara Nelson Horner, Catherine Louise Nelson, and Peter Calvin Nelson, five grandchildren (Haley, Emily, Becky, Kelsey, and Kinsey), her brother David, and her former husband Earl.
Polly Perlman passed away peacefully at home on May 24 at age 85. A peace and human rights activist for much of her life, Perlman was on the management committee and a founding member of the Ballona Wetlands Task Force. A poet and clear-thinking advocate, she was often on the protest lines at DreamWorks movie premieres when owner Steven Spielberg was still part of the Playa Vista development team, and she attended meetings with architect Frank Gehry in efforts to convince him to locate his offices elsewhere. Neither Spielberg nor Gehry have made their homes in the historical Ballona Wetlands ecosystem. Perlman surely played a role in these outcomes. -Marcia Hanscom
Long-Time Activist, Dead at 100
Ed Peterson was one of those extraordinary chapter activists who seemed to try his hand at everything. In 1942, just a year after he joined the then Southern California Chapter, he was serving on the management committee of the Nature Study Group (precursor of the Natural Science Section). Throughout the 40s and into the 50s we find his name appearing on the Schedule Committee, Membership Committee, Conservation Committee, Southern Sierran Committee, and the chapter Executive Committee (twice Vice-Chair).
He was equally eclectic in terms of leading outings. From 1946 through 1972, he led for the Local Hikes Committee, Hundred Peaks Section, Knapsack Committee, Moonlight Hikes Committee, and Desert Peaks Section. But his first love was the Natural Science Section. Not only did he lead dozens of outings for the NSS over the years, he also served on that section's management committee nearly continuously from 1942 through 1960, including stints as the section chair in 1944, 1945, and 1957.
One of the great pleasures that Ed took in living to such a ripe old age had to do with his winning the contest to name the chapter's newsletter when it first appeared in 1946. Several people came up with the name of Southern Sierran, but Ed's entry carried the earliest postmark. The reward was a very long lifetime subscription.
Peterson, who took a degree in botany, was also very active with the Theodore Payne Foundation; indeed he was one of its founding members. For many years he was a fixture in the seed room at the Foundation's native plant nursery. He was an expert both at collecting seeds in the wild and at the sometimes challenging task of getting them to germinate under cultivation. Even as he approached his centenary and became afflicted with blindness, Ed would still be taken out in the field by his fellow plant-lovers to give advise on where to find particular plants and how best to harvest their seeds.
His many friends in the Sierra Club and the Theodore Payne Foundation will miss this gentle man. -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter Historian
Les Reid, former director of the Sierra Club and Angeles Chapter chair died on August 24, 2003. He was 88 years old.
Reid joined the Sierra Club in 1958. Upon climbing the necessary 25 peaks he became an active member of the 100 Peaks Section and served as their conservation chair. Over the 45-year span of his membership he was associated with all of the major environmental issues.
Reid served for many years on the Legislative Committee overseeing policies and lobbying staff. He was involved in overlapping federal and state issues. Among his many achievements was the inception in 1973 of the Labor Relations Liaison Committee of the national Sierra Club, which he chaired for over 12 years.
Through Reid's effective liaison he was able to get labor support for the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the California Desert Bill.
Reid was widely read, soft-spoken, and could converse on a wide variety of subjects. Together with his wife Sally he worked tirelessly to protect Alaska in his later years. -Mary Ferguson
I was sad to hear of the passing of Les Reid, an old friend and mentor ("Les Reid Dead at 88," January 2004).
I first met Les when he interviewed me to verify that I was a proper person to represent the Sierra Club as a speaker at the first Earth Day. I passed his test and he subsequently requested me to represent the Club on a radio panel talk show. This was a life-changing event since it was the first time that the research director of a major corporation lied to me in my face--he said the chemical later to be known as dioxin was perfectly safe.
This led to my involvement in conservation subcommittees. But Les' role in having me appointed to the California Legislative Committee really got me into the mainstream of political activity. I am certain that I am only one minor player affected by this wonderful and great man. We have lost another giant. -Emil Lawton
Wilderness in California lost a leader and a spokesperson when Sally Reid, Angeles Chapter chair from 1981 to 1982, passed away in October after an extended illness.
Sally was elected to the Sierra Club Board of Directors for only two terms shortly after ending her term as Chapter chair, but was one of the most important conservation leaders of the chapter and region for nearly three decades. Over 10 years ago the California Regional Conservation Committee established its highest conservation award for volunteers and named it the Les and Sally Reid Award.
Sally and Les (also a former chapter chair and also elected to the board of directors) moved to Pine Mountain Club after they both retired. They were icons of activism, beginning with their hiking with the Hundred Peaks Section and extending into environmental activism. Sally's initiatives have many offspring in the chapter.
In the 1960s when she joined the Club, she was a high school biology teacher, and her First conservation role was an extension of that profession: She organized college-credit lectures on the environment for other Los Angeles teachers. When she and Les became interested in cross-country skiing, she was a trip leader and officer at the start of the Ski Touring Committee, teaching members how to handle those long, narrow skis on the slopes of Mt. Pinos.
In their new mountain home, it wasn't long before they had organized the Condor Group within the Kern-Kaweah Chapter, but both Les and Sally maintained their connections with the Angeles Chapter, where Les continued his activism on an environmental working group that met regularly in Los Angeles.
Wilderness in California owes much to the leadership of Sally. She called the first meeting of what became the Southern California Forests Committee at her home, and chaired the committee that operated under the Regional Conservation Committee for a decade. The Committee changed names but continues following all issues on the four Southern California forests. It was this committee that developed the Southern California proposals for wilderness that ultimately were signed into law as the California Wilderness Act in 1984, covering Sheep Mountain, San Mateo, Santa Rosa, San Gorgonio and Dick Smith, among others.
To her dismay, her favorite areas in the heart of Los Padres National Forest near her home were dropped from the bill. Undaunted, she continued the fight for wilderness for these areas and was ultimately successful in 1992 with the signing of the Condor Range and Rivers Act and its creation of the Chumash and Sespe Wildernesses. Her activism included innumerable trips to Washington, D.C., to lobby on behalf of wilderness and the national forests.
Other campaigns that today are only a distant memory to many formed the heart of her involvement. The campaign to get Mineral King added to Sequoia National Park instead of having it developed as a resort by the Disney corporation was the first, followed closely by the Alaska campaign, where Sally traveled to Seattle to testify at the House Committee hearing. She and Les presented programs on Alaska to group and section meetings for 10 years, changing and updating the programs after each of their trips to Alaska. More than one chapter member was inspired to activism following their slide programs. -Judy Anderson
Barbara was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and raised in Salt Lake City. She had been suffering from poor health for several years prior to her passing. She died almost exactly six months after husband Nick (August 2002). An avid backpacker, canoeist and river rafter, Barbara was a member of CEC's Noble Purposes Committee. Barbara and Nick lived in Rolling Hills Estates, and together they hosted many CEC trip reunion-slide show dinners. Barbara and Nick are survived by daughter Neva and sons Nicholas, Peter and Gregory.
Nick Reznick, a co-founder and longtime leader of the Palos Verdes-South Bay Regional Group, passed away on August 9, 2002. He was 84 years old.
Born in 1918 near Kiev, Russia, he immigrated with his parents to the United States when he was five years old. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Reznick, who describes how they started the Palos Verdes-South Bay Regional Group: They were tired of driving up to West L.A. for Sierra Club meetings, so they sent postcards out to the Sierra Club members in the Palos Verdes/South Bay area, inviting them to come to a local meeting to form a new regional group. Over 100 people showed up for that first meeting. Nick became the first chair. Over the years and decades, Nick and Barbara hosted many Sierra Club events at their home, especially Christmas and New Year's Eve parties.
Nick and Barbara were early members of the River Touring Committee, and in 1971 Nick co-founded Arizona River Runners, a commercial outfitter running trips on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. They were also longtime participants on Canyon Explorers trips.
In addition to wife Barbara, he is survived by his brother, Bernard Reznick of Los Angeles; his four children, Neva Alderson of Detroit, Michigan; Peter Reznick of Flagstaff, Arizona; Gregory Reznick of Pleasanton; and Nicholas Reznick, also of Flagstaff; and seven grandchildren.
He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. -Al Sattler
Ray Riley, a Sierra Club member since 1971, died January 24, 2005 after a year-and-a-half battle with cancer. Ray grew up in Riverside County and developed an affinity for learning at an early age. He attended the University of California Los Angeles and the University of California Berkeley where he earned his Bachelor of Science in 1953 and his Master of Science in 1955, both in Electrical Engineering. Ray subsequently joined the Hughes Aircraft Company where he spent a 35-year professional career designing analog and digital circuits. He held both technical and managerial positions at Hughes and ultimately attained the prestigious position of Chief Scientist. Ray retired in 1989 to a life of Sierra Club Activities and travel.
Ray assumed a leadership role in the Sierra Club's Santa Monica Mountains Task Force (SMMTF). He represented it on the Angeles Chapter Safety Committee, served as its outings chair, wrote its safety policy, and led many memorable SMMTF hikes. Ray was a Basic Mountaineering Training Course (BMTC) graduate and leader, a mountaineering-rated (M) leader and a Wilderness Travel Course (WTC) instructor. He also held memberships in the Hundred Peaks Section (HPS) and Sierra Peaks Section (SPS). Ray led HPS hikes, mentored many O- and I-rated leaders through the Leadership Training process, and served as evaluator for many new-leader provisional leads.
Ray was known by all who met him on Sierra Club trips as a very strong hiker and as an innovative route-finder. His endurance was legendary. Tough and adventurous, Ray was fond of traversing over steep ridges. It was often his wont to sign out early to explore off-trail routes through brush to make the trip back to the trailhead more interesting. On one such occasion, his passion for solo adventures resulted in him spending a cold-night bivouac while his friends waited anxiously at a command post set up by Search and Rescue. After being "found" the next morning and acknowledging the concern his misadventure had caused he stated: "Nevertheless, I am probably not fully repentant!"
Ray did his best to keep his cancer from getting the best of him. He continued to hike during his last year and ascended Mugu Peak, High Point, Mt. Baldy, Cucamonga, Troop, Burnham, Mt. Hawkins, Sandstone Peak and his favorite, Emerald Bug Pinnacle.
Ray will be remembered for his sly, elfin smile, his calm philosophy of life, his thoughtfulness, and the consideration he showed to friends and associates. Ray leaves behind his brother, Richard, and his wife, Nicole, who gave him tender, loving care to the very end as he made his way up the final pitch of his climb through life. -Don Croley
Climber, Mountaineer, Writer, Physician
Andy Smatko, an early SPS member and accomplished climber passed away August 21, 2005. Andy is survived by his wife Shirley and son Andy. The Sierra Club web site chronicles Andy as having "thoroughly explored Muir's Range of Light." The web site goes on to report, "He has climbed virtually every named summit in the Sierra Nevada, as well as most of the un-named peaks. As the 'Dean of Sierra Climbers' and an 'Indomitable Explorer and Chronicler of the Sierra Nevada', Andy Smatko's exploits have been recognized by the Sierra Club through the bestowal of the Francis Farquhar Mountaineering Award in 2001. Smatko was the first 'Triple List Finisher', having reached the summits of the 247 peaks on the Sierra Peaks Section list, the 98 mountains identified by the Desert Peaks Section, and the more than 270 summits of the Hundred Peaks Section. When Smatko began his climbing career on New Year's Day, 1950, there were still many untrodden Sierran high points. However, his 300-plus first ascents have left only a handful for those who would aspire to go where no Smatko has gone before."
Accomplished climbing guide author: The Mountaineer's Guide to the High Sierra, a Sierra Club totebook published in 1972, was edited by Hervey H. Voge and Andrew J. Smatko. In this quote from the book's preface, "Originally, this volume was to have appeared as the third edition of A Climber's Guide to the High Sierra. That guide was first published in 1954 under the able editorship of Hervey H. Voge, and reissued in a second edition in 1965. But even after just seven years, the volume of information on new routes and ascents compiled by Andrew J. Smatko, the editor assigned to the third edition, was staggering. In fact, after culling his own widespread knowledge of the range and reports submitted by other mountaineers, Andrew Smatko had increased the sheer bulk of the projected third edition of A Climber's Guide by nearly 30 percent." The preface goes on to note A Climber's Guide remains woven into the fabric of this volume; and this volume emerges still, in Smatko's own words, as "Hervey's masterpiece." But it is Smatko's, too." -Sierra Echo, Aug-Sept 2005
Dr. Andrew J. Smatko is the Dean of Peak Baggers. His sheer numbers are daunting. In over 40 years, Smatko made over 1800 Sierra ascents, including over 300 first ascents, by far a record. He left no Sierra peak above 11,000 feet unscaled. He topped 102 summits in 1975, his best season, but also had 70, 80 and even 90 peak years as well, beginning in 1953.
Leonard Staugas, a Sierra Club member since 1973 and a member of the Angeles Chapter's Cabrillo Section, passed away March 31 in Santa Monica.
An active leader in the Cabrillo Section, Staugas was an avid sailor who led outings for the section, many of them sailing adventures to Catalina. He also served as program chair for the Cabrillo Section.
Staugas was born in 1921 in White Cloud, Michigan. An enthusiastic outdoorsman, he met his wife of 28 years, Margery, on an outing with the New Haven Hiking Club in Connecticut. The couple moved out west, and Staugas became an expert in computer systems, working with Rand and the Veterans Administration.
He and his wife participated in Sierra Club trips and also did a lot of traveling on their own. Staugas also enjoyed theater, family get-togethers and photography, and he presented many slide programs of his travels.
He is survived by wife Margery, his sister, son David, daughter Jane, and three grandchildren. "He was a wonderful man," says Margery, and he will be greatly missed. -Valerie Singh
"Pudgy," as she was known among her weight-lifting and fellow physical fitness aficionados, passed away at age 88 on June 26th, 2006, from complications arising from Alzheimer's Disease. She was the widow of Les Stockton, who died in April 2004.
The Stocktons courted on the sands of Santa Monica in the late 1930s, where they were early frequenters of a small stretch of beach adjacent to the Santa Monica Pier that became famous as "Muscle Beach." After World War II, like their comrades Vic Tanny, Jack LaLanne, and Joe Gold, the Stocktons advanced the concepts of "physical culture" through the establishment of their own gymnasiums.
Pudgy's role, in particular, was pivotal in gaining approval for the idea that women could maintain their femininity while developing physical strength and becoming good athletes. Besides being a perfect photographic example of this precept, Pudgy also wrote an influential column in Strength and Health Magazine--the most popular fitness periodical in the world at the time.
In recognition of her many contributions, Abbye Stockton was given the Steve Reeves International Society Pioneer Award in 1998, to be followed two years later by her election to the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Hall of Fame.
Although it was Les who was more active in the Sierra Club (popularly dubbed "The Red Baron" due to his flamboyant hiking attire), Abbye was there alongside on many of the hikes and events conducted by her husband. On June 6, 1972, she climbed her One Hundredth Peak to obtain Emblem Status in the Hundred Peaks Section. The Stockton's daughter, Laura, moved back to Santa Monica to care for her mother, and continues in the Stockton tradition by being an active member of the HPS. -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter History Committee Chair
Les Stockton passed away on April 19, 2004, after a long battle with melanoma cancer. As a husband and father, he served his country and community in diverse roles: thirty-five years' service in the Air Force (Colonel), pioneer in the physical fitness movement, butterfly collector, and mountaineer.
Les was one of those larger-than-life characters who was always full of zest, energy, and infectious good-humor-a man living life to the fullest. Those of us privileged to attend one of his "Ten Essentials" lectures that he gave for the club's Basic Mountaineering Training Course in the 1960s and 70s will never forget the belly-laughs nor the underlying seriousness of his talk.
Les and wife Abbye were among the earliest habitués of the physical fitness area that grew up around Santa Monica Pier in the 1930s and became known world-wide as Muscle Beach. As a result of their involvement with the emerging health movement, they owned and operated several gyms in the post-WWII years.
Having developed an interest in lepidoptery, Les collected butterflies with his usual enthusiasm. He amassed an extensive collection of over 800 display cases, which have been donated to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History by Abbye and the Stockton's daughter Laura.
It was while seeking high altitude butterfly species that Les was introduced to mountaineering and the Sierra Club. In October of 1967 he led his first chapter outing for the Hundred Peaks Section. Seven months later he led the first HPS Peakbaggers' Special, in which the objective was to climb as many listed HPS peaks as possible in one very long day. These became annual events for Les through the mid-1970s, and have been continued off-and-on by a host of successor HPS leaders to this day.
Les also led outings for the Desert Peaks Section, and served on both the DPS and HPS management committees, coming to chair the HPS in 1969 and the DPS in 1973. Les was always easy to spot on the trail, as his standard get-up evolved into a bright red jump-suit with his head crowned with a crimson hat, leading to his nickname as "The Red Baron." Somehow during this period, Les also found time to serve on the Chapter Executive Committee from 1972 through 1975.
The finest testament expressed for this exuberant man was written by his daughter Laura: "I think I can honestly say that his years in the mountains were some of his happiest. I know he thoroughly enjoyed the people he hiked with, led and lectured to. His good humor and positive attitude were an inspiration to all who knew him. There was always a lot of laughter when he was around! I also know that some of my father's finest and favorite moments were when he was the Master of Ceremonies for the Hundred Peaks and Desert Peaks banquets. His entertaining anecdotes kept the evenings moving right along with never a dull moment."
In acknowledgment of his many contributions, the Angeles Chapter bestowed an Outings Service Award upon Les Stockton in 1979. -Bob Cates, Angeles Chapter Historian
Charles E. Striegel, Angeles Chapter leader and office volunteer, passed away after a long illness. Striegel led numerous car camps, bike rides, hikes, and many other events as diverse as wine tasting parties and Mono Lake kayaking.
He mentored many Angeles Chapter leaders and served as their provisional evaluator as early as 1988. He always had a quick smile, a ready laugh, and a helping hand. Anyone who rode a bike with him knew they could count on him having a tool kit, tire pump, and gauge, and enough chain lube for a hundred enthusiasts.
Striegel had a 36-year career at the U.S. Department of Labor where, as the Wage and Hour Division's deputy district director, he assisted in the recovery of millions of dollars in back wages for underpaid workers in low-wage industries. As a volunteer at the Angeles Chapter office after he retired, he helped callers learn more about the Sierra Club and encouraged new members to get involved.
Married three times, he leaves a legacy of two daughters, Alice and Stephanie, and a son, Adam, and four grandchildren, all of whom he instilled with his love of life, nature, and the outdoors.
Maris Valkass, long-time desert activist and peak climber, died on May 14 as a result of complications from ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig Disease. The Maris I knew was a cheerful, philosophical friend who never dwelt on personal problems, but was willing to take on any task that was asked of him.
Maris's accent and his name revealed his eastern European background, but few of us took the time to elicit from him the details of his Latvian origins. His love of nature and reverence for special places were interesting enough to share around a campfire.
Maris completed a short family history and devoted a portion to his childhood before, during, and after WWII. Below are some excerpts from startling stories he shared in his autobiography.
His parents met in Aizpute, Latvia and were married 21 September 1929. Riga became their home. Maris, the second child, was born on 29 August 1936.
"Aizpute is a small town" where his grandparents "at one time owned a tavern and a country store, and they brewed beer." This is where Maris spent his summers. Maris's father worked as a radio operator on ships sailing in the Baltic. "On one voyage he went to Russia where he bought a bear cub. Later the cub was donated to the Riga Zoo. He grew up to be the biggest bear in the zoo." From this bucolic start in life, things rapidly disintegrated as the family lost everything to the war pushing in their direction. Maris notes that he "completed only the first grade in Latvia." Maris, his mother, and grandmother spent the next two years as refugees. He notes that "The last time I saw my father was in 1944 when we left for Aizpute. He was drafted in the Latvian branch of the German Army (19th Div), and he was going to the front...He never came back." The family decided that the three of them, his mother, her mother and Maris should go to Germany. They made their way to a Baltic port and onto "a small German transport ship with outhouses built on the deck."
"Then we went by train to Berlin, where mother was going to get a job in some factory. I remember us going by the Brandenburg Gate." The family had become part of the imported work force for Germany.
"Somehow mother found out that we should go to Czechoslovakia (at least in that direction). It was expected that the allies (Americans, or English) would come in there, and we would not have to live under the Russians.
The respite was short. In a story that sounds like the script for a war movie the family was on the move again. The Russians were coming there also. "[It] lasted two to three weeks... We packed our belongings in two small wooden carts and hit the road."
The next stop was in a farm house. "We did not have much time to enjoy [this] place [either], because it soon became a no man's land. On one side were the advancing Russians and on the other Germans. They were firing artillery and tanks at each other right across the house where we were staying. Finally one round took part of the roof off."
Finally a German ambulance came by with room for three people. "We were deposited in a first aid station where many German wounded were brought in. I remember that they did not have any medical supplies to treat the wounded. We could not stay there more than a day. The Russians were coming. We took our two carts and started on the road going towards Czechoslovakia. A short time later, one of our carts broke, and we had to decide what to leave and what to take. Fortunately, a German halftrack came by and offered to take us."
The lengths the family and their fellow refugees went to survive are only given in the barest details, but one incident seems to have remained vivid in Maris's young memory. "One time an old horse was grazing near a road. Many people were out looking for food. (Over in what seemed seconds), that horse was killed and completely stripped of all meat. I don't know if we got any of it.
"The Russians were almost in the city, and we could no longer get away. After the Russians came in and the Germans surrendered, things were somewhat quiet."
"Somehow we found out that a whole trainload was going to be sent to the American Zone in Germany. Many of the refugees were able to get on and make it to West Germany, including us. We were assigned to Hersbruk."
"The camp in Hersbruk reportedly had been a concentration camp. In winter we were very cold. Most of the food was provided by the Americans...I was going to the camp school. We had Latvian teachers who taught us...subjects such as English, German, Latvian, mathematics, life science, history, geography, art, gymnastics, etc. I went through the sixth grade before coming to America. We applied for emigration to USA." Maris, his mother and grandmother "were finally accepted through Church World Services," which arranged for a family to sponsor them in Painted Post, NY, near Corning.
Most of you know that Maris worked in the aerospace industry, but probably fewer know that his mother worked in the United Air Lines in-flight kitchen for 20 years, or that Maris "belonged to the California Air National Guard as a weekend warrior."
Epilogue - Like others, Maris joined the Sierra Club because of its reputation for hiking and mountaineering. He made one attempt to Mt. McKinley in the 1980's. In spite of his love of high mountains, Maris always said that he loved the desert best. We of the Desert Committee shared that love with him. We will miss him. -Judy Anderson, Desert Report, Summer 2001
Pepi Westhal, beloved by the many Sierra Club members who knew her, died peacefully in her sleep on April 26 at her home in Upland.
Westhal was born July 6, 1919, in Dobrowa, Poland. Between the ages of 6 and 21 she lived in Vienna, Austria. After escaping the Holocaust, she immigrated to the United States, coming to California in 1940. After her marriage, she and her husband owned and managed the egg ranch in Fontana where they raised their daughter and son.
After her husband's death, Westhal learned the real estate business. She became a successful broker and built a beautiful home in Claremont.
She was an avid hiker, a member of the Angeles Chapter's Mt. Baldy Group and a hike leader. Regularly on her birthday, until she reached her late 70s, she celebrated by climbing Mt. Baldy.
After moving to a new home in Calabasas to be nearer her grandchildren, in 1992 she became an active member of the San Fernando Valley Group, leading hikes, serving as hostess for meetings, managing a June dinner and going on many Sierra Club1 outings. Her generosity and friendliness were widely recognized. Every autumn she opened her home for a Sierra Club fundraiser: the after-hike "Pepi's Brunch."
A talented painter, she was also generous with her works of art, giving them to family and friends and to her temple for fundraising. She was a member of the Hadassah Medical Organization and Chabad.
Bob Wheatley passed away on February 6, 2006. He was 89 years old.
He was very active in the Sierra Club. For years he was Chair of the Rio Hondo Section. He also was one of the founders of the Lower Peaks Committee. In 1981 he received the Chapter Outings Service Award, a second one in 1988, and the Special Service award in 1992. Bob had a way of talking hikers into becoming members of the Sierra Club, and non-hikers into hiking. He started the 'Superboot' Bus trip and hike from Palm Springs to Idyllwild, as well as the 'Torrey Pines by Train and Boot' trip. After his hikes, he loved to stop at a Baskin Robbins Store for ice-cream, presenting his antique senior discount card.
Bob was an enthusiastic environmentalist and a persuasive advocate for Public Transportation. He was an outstanding leader of countless outings; his spirit of volunteering was exceptional. His cheerful and positive attitude has motivated many hikers. He worked with trail building teams, assisted at the Chapter office, and was active on political committees. But that's not all. He loved railroads, volunteered at the Perris Railroad Museum, took many train rides all over the US, and crossed Australia by train two times. He had another specialty: to attend the opening day of special events, such as the first day of the San Francisco World Fair, first day at Disneyland, first day of the Getty Museum opening (he got there from Fullerton with public transportation only), and other firsts.
Bob was well-read, and his knowledge about just everything, from history to science, was incredible.
We certainly will miss him. -Gabriele Rau
Walt Wheelock, first chairperson of the Hundred Peaks Section and long-time chapter leader, passed away on November 12, 1997, in his eighty-ninth year.
Prior to the family move from Oregon to Los Angeles in 1923, Wheelock had been influenced by the mountaineering exploits of an uncle who was a member of the Mazamas, a climbing group based in the Pacific Northwest. By 1935, when he graduated from UCLA with a degree in astronomy, he had been hiking the local mountains with high school and college friends for a decade. His first contact with the Sierra Club came on one of these early trips when he joined a party going to Mt. Baldy to lay the cornerstone of Harwood Lodge.
Finding the market for astronomers nonexistent during the depths of the Depression, Walt joined the Glendale Police Department, where he worked until retirement. While chasing criminals, he continued chasing up and down mountains, often joining other Sierrans in pursuit of the elusive Hundred Peaks goal, that is, to climb one hundred peaks on a list of mountains first published and put forth as an idea by Weldon Heald in 1946.
In 1954, recognizing that a core group of Hundred Peaks aficionados existed in the chapter, Walt issued the call for an organizational meeting to create the Hundred Peaks Section. Wheelock became its first chairperson and went on to serve on the Section's Central Committee for eight of the next eleven years. Throughout this period he led numerous HPS outings. For his long-time support of the HPS, he was honored with the R.S. Fink Service Award, the section's highest award.
With Tom Conden, Wheelock formed the Mountain Rescue Committee in 1959, precursor of the Training and Rescue Administration Committee. They started mountaineering instruction classes similar to the Basic Mountaineering and Leadership Training courses that were to follow some years later.
From 1960 to 1963 Walt served on the Chapter Executive Committee. At various times he chaired the Desert Peaks Section and the Mule Pack Section, and was an active leader for the Cabrillo Section. He edited the Sierra Peaks Section newsletter and guest edited the special Fiftieth Anniversary (of the Chapter) issue of the Southern Sierran.
Wheelock's greatest literary endeavor, however, was his creation of La Siesta Press, and the subsequent encouragement of many young writers who were published under its imprint. It was Wheelock who published the earliest works of John Robinson, the eminent Southern California mountain historian. The small booklets issued by the Press usually involved climbing subjects or field explorations in Southern California and northern Baja California, some of which were written by Wheelock himself.
Walt was a member and supporter of dozens of historical organizations, the most prominent of which were The Westerners, Death Valley Fortyniners, E Clampus Vitus, Historical Society of Southern California, and Zamorano Club. But he never forgot his roots in the Sierra Club, expending a portion of his considerable energies in his latter years to encouraging the Backroads Explorers Section. -Robert B. Cates, Chapter Historian
Chuck died of a heart attack while hiking on the Echo Mountain Trail in Altadena. A man full of vitality and joy for life, he was still living to his capacity. As Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and Applied Physics, Chuck still maintained an office at Caltech and had many plans for research, climbs, ski trips, and other projects.
Charles Harold Wilts was born and raised in our local area. He visited the Sierra almost yearly from the age of six months. An interest in engineering led to a BS in 1940, MS in '41, and PhD in '48, all from Caltech. He became a professor at Caltech in 1947, retiring a few years ago. He became active in climbing and skiing in about 1941, joining the Sierra Club's Rock Climbing and Ski Mountaineers Sections in 1942.
Chuck's research job kept him in the local area during World War II. Few climbers were active during the war, and over the years Chuck always became enthusiastic when describing to younger climbers the 1944-45 period when he and a few friends had Tahquitz all to themselves. Chuck and friends also managed to get up to the Sierra during the war, making climbs that included the first ascent of the classic SE Buttress of Cathedral Pk. He had only been climbing for three years when he and the late Spencer Austin made the first free ascent of Upper Cathedral Spire in 1944.
In 1945, Chuck began to teach climbing to Sierra Clubber Ellen Beaumont, a young lady he'd first met at Tuolumne Meadows in 1941 (she was there on her first camping trip). Chuck's 1945-46 activities show the kind of energy that he brought to his enthusiasms. That period saw him serve his first term as RCS chair, appoint the first RCS Safety Committee, make the first ascent of the Wilts-Sutherland routes on Banner and Morrison, make the first postwar climb of the Mechanic's Route, climb in the Tetons, help to explore the new Angeles Crest Williamson climbing area, attempt the Lost Arrow Chimney (then unclimbed) in Yosemite, ascend Snow Creek on San Jacinto, and on New Year's Eve (at a Harwood Lodge folk dance party) announce with Ellen their engagement.
Chuck and Ellen were married on June 14, 1947. They honeymooned in the Tuolumne Meadows area, finding time to make a first ascent of the South Arete of Matthes Crest. Later in 1947, Chuck was on the first ascent of Tahquitz's classic Left Ski Track. In the Fall of 1947, Chuck and Spencer Austin made another try at the Lost Arrow Chimney, surpassing the high point of the competing Salathe-Nelson team. Shortly thereafter, Salathe's party finally made the first ascent, but the legendary Yosemite big wall pioneer had gained great respect for rival Wilts. That winter Salathe took a 3 day Sierra ski tour with Chuck and Ellen.
Later notable climbs by Chuck (often with Ellen) included first ascent (FA) of Mts Gec, Nelson, and Smythe, Canadian Rockies; FA East Lark, Swallow, Consolation, Super Pooper, Royal's Arches, Gallwas Gallop, Fingertrip, Innominate, and Orange Peel at Tahquitz; several FA in Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne; alpine climbs in the High Sierra, including Piute Crags and several Minarets routes, among them the classic South Face of Clyde Minaret. He served a second term as RCS chair 1948-49 and was Safety Committee chair several times.
Chuck was also continuously active as a skier, including leading or participating in scores of SMS tours; he was SMS chair in 1956 and 1964. His enthusiasm for mountain activities of all kinds retained its vigor through his whole life. Two years ago he was snowcat skiing in the Selkirks, and a year ago he climbed the Exum route on the Grand Teton. What kept him from doing even more in the recent past was a lack of climbing partners.
Most of us knew Chuck as a genuinely joyful man who gave SMS ski tests and edited the guidebook to Tahquitz and Suicide Rocks. Until just a few years ago, he was still a stalwart at RCS training sessions, gleefully dropping that bucket for quavering students to catch.
Chuck leaves behind his wife Ellen and three children, Charles, Gail, and Janet. -Kathy Crandall & John Ripley
Joined Sierra Club 1955. Led first outing, 1957. Chaired Local Hikes Committee, 1958-78. Hundred Peaks Section leader, and Chair, 1959, 1963. Recipient of Chapter Outings Service Award, 1977. Long-time member of West L.A. Management Committee. Contributor to Angeles Chapter photographic archives. Retired movie studio cameraman.
Adventures With a Gentle Man - Dick Worsfold passed away on February 2nd of this year (1998). He had been in declining health these past few years, yet it still came as a shock to me. As Chapter Historian, one of my chief duties over the years has been to write the "obits" on many of our more well-known Sierrans. This one, however, is more personal than most because of the many fine hours I spent on the trail with Dick as an up-and-coming peakbagger in the 1970s.
Two events from those days shed some light on the character of the man. The first occurred during a rest break when I plunked down beside Dick and watched with fascination as he calmly observed a mosquito land on his forearm, scittle around for a tender spot, and fill up with a load of blood. As the sated insect buzzed off, Dick saw my quizzical look and said matter-of-factly, "mosquitos have to make a living, too." On the same trip, Dick gently removed ticks from himself, not so much out of concern that they might have imbedded themselves in his epidermis as much as his desire not to harm these fellow creatures. He was a gentle man who possessed great respect for the natural world and all its inhabitants.
My other story stems from our infamous descent of Gobbler's Knob, an insignificant peaklet in the eastern San Gabriels. It was Dick's habit, as a former two-time Chair of the Hundred Peaks Section, to help some of the closet and wanna-be peakbaggers among the retirees, housewives, and unemployed who composed the "Wednesday Hikers." Gobbler's Knob was one of dozens of hikes he either led or otherwise organized during his tenure as Chair of the Local Hikes Committee.
I was serving as an unofficial assistant leader, and it was under my urging that Dick elected to take our group of trusting participants directly down the mountainside, thus bringing upon us a painful but invaluable lesson about the follies of taking shortcuts. The last 200 yards to the cars were blocked by near-impenetrable chaparral. As the leaders, we each took turns crashing, crawling, and cursing our way through the thorny jungle in a 3 hour race against darkness. I'm sure I did all the cursing. Dick was too much the gentleman to ever vent his frustration in such a manner. In fact, Dick remained calm throughout the whole adventure, even suggesting how interesting it would be to bivouac overnight in the brush only a few yards from our cars! We emerged in the last twilight, in tatters and bleeding from dozens of wounds--scars to be carried with a certain lunatic pride by each of us for a lifetime.
So here's to you Dick. Wherever you are, may the passageways always open up before you in the chaparral of the hereafter. -Bob Cates, Chapter Historian