Fourth-generation Nevadan JohnD Winters died Friday at age 97.
"He lived a full, wonderful life," said Kathleen "Kay" Winters, his wife of nearly 60 years. "He was extremely caring."
Winters, a rancher, came from a family of state politicians. His father, Ira, was a Carson City rancher who served as an Ormsby County assemblyman and state senator. His grandfather, John D., ran for governor in 1866.
He didn't run for public office, but did involve himself in an array of community groups and issues throughout his life. Preserving water was especially important to Winters, and he served at one time on the Carson-Truckee Water Conservation Board, Kay said.
"He fought tooth and nail, he tried to get a dam in the Carson River Canyon," she said. He felt strongly it would "take care of recreation and control floods. He fought for it a good 40 years."
Winters realized that living in an arid and fast-growing area has provided officials and residents with "a huge challenge" when it comes to providing water now and in the future, said John McLain, of Resource Concepts Inc., who has known him since 1974.
"I thought he definitely was a visionary, a holistic thinker who always looked ahead at what future generations would need," McLain said. "He left his legend in agriculture and water."
Ed James, director of the Carson River Subconservancy District learned a lot about the history of the Carson River from Winters, who owned Santa Maria Ranch and owns the Ophir Mill Ranch in Dayton. The river runs through their property. They moved to Dayton after Winters sold the family home on Robinson Street, west of the Governor's Mansion, in the mid-1960s.
"I always enjoyed talking with him. He was a wealth of knowledge," James said. "If you understand history you understand where you are today. He brought me articles on water resources, he made it a point to provide me with information and background, which I appreciated."
Winters was born May 18, 1909, to Ira and Kearney Winters. He attended Carson City schools and graduated with a degree in agriculture from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1932. He worked for the Nevada State Highway Department for about a year, then went on to serve as an agent with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service for five years.
He then joined the family business, Sanitary Dairy. This is about the time Gertrude Gottschalk met him.
"I moved here in 1936. The Winters had a dairy and delivered milk. I became acquainted with the family," she remembered. "He was always very friendly and caring about everything and everyone. He was just a really nice person."
Winters gave land to Carson City for education and recreation uses. In 1954, he gave the school district a site on King Street for a high school, now the area where Carson Middle School sits. He also gave 100 acres to the city for the Eagle Valley West Golf Course.
Almost a year ago, nearby Centennial Park was officially renamed JohnD Winters Centennial Park in his honor, and it deeply touched him. The western portion of the park was created from what used to be his land.
"In my estimation, he was just a terrific man, an absolute gentleman," said Mayor Marv Teixeira, who has also known him for decades. "His generosity to this community is probably unequaled. He left quite a legacy."
Among Winters' other community involvements: Rotary Club, helping to establish Carson-Tahoe Hospital and serving on its board, the Western Nevada Community College advisory board, the Nevada-California Interstate Commission, the 1960 re-enactment of the Pony Express and the Native Nevadan Committee for the 1964 state centennial. He was grand marshal of the Nevada Day Parade in 1995.
Though his ranch and civic duties kept him from having much leisure time, his busy schedule apparently suited him.
"He always looked young for his age," Kay said.
• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber @nevadaappeal.com or 882-2111, ext. 215.