Incline Village founding father Harold Tiller, 85, died Wednesday morning, leaving behind the legacy of the town he literally helped create from the ground up.
On June 8, 1960, Tiller and his wife moved to Lake Tahoe, joining partner and fellow Oklahoman Art Wood.
Wood had recently purchased 9,000 acres of land on Lake Tahoe's North Shore from San Francisco real estate magnate George Whittell for $5.3 million.
Legend has it that Tiller and Wood first visited the vast and untouched woods surrounding Tahoe's North Shore beaches during a blizzard - making Whittell's notion that the land was undevelopable seem palpable.
Undaunted, the pair waited for the thaw and soon thereafter an entire community was sketched out.
The original vision was to create a "Pebble Beach" in the Sierra- home to 40,000, with beaches, championship golf courses, 11 hotels/casinos (seven along Club Drive) and world-class skiing at every turn - Lake Tahoe's only master-planned community.
Their Crystal Bay Development Company soon started selling off parcels of lakefront land for $25,000 apiece - an amount Tiller would later recall as exorbitant.
"They wanted people to be interested, sure," said longtime friend and Incline resident Joe Bourdeau. "He always used to laugh and say 'I felt like I was ripping people off.'"
With just five families living here year-round in the early '60s Tiller was instrumental in starting the Incline Village General Improvement District in 1961.
"I'd have to say the formation of IVGID and getting the sewers and streets - that's what changed things," Tiller said in a 1983 newspaper interview.
Things began to take shape shortly thereafter. The Village Shopping Center was built, and in June of 1964 the Championship Golf Course was opened. Soon Incline began to become the destination Tiller and Wood had envisioned.
Tiller's reputation went beyond his just being "The Founding Father" or one of the original "Good Ol' Boys" of the town -terms of endearment his friends, family and co-workers used.
"He was such a personality, such a great friend to me - a great man," Bourdeau said.
Tiller died of complications from Parkinson's disease.
He is survived by wife of 63 years, Ann Tiller; son Larry Tiller and his wife, Diann Tiller; daughter Linda Tiller Pinski and her husband, George. Also surviving are his grandchildren Lauri Moore and her husband, Tony, Ryan Matthews and his wife, Stephanie, Chris Tiller and his wife, Shelli, Michael Tiller, Erin Smith and Lindsay Smith; great-grandchildren Tyler and Olivia Moore; and sisters Doris Sage and Lila Walker. He was preceded in death by his daughter Nancy Tiller Smith and brother, Marion Tiller.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Tiller's name can be made to the Incline Village Optimist Club, P.O. Box 4299, Incline Village, 89450.