Fritz and Nancy Thornburg archives dedication July 14

Fritz and Nancy Thornburg.

Fritz and Nancy Thornburg.

Some people say that everyone is replaceable, but Fritz and Nancy Thornburg are definitely not.

There has not been anyone else quite like them, nor will there ever be. Nancy’s passing on Dec. 31, 2017, and Fritz’s death on Sept. 9, 2023, mark the end of an era in Alpine County, leaving a huge hole in the infrastructure of our little mountain community.

They were both steadfast, constant, extremely intelligent, dedicated, devoted to research, and especially to “getting the facts right.” No matter what the outcome, they were always ready to stand up and do the right thing.

Their constant goal was to make our little corner of the world, these canyons and valleys, these rough and tumble lands that surround Markleeville, a better and more civilized place for everyone to live.

Fritz’s ancestors arrived in 1875, and the family has a deep and long history in Alpine. Fritz and Nancy were married in December 1958 and added mightily to that chronicle. They had three daughters, Becky, Jenny, and Nani, along with granddaughters Lauren and Lila Ellis.

Author and historian Karen Dustman wrote “Fritz served in the U.S. Army from 1955-57 and went to work for a local rancher when he came home again. He learned to run a backhoe and how to clean ditches. At a local rancher’s urging, he attended the Ag program at U.C. Davis, which is where he met his bride-to-be, Nancy.

They soon moved back to Alpine where Nancy taught elementary school, and Fritz worked for local ranchers, doing irrigating, feeding cows, and mowing, baling, and hauling hay. Later, he would work for the Alpine Road Department for 16 years. In January 1976, Fritz

became an Alpine County supervisor; he also had his own construction business, which he’d started with Gary Coyan back in ’61.

In 1980, Fritz went to work for Cal Silver, which bought the old Zaca mine. He opened the portals of the tunnels with his backhoe and did other grading work for them. He would spend about twenty years working for Cal Silver and Western States Minerals.”

“Fritz and Nancy were both staunch supporters of the Alpine County Historical Society, and Nancy served as Museum Curator from 1987 to 1997,” Dustman said. “In addition to many wonderful donations made by the family, Fritz also was instrumental in moving the old Jail building in 1969 from its original site near today’s Chamber of Commerce to the top of Schoolhouse Hill, helping push it up the hill with his D-4 Cat.”

Quite a long time ago, Nancy told me how she met Fritz: “I first saw him across the quad when we were both in college.” she began, with her clear blue eyes looking up. You could see her thoughts drifted far, far away. She stopped and looked straight at me. “He was incredibly handsome!” she said with a huge grin.

Nancy was adept at research and reference notations. She had a commanding knowledge of everything that was “local.” She served and preserved at both the Museum and Archives. She was passionate and intense, giving excellent presentations and writing insightful letters, articles, and books. The Alpine County Historical Society is dedicating the Alpine County Archives in her memory to honor her legacy.

Their gifts to the land and people of Alpine County are highly significant to individuals that appreciate the accurate preservation of the events and history that make Alpine so unique. If the records are properly kept, the historic record will always reveal the truth.

There will be an event celebrating their lives starting 9:30 a.m. July 14 at 270 Laramie St. in Markleeville. Alpine County Historical Society Dedication of the Archives Building to Nancy Thornburg will take place at 10 a.m. Memorial Service for Fritz & Nancy will follow. Come and share your favorite stories of this remarkable couple. Bring your own chair, hat, sunscreen, and jacket. Light refreshments will be available.


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