Amateur photographer finds subjects near at hand |

Amateur photographer finds subjects near at hand

by Kurt Hildebrand

For the last 20 years, John Flaherty has been capturing life in Topaz Ranch Estates with his camera.

Flaherty moved to Topaz Ranch Estates in 1987 from Lake Tahoe and has been both the photographer and the topic of photographs during these two decades.

“It started out as just a fun hobby,” he said.

The Bay area native graduated Westmore High School in Daly City 1971 and then spent a brief stint in the U.S. Army. After a short time attending City College in San Francisco, he worked as a meat cutter for Safeway in 1973-74.

“I transferred to South Lake Tahoe in 1978, which is where I met my wife,” he said. “She came in one day, and two weeks later we were together.”

That was in 1981. The couple lived in Lake Tahoe until 1985 when they were married. That was also the year Safeway closed the store at the “Y” and John was laid off.

His wife, Sharrie brought four children with her into the marriage. The children prompted John to pick up a camera and record their exploits.

“It worked out great,” he said. “I don’t have any regrets.”

The family moved to Placerville, where John worked while they tried to find a way to return to the area.

“I spent the time looking for a place to buy and in 1987, we found the home in Topaz Ranch Estates. We love it. I can hike the hill behind the property. It gets me off the couch,” he said.

Flaherty went to work for the Gardnerville Scolari’s when it opened and has been there ever since.

As Sharrie’s four children grew up and started having children of their own, photographing of the grandkids became Flaherty’s regular task.

“There is a lot of family to keep track of,” he said. “We are a big clan, and I’m the one taking all the family pictures. We have a family Web site, and it’s my job to make sure the grandkids are on it.”

Holidays are special for Flaherty because it is a chance for the clan to gather.

“It’s a good time to sit and eat and watch family history,” he said.

Flaherty finds a different family behind the counter at Scolari’s, where he’s worked since the store opened.

“We all lived in Tahoe together, and now we live out in Topaz Ranch Estates, and I work at a store that’s nice,” he said.

Among the family members Flaherty aims his lens at are Raelynn Toomey, who is married to Scott. The couple lives and works in Carson Valley and has two sons, Trevor and Zachary. Trevor was featured in “America Funniest Home Videos” in a video of him riding down a hill.

Sean Gieser is married to Crystal, and they have a daughter Rebecca. Dan Flaherty has a daughter, Janelle.

Brandon Flaherty is a Washoe County Sheriff’s deputy and is married to Debbie. Their children are Jordan, Chris and Amber. Brandon’s stepson Chris Weller and his wife Milisa have the great-granddaughter, Sierra Lynn. It’s Debbie who is the Flaherty connection with old Carson Valley. Fred Dressler is Debbie’s stepdad’s grandfather.

In addition, Flaherty’s mother-in-law, Audrey Hewit, Sharrie’s father, Joe Lemich and her brother Randy and his wife Cathy are also living in Topaz Ranch Estates.