Minden Inn owner remembered as person who cared
Minden Inn owner Steven R. Winters, who died early Thursday in a car accident, should be remembered as a person who cared about all types of people, said Dena Schwarte, his long-time business partner.
“He had a friend who had Lou Gehrig’s disease, and for the last year, Steve organized dinners to be brought to his house every night,” said Schwarte. “He was always a loving, and good person.”
The last time Schwarte saw Winters was Tuesday night. The pair met with members of the Minden Business Group to talk about plans for the Minden Inn.
“We presented an artist’s rendering of what we though the expansion would look like,” she said. “It was a very positive meeting. We rehashed how we got involved with the county and what our plans are.”
Schwarte went to play bridge after the meeting, one of many weekly games. Winters was a life master bridge player. According to Schwarte, he played weekly games in Reno, Minden and South Lake Tahoe.
He died early Thursday morning when the car he was driving rolled on Highway 395 in Washoe Valley. According to the Nevada Highway Patrol, a motorist called NHP dispatch at 1:45 a.m. Thursday to report a possible drunken driver who was southbound on Highway 395 in a black 1994 Audi Quattro.
The witness reported the alleged drunken driver was reaching speeds of up to 80 m.p.h. and was all over the road, the NHP said.
“She stated that as they approached Washoe Valley, just south of the Bowers Mansion turn off, she noted the vehicle increasing its speed, swerve into the center median, and she could no longer see the vehicle’s tail lights,” said Trooper Janay Winkler said. “When she got to the scene she stated she could see a figure on the ground in front of the car.”
NHP was notified and the witness flagged. A second motorist assisted in putting flares out until authorities arrived.
It appears Winters’ car went into the center median, began to swerve, he over corrected and the vehicle began to rollover several times, according to a NHP investigation. The vehicle rolled into the northbound travel lanes and finally stopped on the shoulder.
“The driver’s side of the vehicle was completely intact, had the driver been wearing his seat belt he might have lived,” Winkler said. “Through momentum of a rollover accident, the driver was then ejected through the passenger’s side window, which had been shattered upon impact.”
It is not known if Winters, 51, was drunk at the time of the accident. Authorities conducted tests, but results are not due for two weeks.
Winters was the owner of the historic Minden Inn, home to several Douglas County offices. He bought the 90-year-old landmark building in 1990 and spent $1.7 million to renovate the rundown structure.
The county moved in and signed a 10-year lease, which is set to expire in 2003.
At issue is whether the county can exercise an option to cancel the lease after five years and go ahead with plans to relocate county offices to larger quarters.
District Attorney Scott Doyle said Friday it is too early to determine any impact Winters’ death would have on county negotiations.
“I think a tragedy like this is so close,” Doyle said. “It is something that has to be looked at a little further out in the future. It’s just one of those sad times.
“County officials offer their condolences to Mr. Winters’ family,” he said. “At this point, they need to focus on family things. We’ll probably look at this at a later date.”
Schwarte, who was Winters’ business partner for 22 years, said he was willing to lower his asking price for the Minden Inn.
“We were talking about opportunities to expand the building and keep the old Courthouse. When you talk about the Minden Inn, it’s important to remember that not only did we restore it, we designed it to meet the county’s needs. We remodeled it just the way they wanted it,” she said.
Schwarte said she attributed much of her success in business to Winters’ guidance.
“He was great,” she said. “He gave me lots of opportunity to do lots of things. He had faith in me.”
Services for Winters will be held Monday at 1 p.m. at the Tallac Historic Site, Valhalla Grand Hall at Lake Tahoe. Donations may be sent to: The Steve Winters Memorial Fund, c/o U.S. Bank, 2850 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, Calif. 96150.
Winters is survived by his wife Jane.