Prominent Valley rancher dies at 87 |

Prominent Valley rancher dies at 87

by Sheila Gardner

Carson Valley rancher Brooks Park is remembered by his family and friends as a hard-working visionary with a passionate love for the land.

“He loved ranching so much,” said Park’s son, Bruce. “I remember him telling me from the time I was 5 years old that to him, ranching was like the priesthood. It was such an honorable vocation.”

Park, 87, died Thursday at Carson-Tahoe Hospital. He had been hospitalized for a month after suffering a heart attack.

“He was active up to two days before he went into the hospital,” Bruce Park said. “He was out looking at his cattle.”

Brooks Park was the third generation of a pioneer family whose roots date back to Nevada’s earliest days of statehood.

He was the grandson of Unity and David Brooks Park who homesteaded in the Carson Valley in 1871. Five generations of the Park family have made their living from the land and Brooks Park passed that legacy to his son and grandchildren.

“My dad had a sense of family and sense of pride of being a rancher,” Park said. “My father saw the change and the potential for change. His vision not only for ranching – but also for Lake Tahoe – has been a gift to all of us. He was the original environmentalist.”

Bruce’s daughter, Tonja Park-Nichols, recalled often talking with her grandfather about the beauty of Carson Valley.

“One time he said to me, ‘Isn’t this the most beautiful place in the world?'” she said.

n Extensive holdings. In addition to holdings in Carson Valley, the Park family leased land at Lake Tahoe to the casino industry in the early 1960s. The family also built Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

Today, Park land is leased by Harveys Resort and Casino, Caesars Tahoe and Horizon Casino Resort. Park holdings rank No. 1 in Douglas County, with an assessed valuation of $63.5 million.

“He was a great man,” said rancher Renee Mack, who grew up with Park’s children. “We have always been friends. He was a man of integrity and someone to be admired.

“What I admire about Brooks is the way he handled his Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley properties and his closeness to his grandchildren and children. He was so down to earth. He was very human,” she said.

Brooks Park was born Aug. 31, 1912, attended Douglas County schools and graduated from the University of Nevada. He married Jeanne Cardinal, a descendant of the Dangberg family, in 1937. They raised their family and continued to live in a small house on Highway 88 across from where Brooks Park grew up.

“My parents knew each other for 75 years,” said Bruce Park. “They met in grade school when my dad told my mom she could sit next to him on the school bus. They got married in the living room of my mom’s house and never wanted to live any place else but Carson Valley.”

Park said he treasured his relationship with his father despite the rigors of growing up a Park.

“I never saw him quit early in his life. To him, 5 p.m. meant nothing. He didn’t need a watch,” Park said. “You didn’t get to quit until you had done it right. He was very dissatisfied with ‘good enough.'”

In addition to his family and ranching, Park was a devout Catholic and long-time member of St. Gall Catholic Church.

“His perseverance was one of his most endearing qualities, that plus his integrity and sense of humor,” Bruce Park said. “He even had a twinkle in his eye the night before he died.”

From the time he was a little boy, Bruce Park said he went everywhere with his father. “We drove to Topaz every day and he would tell me how great it is to be a farmer. He had a love for the Carson Valley and an extra special love for Antelope Valley,” Bruce Park said.

n Out in the snow. “One of his favorite things to do was go out in the snow and look for cattle. We’d have 95 percent of the cattle gathered and two or three would be missing. I’d be ready to go back to the house and he’d say, ‘Let’s go look in the snow,’ and off we’d go.”

A funeral service will be held Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Gall Catholic Church, with burial to follow at Mottsville Cemetery. After the services, family and friends are invited to Bruce Park’s home, 1030 Frieda Lane, in Minden.

In addition to his wife and son, Park is survived by daughters Kay Seeliger of Reno and Jeanne Blach of Elko, 14 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

“From my perspective and my family’s, we’re mourning, but we’re also celebrating his life,” said Bruce Park. “I consider myself very lucky to have had my dad for 59 years and for my mom to have had their marriage for 63 years.”