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Ranchos loses community advocate to cancer

by Merrie Leininger

The people of the Ranchos lost a dedicated advocate and representative Monday.

The day before his 56th birthday, Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District Board Chairman Bruce Nystrom lost his long battle with cancer.

Anyone who ever saw him run a Ranchos board meeting or work on a fire engine at the Ranchos Volunteer Fire Department knows what a special man Nystrom was.

“He went as far as he could, and he gave his all to the Valley,” said fellow board member Dewey Jay. “We’re going to miss him. The whole Carson Valley is going to miss Bruce. God has funny ways with people; sometimes He takes the good ones.”

Nystrom, the husband of Mary Jean and father of Melissa, 29, Eric, 21, and Gretchen, 16, joined the fire department soon after his move to the Carson Valley in 1977. He was elected to the board in 1985.

Nystrom overcame colon cancer in 1990, but almost two years ago, the cancer recurred and spread throughout his body.

Nystrom continued to serve what he saw as his responsibility to the community up until the very last. He presided over last Wednesday’s board meeting, despite being in obvious pain and depending on an oxygen tank.

“It saddens my heart that a person as young as he was and who had such dedication for the community What can you say about a man who goes up there until the last and handles that rowdy crowd (at last Wednesday’s board meeting)?” said board member Beverly Page. “He’s been a benefit to us and to me. I will sadly miss him. In fact, I don’t know if I want to sit on the board next month; it will be so empty without him.”

Page lives down the street from the Nystroms. She remembered his dedication not only to the board, but also to the fire department.

“I used to watch him ride his bike down to the fire station and walk around from door to door every year selling tickets to the annual dinner for the fire department,” she said. “I’ve known Bruce a long time, and I’ve always been happy to be associated with him because we’ve always gotten along, no matter our disagreements.”

Bob Spellberg also knew Nystrom in both his work with the Ranchos and the fire department.

Spellberg first met Nystrom when he became the district manager in 1987 and Nystrom soon lured Spellberg away from another volunteer department to the Ranchos.

“He talked me into joining the fire department in 1988. We became not only boss and employee, but friends. We believed in the same things, so it was easy for us to become friends,” Spellberg said.

Nystrom was dedicated to the fire department during his 17 years as president because he truly believed in helping other people. The members of the fire department became like family.

“He was part of a group of guys that become like a family. He was dedicated in making sure that family stayed together and operated in a manner that was helpful to the public,” Spellberg said.

When Nystrom gave up his position as president three years ago and became chief engineer, Spellberg became president.

He said Nystrom also was a true leader of the Ranchos and gave him the best piece of advice he received when he first joined the district.

“He told me to sit back and take a look around first, and those were good words of advice,” Spellberg said. “He was an excellent chairman. He ran the meetings well and let people say what they wanted, and then if he had something to say, he’d say it, and he didn’t hold back.”

According to Guy Yeaman, a member of the fire department and a friend of the family, Nystrom told him to go ahead with the birthday party planned for Tuesday night at the fire station.

The department and family had a dinner and memorial service. Plans for a public memorial service have not been made.