Remembering rancher Bill Sturgis
October 3, 2014
To say that Bill Sturgis loved adventure would be an understatement. Bill lived for adventure on both land and sea.
Bill was born in Los Angeles in 1926. His first visit to Carson Valley was in 1949 when he stayed at the Hollister Ranch in Genoa during a college break. He was so impressed with the lifestyle and beauty of the Valley that he vowed to leave the LA basin and the ocean he loved, for a land adventure in the wide open spaces. After finishing college at University of Colorado, Bolder, he attended Cal Poly Ag School in an effort to turn a city boy into a greenhorn rancher.
There were no real estate agents at the time, so buying a ranch meant asking neighbors and knocking on doors to see if anyone wanted to sell. As luck would have it, the old Cosser Ranch, south of Genoa, became Bill's home base for the next 64 years.
In the early 1950s, he was one of the first "outsiders" to take up ranching as most of the ranches were owned by the offspring of the early settlers to the Valley. Stodieck, Dangberg, Dressler, Adams, Settelmeyer, and Van Sickle were familiar names in the close knit ranching community, and the new kid in the Valley was watched with interest.
In due time, Bill married Marcille Hansen, a rancher's daughter. The marriage ended some years later; however, their friendship remained until her death in 1988.
Shedding his cowboy boots for fins, Bill would return to the ocean when the hay was in the barn and the calves were weaned. He had started cruising with his father to Catalina Island as soon as he could walk. In fact, he probably could swim before he walked.
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He loved boating, and by his mid-20s had made voyages as far north as Southeast Alaska and south to the warm waters off Mexico. He was an avid surfer and free diver and as soon as scuba gear became available in the early 1950s, Bill was hooked.
Bill was comfortable captaining both sail and powerboats. He won the Los Angeles to Tahiti race in 1956 on his sailboat, Jada, and proceeded to spend six months diving and filming the remote islands in the South Pacific.
Between sailboat races to Mexico and Hawaii, he raced cars at famous tracks such as Le Mans, Sebring and Laguna Seca. He had the pleasure of racing with the finest drivers of his time, and along with his able diving buddies, he brought numerous trophies and lobsters back to his cattle ranch in Nevada.
During the 1960s, Bill took his powerboat through the Panama Canal several times to dive the clear Caribbean waters.
It was there he became fascinated with underwater wrecks and the history of seafaring. He had read about a self-described archeologist, Peter Throckmorton who was chartering his boat out of Piraeus, Greece; Bill headed to the Mediterranean.
Between dives, Bill listened with great interest to Peter's stories of his diving adventures with Dr. George Bass, a young archeologist who was diving off the Turkish coast. Bill headed for Bodrum, Turkey, and was soon part of the Institute of Nautical Archeology (INA) team looking for ancient wrecks along the Turkish coast. Bill joined the INA board in 1973. After his resignation in 2007, his son, Jason, also an avid diver, videographer and captain joined the board.
Bill met his second wife in 1971 while cruising in British Columbia. He went into her travel agency to buy a ticket back to Nevada and discovered a woman who enjoyed boating and diving as much as he did.
Over the next 43 years they cruised with their two children, Jason and Leah. In the summers, they explored the Pacific Northwest and many winters were spent cruising their boat in Mexico.
Like all great adventures, they come to end. It is with deep sadness that Bill passed away on July 15, 2014. His family will always remember him as caring partner and loving father; his friends will remember him as a true gentleman and a man of his word. There can be no greater tribute.