TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Laddie, a West Shore and Squaw Valley VIP and local icon for nearly four decades, may be forced to retire because of injuries he suffered in a serious hit and run accident, though you will have a hard time convincing him that any of his limitations will slow him down. Laddie is resigned to missing work this winter, but, beyond that, he remains hopeful. “We'll see how it goes”, he says.
Laddie was hit by a car on April 28 as he was walking across the street in Tahoe City. It sent him “flying” (Laddie's own word) through the air, breaking his hip, pelvis, a femur, ribs and causing severe injuries to his knees and feet. Had it not been for the response of Kentaro Matsuura, a guest at the Pepper Tree Inn, Laddie may not have survived.
Laddie was born Matthew Hodge in 1947 in Oakland, CA, with an extremely challenging developmental disability that has earned him a reputation for trying one's patience, especially when he's out socializing, because he can get a little rambunctious, loud and extremely talkative, especially after a few beers. But that happens to the best of us. Laddie just happens to be at his uninhibited best more frequently than the rest of us.
Laddie first came to Tahoe as a young boy with his devoted mother, Robyn Genest, in 1959. Today, Robyn drives to Auburn every week to help care for her son. Robyn worked tirelessly for the Olympics before, during and after the winter games in Squaw Valley in 1960. Her work and personal commitment to help staff the historic event earned her a special bronze medal from the Olympic Committee.
I didn't hear about Laddie's accident until a few weeks ago. I saw him on September 4th, and was amazed at how healthy he looked after what he'd been through. He can do most things on his own now, but still needs a walker or a wheelchair. Laddie misses Tahoe, but has made quite a name for himself in Auburn. “I just love him,” said one of his nurses. They will miss him when he returns to Tahoe, which, hopefully, will be soon.
Laddie loves to dance, and doesn't need a dance floor. He gets up and grooves whenever and wherever the mood strikes him, which is often, especially when the music is live.
He enjoys playing the harmonica too, which he does with a passion, a generous cacophony of rhythm and melody, and the occasional flood of musical genius when the mood is right and he and his harmonica are filled with the magic of the moment.
And Laddie loves to laugh. One of the most amazing things about the man is that his sense of humor is more sophisticated than you might expect from a person with his disability.
Laddie's main occupation has been that of a janitor, but he can do so much more. It was Laddie's idea to install an incinerator on Squaw's upper mountain, at Gold Coast. “Why are we hauling all this garbage down the gondola when we could build an incinerator up here?” he said one day. His idea was approved, and the incinerator became a reality.
At age 65, Laddie reigns supreme as the undisputed King of all Janitors.
As skinny as a whip, Laddie has been known to work circles around men forty years younger. His services at Squaw Valley and Chambers Landing every year for decades ranks him at the top as an extremely valuable employee. His personal commitment to excellence in the local ski and restaurant business is well known. Laddie is one of the hardest working, most dependable, trustworthy, loyal and honest employees anyone could hire. He earned employee of the month 5 times from Tom O'Neill at Squaw.
A local friend says, “I think about Laddie every day and am so thankful that I know him.”
We wish Laddie a quick return home and many more good years with us in the Tahoe Basin, which is more beautiful, cleaner, and more colorful because of him.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.