South Tahoe casino stalwart Bill Ledbetter dead at 77
December 24, 2007
William “Bill” Barton Ledbetter, a member of several pioneering Lake Tahoe families, longtime general manager of Harveys Lake Tahoe hotel and casino and community philanthropist died peacefully Sunday at Rancho Mirage, Calif.
He was 77. He lost a year-long battle with Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) after undergoing a five-day treatment he came down with pneumonia. His family and friends were at his bedside when he passed away. They were Jessica, Kirk, Debbie, Kristopher, Brandianne Ledbetter, Ranee Barsanti and Theo Tsiknakis.
From his family contributing the property that led to where Barton Memorial Hospital now rests, to sitting on a number of boards and committees, Ledbetter was devoted to Tahoe in very profound ways, his friends say, generous with his time, energy, business and even landscape acumen.
“What Bill was to me was this wonderful, giving, smart man,” said Debbie Benson, Ledbetter’s personal assistant for nearly 20 years. “There’s wasn’t a day I wasn’t working that I didn’t learn something from him. How many people can say that about someone?”
In 1998, when Ledbetter retired from Harveys as vice chairman of the board and helped oversee the ownership transition, which, ultimately led to the purchase of Harveys by Harrah’s, Ledbetter was able to permanently retain his office at the casino. In summers he would come into the office nearly every day where he worked on projects.
He was instrumental with many things at the casino, including building the tower of Harveys as well as gaining its Four-Diamond rating as a luxury hotel in Lake Tahoe.
Friends said Ledbetter recognized and respected how important employees contributed to a successful business. On holidays he would make sure employees had turkeys and if one of his employees was really down on their luck, Ledbetter would help them out, friends said.
As well as the gaming industry he and wife Beverlee partnered with Pat and Spec Rahbeck to start The Outdoorsman in South Lake Tahoe which operated successfully for more than 25 years.
Daughter Jessica Ledbetter recalled how her father maintained the exterior of the business, always making sure it had fresh paint, clean driveways and meticulous landscaping.
“He was always one to want to make a good first impression,” Jessica Ledbetter said. “Whether it was at Harveys or the Outdoorsman, he felt that the first impression would make customers return or not return.”
Ledbetter also operated an extension of the Outdoorsman, the Equinox inside of Harrah’s Tahoe, a high-end boutique for men and women.
Bill Ledbetter was born at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, May 15, 1930. He attended school in a one-room school house in Elk Grove, followed by Sacramento College. After college he joined the Army and served in the Korean War. He met his wife Beverlee Gross during his summers spent in Tahoe bringing cattle up from Sacramento with his family. He was married to Beverlee Ann Gross on June 12, 1954 in Glenbrook. Later they had three children, Jessica, Kirk, and Erica.
His mother, Fay Ledbetter and aunt, Alva Barton, donated the property for Barton Memorial Hospital in memory of their father. Bill Ledbetter was a member of the Barton Memorial Hospital board and honorary director for the hospital’s foundation.
Longtime friend and hospital board member Del Laine said Ledbetter took the lead in many projects including the artwork that now brightens the halls of the hospital.
“You know there’s a lot of people who will tell you the same thing about Bill ” that he was warm and full of humor and a generous person ” but the two things that stand out to me: His commitment to the Native American culture and his landscaping abilities. They were both enormous.”
He loved Lake Tahoe’s scenery and did everything he could to add to it with his great taste and extensive knowledge of flowers and trees. Friends and colleagues would often ask for his advice on what to grow in Tahoe and Ledbetter always had the right answer, Laine said.
“He would visit employees at their homes and he’d give landscaping advice. He did it and did it all in spades,” Laine said.
He was involved in many Lake Tahoe beautification projects along Highway 50 and oversaw the landscaping at Bijou Community Park.
Ledbetter spent his winters in Palm Springs and the summer and fall at Lake Tahoe. Along with his passion for cars, he spent his days skiing, snowmobiling, flying both helicopters and fixed-winged aircraft, traveling and landscaping.
His wife Beverlee and daughter Erica preceded him in death. He is survived by his best friend and sister Melba Mosher, William Mosher Sr.; William Jr., Kay, and Melanie Mosher; Faye, Bob, Kathleen, and Jonathan Krull; Ouida, Herb, Jackie, and Caitlin Garms.
There is a Celebration of Life planned for friends and family at 1123 Winnemucca Ave., South Lake Tahoe on Friday, Dec. 28, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
In lieu of flowers the family asks to support your local blood bank, plant a tree in his honor or make a donation to the Mylodysplastic Syndromes Foundation (Box 353 Crosswicks, NJ 08515 – mds-foundation.org) where a memorial fund is being set up in his name beginning Jan. 2, 2008.