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Tahoe pioneer dies

Fay Ledbetter quietly passed away at her ranch in Sloughhouse on April 9, 1999, at the age of 95. She was a lifelong resident of the Lake Tahoe area and a patron of the community.

She is survived by her sister Alva Aileen Barton, who is 92 years old; daughter, Melba O. Mosher of Elk Grove, Calif.; and son, William B. Ledbetter of South Lake Tahoe. She also is survived by grandchildren, William Mosher, Faye Krull, Jessica Ledbetter, Ouida Garms, Kirk Ledbetter and seven great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by her loving husband of 62 years, Lester C. Ledbetter; granddaughter, Erica Fay Ledbetter; and foster brother, Jessie Riola.

L. Fay Barton Ledbetter was born Sept. 30, 1903, at Clarksville in El Dorado County. She was the eldest daughter of William Barton and Ouida Kyburz Barton.

Sam and Rebecca Kyburz, her great-grandparents, were true California pioneers who arrived before the gold rush. They headed west in 1846 with the ill-fated Donner Party. But Sam Kyburz knew a faster route, escaping the fateful winter storm that trapped the Donner Party near Truckee in Sierra Mountains.

Rebecca Kyburz was the first American woman to live in Sutter’s Fort, also making her the first American woman who lived in what is now the city of Sacramento.

Fay and Alva grew up helping their parents with the family dairy operation. Every June, they were involved in a seven-day cattle drive to South Lake Tahoe, where the dairy operated during the summer. In the fall, the cattle were herded back to the family ranch in the foothills of eastern Sacramento County. As young girls in the early 1900s, Fay and her sister, Alva, delivered milk and cream by horse-drawn wagon to resorts around Lake Tahoe.

Fay attended Carson Creek School and Sacramento High School. She worked for Department of Motor Vehicles for a short time, but a true country girl, she was much happier on the ranch. In 1925, Lester Ledbetter proposed to her at the top of Kingsbury Grade, overlooking her beloved Lake Tahoe. The couple settled in Sloughhouse, Calif. They had two children, Melba and Bill.

Fay and Lester had one dream in their early life, which was to own their own land and work it for themselves. After years of hard work and saving, they achieved their goal by buying the Reed Ranch on Sloughhouse Road, where Lester farmed and Fay started her own dairy. She worked 20 hours a day, seven day a week for many years. After she closed down her dairy, she raised beef until she was 75 years old. She turned her cattle business over to her grandson, Bill Mosher, helping him until she was almost 90 years old.

Fay was very proud of her two children’s achievements. Her daughter, Melba, was in the first graduating class in 1949 at Sacramento State College, currently California State University, Sacramento. Melba became a school teacher. She married Bill Mosher and moved to the Mosher farm in Elk Grove, Calif., where she still resides today. They raised three children, Bill, Faye and Ouida.

Fay’s son, Bill Ledbetter, took a different path from agriculture. He spent his summers at Lake Tahoe, where he fell in love with the beautiful Beverlee Gross. After the Korean War, Bill married Beverlee and settled in the Lake Tahoe Valley. They had three children, Jessica, Kirk and Erica.

Bill started working at the Wagon Wheel Saloon and Gambling Hall, an enterprise started by his father-in-law, Harvey Gross. Bill spent his career building the business into Harveys Resort Hotel/Casino, a gambling empire expanding into three states.

On occasion, Fay did manage to get away from the ranch. She took several Farm Bureau tours during the 1960s. In 1965, she went on one of the first Farmer-to-Farmer tours of the Soviet Union, visiting Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev, Yalta and several farming regions. On the same trip, she saw Romania, Hungary and Poland. She also traveled extensively through the United States, South America and Europe. She kissed the Blarney Stone, walked through Czar’s Summer Palace, stayed at Tree Top, went to the Eiffel Tower, looked at the Mona Lisa and visited the Pyramids. When the first man was walking on the moon, she was in Switzerland finding her roots in the Swiss town of Kyburz, where she was met her last living European relative.

She was accompanied on all her trips with her husband, sister and daughter and also included at least one grandchild.

One of Fay and Alva’s greatest contributions to the community was the donation of the land for Lake Tahoe’s first hospital in 1962. Barton Memorial Hospital was named in honor of Fay and Alva’s parents.

Fay had an enormous love for nature and animals. She possessed a keen spirit for life and was a natural leader for her family. She had an extremely high work ethic. She filled her life with constant activity and a keen sense of community spirit. Along with her business interests, she was active in the Native Daughter’s of the Golden West, the Republican Women, the Cowbells and Cattlemen’s Association.

She is loved by her family and friends and admired by those who knew the strength of her iron will. She will be missed by all, but never forgotten by any.

Viewing will be Tuesday, April 13 from 3 to 8 p.m. at Andrews and Greilich Mortuary, 3939 Fruitridge Road. Funeral services will be Wednesday, April 14 at 11 a.m. at East Lawn Memorial Park Chapel, 43rd Street and Folsom Boulevard in Sacramento. Interment will follow at East Lawn Memorial Park.

Flowers are welcome and donations may be made to the Barton Memorial Hospital Foundation, 2489 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, Calif. 96150.