An emotional farewell for Patsy |

An emotional farewell for Patsy

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Not a dry eye in the Pioneer Hut atop the Heavenly tram could be found when more than 100 members of South Lake Tahoe’s leading families sang a spine-tingling version of “God Bless America.”

The song was the late Patsy Gilman Wood’s favorite, said her husband, Bob, while wiping away tears at the memorial dinner Friday evening.

Wood died at age 87 in May, but not before leaving a legacy of kindness, goodwill, South Shore volunteerism and even a ski run named after her — note Patsy’s Run on Heavenly’s slopes.

The Woods have five children, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“Patsy was one of the most memorable people in my life,” said tribute organizer Susie Raby, who was married to the pioneer’s late son, George.

“Patsy and I were the richest people. We lived in Napa part of the time and part of the time in Lake Tahoe, but money has never been our god,” said Wood. His is one of the families that helped get Heavenly off the ground decades ago. Wood was instrumental in building the Heavenly aerial tram in 1962.

So he honored his wife of nearly 54 years at the endpoint of the South Shore ski lift.

A shrine of sorts was placed on a knoll. It consists of skis and pictures laced with gardenias — her favorite flower. Wood said he filled their St. Helena farm’s swimming pool with gardenias every year to mark his wife’s birthday.

And with pure Bob Wood whimsical humor, he used the spot where Heavenly ski schools meet to point out where his wife broke her leg in 1960. Wood said he wasn’t there at the time, but his wife’s instructor, Pepi Greimeister — a good sport — showed up to make the distinction.

It was her nurturing, domestic demeanor that those who loved her remembered most often at the ceremony.

“I used to sit in her kitchen and watch her cook,” said Diane DeLauer, a Marla Bay neighbor whose frequent visits to see Wood made her the beneficiary of the Tahoe pioneer’s noteworthy cookies.

“She was one of the most gracious people in the world,” DeLauer added, as tears rolled down her face. She considered Wood a second mother.

“I just loved her,” said Marie Spooner, who also split her time between the close-knit Marla Bay neighborhood and a farm off the hill.

“No matter where Patsy was, she always brought a smile, a dedication and a

concern for others. She was always open to people in crisis,” Del Laine said.

Laine, like many who attended the private ceremony, used the occasion to catch up on the activities of those who shaped the path of South Lake Tahoe.

“Everybody hasn’t seen very much of each other (recently),” she said.

Tim Heydon of Reno agreed.

“There are people here I haven’t seen in 25 years,” he said.

Heavenly founder Rudy Gersick absorbed the fellowship, flanked by friends like former employee Martin Hollay.

Hollay, a longtime Heavenly ski patroller who carried the 2002 Olympic torch on the resort’s slopes in January, said most of the people at the tribute were skiers just like Wood had been.

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