Incline’s Geno Menchetti leaves behind lasting legacy
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — There is hardly a part of Incline Village that Geno Menchetti didn’t touch.
Menchetti died at the age of 75 from complications due to an auto accident, but between the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, the Incline Village Crystal Bay Township Court, the fire protection district and all the nonprofits he helped, he has left a lasting legacy.
Judge Jim Mancuso first met Menchetti while they were both attending the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.
Menchetti was commuting from school in Sacramento to his job with the Nevada Attorney General’s Carson City office. He once made a wrong turn in Truckee and ended up in Incline Village and fell in love with the area.
In the late 70’s, both Menchetti and Mancuso both opened private practices in Incline. At that time, most of the lawyers serving Incline had offices elsewhere and would commute occasionally to the northeastern shore.
As law practices continued sprouting up in Incline, Menchetti saw two needs.
The first was a way for the attorneys in the area to join and work together to lobby. Menchetti helped establish the Incline Village Bar Association.
Mancuso said that while the attorneys in the area were often adversaries in court, the bar association was largely social, a way to catch up in a congenial setting.
The second was a court for the area. At the time, anyone from Incline Village or Crystal Bay who had to go to court would drive down to the closest Washoe County court which was in Reno.
Menchetti formed a committee to help establish the court and in Nov. 1980, the Incline Village Crystal Bay Township Court opened.
Mancuso became the first Justice of the Peace and Menchetti served as one of the first pro tem judges.
Mancuso said being a pro tem judge doesn’t pay much, that Menchetti did it as a public service.
Mancuso also complimented Menchetti’s skill as an attorney.
“He was a tough adversary in court but he was always good natured,” Mancuso said. “He fought hard for his clients.”
One of his clients was the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.
Menchetti served as legal counsel for the district for 30 years but former fire chief Mike Brown said he was much more than just legal counsel.
“He was a strong supporter of public safety,” Brown said. “He was there not only as legal counsel but our friend.”
Brown said Menchetti, who loved cooking, would be found cooking at fundraising events for NLTFPD.
“At the annual pancake breakfast, he was there flipping pancakes,” Brown said.
Menchetti’s long time girlfriend Judy Heinbaugh also has fond memories of him and food.
“He was a fantastic cook, we used to love to cook together,” Heinbaugh said.
Menchetti wintered in Cabos San Lucas and because of COVID-19, Heinbaugh couldn’t join him there this year. So, she said they would talk everyday on the phone and they would describe their meals to each other.
Food wasn’t his only interest, he was also passionate about arts and culture. He served as chairman of the Incline Village Crystal Bay Visitors and Convention Bureau.
While serving on the board, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival was in danger of going away. So he convinced the bureau to take over production of the festival.
The bureau ran it for three years, then Menchetti, along with Mike Chamberlain and Vicki McGowen formed a nonprofit to continue the festival.
Chamberlain said Menchetti was instrumental in working with Nevada State Parks to ensure Sand Harbor would be the forever home of the festival. Through donations, the nonprofit built the stage at Sand Harbor.
Menchetti also established the D.G. Menchetti Young Shakespeare Program that has introduced Shakespeare to thousands of children.
There are so many other stories to tell about Menchetti’s connection to the community, like how the Geno Fund helped so many people in the community or his dedication to the Pet Network Humane Society or how he raised money every fourth of July for 30 years with the Optimist Club.
The list goes on and on but one thing is clear, he loved his community and the people in it.
Heinbaugh is currently trying to schedule a celebration of life at Sand Harbor.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Geno Fund Tahoe or the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival.
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