Graeagle icon Harvey West Jr., 1922 – 2011, passes away
Graeagle has lost one of its true pioneers with the passing of Harvey West Jr. last week.
West died Tuesday, April 26, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno. “He is Graeagle,” said longtime friend Don Clark. “He built this community and its infrastructure with his own money. He built the streets, church, tennis court, golf course — everything that makes this town what it is today.” “It is the loss of a true pioneer and friend,” said Dick Lundy, who enjoyed a longstanding professional and personal relationship with West.
“This town Harvey and his wife, Shirley, built was such a special place to live, raise a family and meet so many lifelong friends,” said Bob Klein, who worked for West as a golf pro at Graeagle Meadows since 1987.
West and his brothers came to Graeagle in 1957 to assess the holdings and timber of the former box factory, owned at the time by the California Fruit Exchange. The West family, which also owned the Placerville Lumber Company, bought Graeagle and set to work to revitalize the town.
West moved his family to Graeagle in 1958 and set up house in one of the big red houses on the hill. The place was a virtual ghost town — there was no running water, no electricity and only a few residents. In 1964, he began work on Graeagle Meadows, an 18-hole championship golf course.
Fifty years later, Graeagle is a notable recreation destination. “Harvey converted cut-over timberland from a box factory company town into the thriving recreational community we enjoy today,” said Lundy.
West was hailed as much for his community mindedness as for his development savvy. He served for nearly two decades on the Plumas County Planning Commission and helped found the Graeagle Fire Department. He was a Free Mason and a Rotarian, and coached Little League, supported the Johnsville ski hill and promoted junior golf. “He was a wonderful guy, always a delight to be around,” said Clark. “One of the most impressive things I remember was Harvey’s commitment to not sell more real estate than the infrastructure could handle. Twenty-five years ago when real estate was booming, he told me he limited the number of lots he sold each year to just 40, even though he said he sometimes had a waiting list of 100 buyers waiting their chance.”
Despite his prominence, West seldom indulged in self-promotion. Clark said West turned him down for 16 years when he asked West to serve as grand marshal of the Graeagle Fourth of July parade. West finally relented last year. “To me that was the perfect way the community could thank him for all he has done,” said Clark.