John W. Hays died Aug. 13, 2015 at the age of 77. He was born in Placerville in 1937, and was a Californian to his core. His great-great grandfather, Col. John “Jack” Hays, was one of the original Texas Rangers, arriving in San Francisco in 1849 to become its first elected sheriff. The Hays family has been deeply tied to the Golden State ever since.
Mr. Hays resided up and down California, with out-of-state forays that included living in Seattle and New York. He spent much of his career in the advertising agency business in New York and San Francisco, doing radio stints, owning an outdoor vacations company, and spending a decade as senior vice president of the California (now Los Angeles) Angels Major League Baseball franchise.
He eventually located to Oakhurst in 1992, building an opening a furniture store, The Ol Proprietor, before retiring in 1997.
Mr. Hays was active in Eastern Madera County for many years, serving on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, long-time member of Sunrise Rotary, co-chair of Fire Safe Council, president of the River Creek Men’s Golf Club, Honorary Mayor of Oakhurst (1997-98), and for several years, Sierra Star columnist of the somewhat irreverent column, “Trust Me.”
During his earlier residential stops, Mr. Hays was president of Peninsula Young Republicans, a member of the San Francisco Advertising Club, Elks, California Western Aritsts, E. Clampus Vitus (Platrix Chapter), and served on the board of directors for Western Medical Center in Anaheim.
Mr. Hays spent most of his life trying to improve at golf, and loved fly fishing and horse packing. Travel, especially by cruise ships, brought him continuous joy. He was an oil painter of some repute, with his Western Americana representational art exhibited and sold via California galleries, including his own in Oakhurst, Grub Gulch Gallery.
Mr. Hays leaves behind his wife of 35 years, Nancy, his son Doug and wife Dana, and Billy and Kelly of Oakhurst.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to the EMC SPCA, P.O.Box 1314, Oakhurst, 93644.
A few edited excerpts from his ‘Trust Me’ columns follow.
Don’t let Oakhurst’s halo get brighter (Dec. 2, 1998 column)
In recent years the night sky over Oakhurst has becomeas bright glow. We’ve watched the darkness becoming lighter, and the stars dimmer, with each new commercial building, and the bright exterior lighting they’ve installed.
We’ve seen new gasoline stations go up, with lights so bright they hurt the eyes. We’ve seen the big Old Mill Village (Vons, Longs, etc) development illuminate the night. Add the older Raley’s center and all the other downtown lights, and our halo is already too damn bright.
Oakhurst is losing its Mountain Village aura once the sun sets. We’re fast closing in on the harsh look of Blackstone (fortunately, san hookers).
Oakhurst needs its own yacht club (Dec. 9, 1998 column)
We’ve all had the discomforting experience of being asked, “Where in hell is Oakhurst?” We’ve all had out-of-area friends and strangers look at us blankly when we tell ’em where we live.
“Oh , year,” they struggle, “isn’t that over east of Modesto?” That’s Oakdale, durnit. “Gee, bet it’s beautiful up there in the wine country.” That’s Oakville, dimwit. Too many folks have too few clues where Oakhurst is, and it’s time to get top-of-mind.
What we need is a persona, something special about Oakhurst that triggers people’s memories. And I’ve been giving that a lot of thought.
Oakhurst needs a yacht club.
It’s not true that I hate kids (Dec. 16, 1998 column)
Somehow I have gained a reputation as an ol’ curmudgeon who hates kids. An-ill deserved image, one I abhor and resent. I suppose this misconception comes from my open uneasiness with young wannabees. A discomfort held by many (if not most) of us seniors ...
Really, we elders do indeed look kindly on some kids. Example: My 8-year-old grandson, Billy. He’s an exception because he’s perfect. You, too, probably know an exception.
Fire-safety group not full of hot air (Jan. 3, 1999 column)
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a committee up here that seems to actually be doing things that will benefit every single one of us who lives in the mountains. The Fire Safe Council. And if it really is successful, it will be an impactful exception to the normal fare of community-action groups that talk much, do little ...
The FSC has already begun the process of identifying which neighborhoods are isolated by just one road, and exploring where and how a second emergency road might be constructed. Nobody’s done that before. Doing it is urgently overdue. Becoming aware of which residential areas are a great risk, and trying to find a way to get another road built, is the FSC objective.
Thoughts while sitting at the 41/49 stoplight (Feb. 3, 1999 column)
Like many of my neighbors, I spend more and more time in line at the stoplight at the Oakhurst intersection of highways 41 and 49. As frustrating as it is, those lulls allow me more quiet time to mull over important thoughts, like:
Aside from scratching off a lottery ticket, playing golf is the most disappointing activity there is.
If Yosemite National Park is committed to reducing auto traffic by increasing bus traffic, are they concerned with diesel pollution, which experts say is much worse than gasoline? Diesel’s nitrogen oxide and soot particles can cause cancer, say environmentalists. Diesel stinks, say all. Where’s the EIR on that one, and what would it mean to us if YARTS expands to lotsa buses going up and down Highway 41?
First time I walked out the Pizza Factory and all the help yelled, “Thank you,” it scared the hell out of me. Still does, every time, nice as it is.
If citizens and government are so dead-set against smoking, why in hell is it still legal?
Or, how can tobacco companies be sued and levied for huge bucks as if they’re villains when they’re peddling perfectly legal products? Something seems wrong here. (Doesn’t it, Mr. Froelich?)
Wouldn’t it look terrific if Oakhurst merchants planted flowers out front every spring? (And wouldn’t Robin and Mark at Western Sierra Nursery love it?)
Betcha the real reason the Yosemite tribe used to burn the valley floor on a regular basis was because they didn’t have weedeaters.
Will the two young teenagers who ran amok for weeks in Ahwahnee, stealing and vandalizing, get more than a hand-slap? I think they should get the worst, but I sadly fear they won’t.
What happens if one takes two Viagra pills by mistake? Bigger smiles, too?
More thoughts while sitting at the stoplight (Feb. 17, 1999 column)
It will never stop bothering me that South Fork is north of North Fork. Yes, I know, it’s because they were named after branches of Willow Creek, but still ...
There’s little more pleasant than dining outdoors during a summer sunset. So who come there’s only a couple of restaurants up here that regularly offer that pleasure?
I’m sorry I offended that lady reader with my jest about Viagra. All I can is to keep your cool, and let the jokes on the subject die like the Hula Hoop. Just keep a stiff upper lip. (Oh, oh, pardon the pun).
It’s because of marlin that Bass Lake got its name (March 17, 1999 column)
... the marlin came in at about 1,624 pounds, easily a freshwater Marlin World Record at the time.
Well, the news got out fast and marlin fishermen from all over the world headed here to fish the lake ... alas, in a matter of days, the marlin were all fished out.
As with all Chamber-type organizations, the merchants went into a panic and then an endless series of meetings. They came out with the conclusion that they simply had to keep fishermen coming, and the way to do that was to change the name of The Lake to something with more sizzle.
With marlin only a fond recent memory, they couldn’t name it Marlin Lake, obviously ... the debates raged. Trout, bass or crappie: those were the choices. Many felt that Trout Lake seemed a bit uppity ... go for the masses, that was the consensus. Fortunately, the other two species, crappie and bass, were highly popular catchables among anglers ...
From that refined list, there wasn’t much an argument. And now, you know how Bass Lake got its name. They couldn’t call it Crappie Lake, now could they?