Ojai loses longtime community stalwart
By Jesse Phelps
In a loss swift and tragic, Ojai
is without one of the men most directly responsible for preserving
its legendary quality of life.
A rancher, businessman and community activist, Carl Huntsinger
was pronounced dead at 6:42 a.m. yesterday morning by Life Line
Medical Transport paramedics in a hot tub at his home om the
1000 block of Rancho Drive. He was found after a 911 call was
placed around 6:30 a.m. by a family member.
Authorities say Huntsinger, 73, appeared to have died from natural
News of the well-respected Huntsinger's death rapidly spread
throughout the valley, inspiring an outpouring of respect from
the community and condolences for his wife, Carolyn.
Former Mayor Nina Shelley worked with Huntsinger closely to defeat
the Weldon Canyon Dump in the late 1990s and said he will be
missed. "He was an important person in the community. He
was responsible for many good works," said Shelley. "One
of them was his decision to do what he could with respect to
the Weldon issue. What he could and did do was to organize and
raise funds and contribute considerable funds from his own holdings
to help to defeat the Weldon issue. And his connections with
one or more members of the Board of Supervisors were extremely
important. I have felt, though I don't have any direct proof,
that his influence with Supervisor Maggie Erickson-Kildee was
instrumental in getting her from being the swing vote to taking
a position against Weldon Canyon."
Mayor Joe DeVito said Shelley's assessment was correct. "To
me, Weldon Canyon would be with us today and in operation,"
said DeVito. "Carl Huntsinger single-handedly went to each
of the Board of Supervisors. He was so bright, he found out about
what dump sites are all about. The good versus the negatives
and how Weldon Canyon would affect Ojai. He even paid for staff
from the county and himself and flew to Seattle to research the
issue. After he did the research, he met with the county Board
of Supervisors. He convinced them, he got them to deny that project.
About that time a bunch of movie stars came on board but if it
wasn't for Carl, we would have Weldon today."
Shelley said that, particularly, his talk with Erickson-Kildee
had a profound effect. "She was the swing vote with respect
to turning down the application by Waste Management of California,"
said Shelley. "It was very important that he could sit down
and talk with her and explain the damage that would be done if
Weldon were approved. After that conversation, things improved
In addition to his work to defeat Weldon Canyon, Huntsinger served
for many years on the board of directors for The Ojai Tennis
Tournament, was an active member of the Civic Association, worked
with the Rotary Club of Ojai and was involved with the building
and guidance for Ventura Community Memorial Hospital.
Gary Wolfe of Ventura is a trustee for the hospital. "It's
just devastating," said Wolfe. "He served on the community
memorial hospital foundation for a number of years. His father
actually built a wing of the hospital. He was a very civic-minded
individual and very successful businessman also. He was one of
the few that understands that you need to give back."
Larry Wilde, president of the Rotary Club, said, "Carl was
very, very instrumental in participating and being a main part
of the Ojai Rotary's educational foundation. Carl was involved
in screening all of the applicants from the kids for these scholarships,
personally interviewing the kids.
"On a personal note, this is a man who had the utmost of
integrity and the utmost of class. He was very gracious with
me on a business level, went out of his way to show consistent
integrity and professional class. It's going to be a true loss.
It's a family that did an awful lot for the community, mostly
under the radar."
Huntsinger was well traveled, spending years in Europe overseeing
his business interests. He graduated in 1951 from Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, earning a Bachelors of Science in general
engineering. His family company, Vetco, located on Ventura Avenue
for years, was instrumental in the providing tools for the local
"We have lost one of the foundations, one of the pillars
of this community, that cannot be replaced," said DeVito.
"He was an outstanding husband, an outstanding father, an
outstanding community leader and one that I could consider a
very good friend. If I said Carl, I need help here, he'd be there.
He was a guy you always wanted on your side."
Shelley said Huntsinger was "an important person, not only
in terms of Weldon, but his history and his family's history
in the oil fields. It seems to me that whenever something was
needed, Mr. Huntsinger came through. I'd like to express my condolences
to Mrs. Huntsinger."
Another local activist who worked with Huntsinger on several
projects is Patricia Weinberger. Weinberger said Huntsinger played
an "enormous role" in the community. "He was great
guy and we were so lucky to have him in our midst."
The Ojai Valley News
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