Longtime Carson Valley rancher John "Johnny" Indiano will be remembered in a funeral Mass 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Gall Catholic Church in Gardnerville.
Indiano was more than a rancher. He kept the Carson Valley's ditches running for decades and he was teacher to a generation of Carson Valley boys and girls.
Indiano died Saturday of congestive heart failure. He was 81 years old and a few months shy of his 50th wedding anniversary.
"He was a good, decent man," said his wife, Barbara Indiano. "He loved the animals and the land. He loved his family."
Indiano was born Sept. 11, 1920, to Michel and Jeanne Marie Etchebarran Indiano in Reno. His parents immigrated from the Basque country. His father worked as a shepherd and his mother was a maid when the couple met in San Francisco.
Michel built a small fortune and lost it in Reno. He married Jeanne in 1919 and John was born in Reno the next year. The family moved to Carson City where John's sister Alice was born and then east to Eureka until 1927 when the family moved to Jiggs.
Then, at age 10, John and his family returned west when the family moved to Diamond Valley in Alpine County.
He and his sister boarded with a family so they could be closer to the Fredericksburg School, according to a 1998 interview with writer Nancy Hamlett appearing in The Record-Courier.
When John was 13, he got a special license from the sheriff to drive to school. On his way he picked up the Hellwinkels and the teacher.
Shortly after moving to Carson Valley, Indiano graduated from Douglas County High School, where he played football, basketball, track and tennis. He was a member of the Future Farmers of America and Block D.
"He was a hard worker by necessity," Barbara said. "It was right after the Depression and the family didn't have much money."
Indiano dreamed of being a veterinarian, but the family's financial straits prevented him from going to college.
"He always wanted to be a veterinarian," Barbara said. "He would tend to the animals himself. But his parents didn't have the money to send him to college."
He was working on the ranch when World War II broke out, but because he was an only son working in agriculture and his bad knees, he didn't go to war.
"He went to Salt Lake City to get his physical, but they sent him back," Barbara said.
Indiano did not limit himself to farm work on the Heybourne Ranch. He worked for the Carson Valley Mercantile and worked on Highway 395 south of Gardnerville.
He married Barbara Sarasola on Nov. 8, 1952. Barbara and John grew up together.
"We knew each other from school," she said. "We met when his family moved to Gardnerville and we just grew up together."
"I often said that all I need is someone who is good looking and a good dancer," she said. "He was a very good dancer."
Barbara moved to the Heybourne Ranch with Indiano, his father and mother. Jeanne Indiano died in 1957, Michel died in 1964.
Indiano was a member of the Active 20-30 Club, an organization for men in their 20s and 30s, until he was too old.
Then he helped formed the Carson Valley Lions chapter for 20-30 Club members who reached their 40th birthdays.
After buying a backhoe, Indiano started cleaning out Carson Valley's ditches.
"You could ask him anything about the ditches," Barbara said. "He must have cleaned every ditch in the Valley."
Over the years, Indiano became very proficient at running the backhoe.
"He used to say it was like part of his body," Barbara said.
He worked many ranches in the Carson Valley besides his own. He and the Hollisters worked together for about 20 years, according to Barbara, starting in the late 60s.
Gim Hollister remembers Indiano leasing the Hollister Ranch located north of Genoa.
"He was a very sweet man, a wonderful person," Hollister said. "He was a good farmer and a delightful man to be with and work with."
Indiano worked on the Hollister property until it sold for Genoa Lakes Golf Course.
He also worked the ranch where Willow Bend now sits and the Schneider Ranch in Jacks Valley.
Indiano worked with many Carson Valley teenagers, who worked with him on the various ranches.
"Martin Louch started following him around and John put him to work," Barbara said.
David Schneider lived with the family.
"He always said he learned so much during the summer he worked for John," she said.
Indiano was the source for lambs for the 4-H Club children.
"He would support them," Barbara said. "He always had lambs for them to raise."
Indiano served as equipment manager and on the Board of Directors of the Soil Conservation Service, which named him Conservationist of the Year in 1967. He was inducted into the Farm Bureau Hall of Fame in 1996. He was serving his second term as a member of the Douglas County Water Conveyance Advisory Committee.
He was a Catholic and attended St. Gall Catholic Church. The Rosary will be 7 p.m. Wednesday at the church.
He was a member of the Mendiko Euskaldun Cluba, and a charter member of the Manhattan Club.
In addition to his wife, Indiano is survived by his son and daughter-in-law Michael Gary and Joan of Pleasant Valley; daughters and sons-in-law JoAnn and Steve Thaler and Janelle and Todd Wilcks of Minden; grandchildren Amber Indiano and Ryan Indiano of Las Vegas, Jeffrey Zinn and Matt and Kaycee Wilcks of Minden and Melody and Sean Thaler of Gardnerville and sister Adele Kidman of Reno.
"He was a very special man, who loved his family and did everything for them," Barbara said. "They were the stars of his life."