Farewell to a simple man

GARDNERVILLE -- His wood coffin bore the ranch brand and family members carried alfalfa and summer wildflowers as 500 people packed St. Gall Catholic Church on Thursday to say goodbye to rancher Johnny Indiano.

Indiano, 81, died Saturday of complications from heart disease at the ranch his family has occupied since 1937.

His service was a blend of tears and laughter as his son recalled a simple man who treasured his Basque heritage and accepted the limits of his disease with a mixture of frustration and ingenuity.

"Just a week ago, he was still trying to figure out ways he could get the oxygen tank to reach from the house to the shop," said Gary Indiano. "My dad was in a lot of pain, but he never let it get him down. His whole life was solely dedicated to his family, his friends and his ranch."

Indiano shared stories of how his father would initiate potential in-laws in sheep shearing and branding. "The greenhorn always got the tail end," he said.

Saturday nights were filled with music as the family sang and danced along with the Lawrence Welk show on television.

Along with other young Carson Valley couples, Johnny and Barbara Indiano formed the Manhattan Club -- named after the cocktail, not the city. They met once a month at each other's homes for beverages and dinner.

"My dad was never any frills," Gary Indiano said. "There was always one more fence that needed to be fixed, one more chore to be done. We always had to do it 'Johnny's way.'"

His father dressed up like Santa Claus with the Lions Club, visiting Carson Valley children every Christmas Eve for years, donated lambs to the 4-H and doted on his grandchildren. The Indianos would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this year.

Indiano thanked his parents for the love and support they bestowed on their children.

"That's where all the riches are," he said.

Along with the flower arrangements decorating the altar was a pair of worn cowboy boots filled with flowers and Indiano's cane. A shepherd's crook lay on top of his casket, tucked among the flowers.

"When you reflect on how he lived his life, you reflect on how he lives on in the lives of his children," said Father Bill Nadeau. "You cherished not just the days, but the seconds you had together. You will never be alone. The simple things he did made his life memorable."

Following the service and burial at Garden Cemetery, the family hosted lunch at the St. Gall Pastoral Center. Gardnerville's three Basque restaurants donated the food and guests were served chorizo, beans, salad, bread and dessert.


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