Past Presidents: 2000-2009

2000 Edie Pool


Edie was born in Texas but came to California as a youngster and was raised in Hayward.

After graduation she attended banking school and subsequently worked in the financial and insurance industries for 35 years.

She is a member of the National Association of Insurance Women and a licensed insurance agent.

In 1951 she married her high school sweetheart Bill. They have one son, one daughter and six granddaughters.

Their first trip to Death Valley was the 1983 Encampment and they have attended ever since with many trips in between Encampments.

She was the ‘49er Treasurer for several years, serves on the Finance Committee and was chairperson for the ‘49ers 1999 50th Anniversary special program.

Edie is always on call for an emergency and has taken on many duties of the organization.  Her husband is the ‘49er Production Chairman and she is right beside him to help figure the finances and work on Encampment events.

Her hobbies include tole painting, woodworking, gardening and lots of golf.  Watch her swing into action and hit right on target for a par excellent year.

Excerpts from DEATH VALLEY NEWS ‘49er newsletter, Issue No. 67

2004 Shirley Harding


Shirley was born in Southern California, grew up in North Dakota, and attended college at the University of California in Berkeley. She met and married her first husband there. They had twin daughters and a son, all now grown up and quite supportive of their independent mother. This first marriage terminated after ten years. Thirteen years later, after the youngsters were nearly grown, she married again. Shelby Harding made the next 20 years very special. They moved to Death Valley in 1971. Her professional career has covered a variety of occupations including photography, law enforcement, accounting, and museum curation.

Shirley has worked in Death Valley for 22 years and served as the NPS librarian and curator from 1978 to 1992. She still serves as a NPS curatorial volunteer. She also serves on the Shoshone Museum Board of Directors and as a Director for the Amargosa Land Trust

Shirley’s goal as Death Valley ‘49er President, is to continue in the very efficient manner of the immediate Past Presidents. She states that “I think my major responsibility is to support the chairpersons and members, they are the very backbone of this organization. And that’s no small job!! This year there are 47 committees, they work hard and accomplish spectacular things.”

Excerpts from DEATH VALLEY NEWS ‘49er newsletter, Issue No. 75 & Keepsake No. 44


2008 Dick Gering


Dick’s life began in Beloit, WI., but soon the family moved to Aurora, IL. and his parents went into the grocery store business soon there after. He remained in Aurora through his high school years and into college where he graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa with a BA degree in Economics in 1963.

Dick’s first employer after graduation was with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Wage & Hour Division in Madison, WI., where he spent 21 ½ years. After leaving USDL, he spent a short period in real estate and as a private investigator. He soon left those occupations to join his wife Nan, in the operation of her ceramics studio, working together for five years.

In 1963 he enlisted in the US Army Reserve and his 30 year career there was spent as a Medical Service officer. Assignments included Administrative Officer, Personnel Officer, Medical Platoon Leader in an Armor Battalion, Command and General Staff instructor, and Medical Clinic Administrator. A majority of this duty was served at Ft. McCoy in Wisconsin.

Dick’s wife, Nan, convinced him in 1990 that she had enough of the ceramics business and that he should accept an ADSW (active duty special work) tour at Ft. McCoy. During the summers, May to September, his duties consisted of being a Clinic Administrator. The rest of the year they motor homed in various parts of the United States. During this time period he accepted tour duty of 13 months, four months as Clinic Administrator, five months as Battalion CO for an operation named Desert Fix, and the remaining four months as Clinic Administrator and Personnel Officer of Desert Fix.

In 1993 they motor homed to Yuma, AZ. and while there he received his 30 year letter and was informed that he was being retired. At this time Dick decided to find civilian employment.

While in Yuma, for two years, he was the Director of the Yuma Community Food Bank and while there met new friends that invited them to come and visit them in Death Valley. Nan fell in love with Furnace Creek while there and accepted a job so they moved to Furnace Creek Ranch and spent close to five years in various positions. It was at this time that they were presented the opportunity to get involved with the Death Valley ‘49ers Nonprofit Organization and as they say; the rest is history.

They have since moved from Furnace Creek Ranch in Death Valley to Lone Pine, CA. over in the Owens Valley and started once again to set down roots. In addition to being a member of the board of the Death Valley ‘49ers , Dick is also actively involved with Lions Club, Southern Inyo Hospital Board of Directors and the Lone Pine Film History Museum and Film Festival.

Dick states that, “I am honored to be the 2008 President of the Death Valley ‘49er Organization.”

Well Mr. Gering, Sir; the Death Valley ‘49er Organization is honored to have you and your wife Nan, who by the way is also a Director and current Secretary for the organization, at the helm for 2008.

Biography provided by Mr. Dick Gering

2001 Sue Conn


Sue was born in Southern California. She married Dick Conn in 1950. They enjoy their home in Bishop, California. They have two sons and two grandchildren.

Dick is a ‘49er Director and is in charge of Encampment Setup and Dismantle.

Sue has been an active volunteer working for the Los Angeles County Health Department and several hospital auxiliaries, she ran the Bishop Elementary Ski School and is a member of Altrusa International. She and Dick have been life members of the ‘49ers since 1983.

One of her most rewarding accomplishments was arranging for Bobby Tanner’s 20 Mule Team and the original borax wagons of Borax fame to come to Death Valley for the ‘49ers 50th Anniversary Encampment celebration in 1999. This will probably be the last appearance of the original wagons and a sight we will all remember.

She is sure to harness up a great team for her year as President.

Excerpts from DEATH VALLEY NEWS ‘49er newsletter, Issue No. 69

2005 Bill Geist


Bill was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1927. He graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from MIT.  Bill was in sales management with a number of companies in the nuclear & computer fields. At one time he was also a Manufacturer’s Representative specializing in electronic test equipment.

Today Bill owns his own company “Event Power Associates” which specializes in electrical, lighting & sound for special events. That’s why if you look closely at most of the events going on during the Death Valley ‘49er Encampment you’ll see Bill with his crew of DV’49er volunteers workin’ up a sweat to get the lighting & sound just right for all the events we all love so.

Bill married his wife Hildy in 1952 and they have 3 children, 2 grandchildren & 1 great grandchild.

Bill & Hildy both represent what’s best about the Death Valley ‘49ers Organization. They both love our unique part of the great western desert and they have both worked tirelessly in promoting Death Valley, its history, its beauty and its people. Bill tells us that his first trip into the great “Valley of Death” was in the early 1960’s and as we can plainly see, after some 40 years, they still love coming back for more.

So welcome please, Mr. Bill Geist as President of the Death Valley ‘49ers Organization, as he lights our way toward a more enjoyable Death Valley ‘49er Encampment.

Excerpts from DEATH VALLEY NEWS ‘49er newsletter, Issue No. 77

2009 Walter Hodgson


Walter was born and raised in the Sunny Southern Okanogan community of Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.

The family moved to Southern California in the early 1950’s, where he attended Van Nuys High School and graduated from Diablo Valley College.

Walter married his wife Heidi in 1959, while he was serving with the 4 th Armored Division in Nuremburg, Germany and they have three sons and five grandchildren.

Walter’s military career, from private to NCO, was with the 4 th Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas and Nuremburg/Fürth Germany from 1957 to 1960. He was recalled to active duty during the Berlin Crisis of 1961. At this time he was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington as an NCO Cadre with the 968th GAS Company.

After a lengthy banking career with Security Pacific National Bank, retirement came in 1991. During his 29+ years with SPNB, Walter had various statewide positions as branch manager, vice president of commercial lending and ultimately First Vice President-Manager of the Bank’s Commercial Realty Department.

Retirement years have been spent in the California communities of San Marino, Montecito, Upland and ultimately settling in Apple Valley. Walter and Heidi recently celebrated their 50 th Wedding Anniversary and are enjoying the leisure life at Dell Webb’s Sun City – Apple Valley. When not golfing, they travel the Western States and Canada in their motor home. Walter & Heidi state that their most favorite place is, Death Valley National Park.

Walter & Heidi both joined the organization as Advisers, and Walter very quickly became a member of the Board of Directors using his talents to help steer the organization toward a brighter future.

The Death Valley ‘49er Board of Director’s, Advisor’s, Associate’s, and General Membership are proud to welcome Walter as President for the organizations 60 th Anniversary Year.

Biography provided by Mr. Walter L. Hodgson

2002 Ken Graydon


Ken was a California native born in Long Beach and raised on a ranch in Delano, north of Bakersfield, where he trained quarter horses with his Dad. His father had been a working cowboy in Arizona and Ken was raised in the environment of the west.

As a kid he spent a great deal of time on horseback, riding around the country side with his mother and brother.

He attended the University of Arizona at Tucson majoring in engineering but his love of cars led him into custom electrical auto work.

He wrote songs and poetry for more than 30 years and spent a good deal of his time with his wife, Phee, a Director and editor of the ‘49er newsletter, participating in cowboy events in Arizona, California and other parts of the west.

Excerpts from DEATH VALLEY NEWS ‘49er newsletter, Issue No. 71

2006 Bill Pool


Bill was born in Oklahoma, educated in Hayward, Calif. and served as an Army Aircraft Maintenance Officer for 40 years.

Not only is 2006 the year of Bills Presidency to the Death Valley ‘49ers Organization, but Bill states that he and his wife Edie will also be celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary this year. CONGRATULATIONS on both counts.

Bill and his wife Edie have one son, one daughter, six granddaughters and one great granddaughter.

Along with being our President this year, Bill is also the Death Valley ‘49er Production Chairman. That’s a lot of responsibility to be taking on at one time but with 40 years of military service to back him up we’re sure that he can get the job done, or we’ll all be on KP duty.

Their first trip to Death Valley in 1984 was also their first Death Valley ‘49er Encampment, and they have not missed an Encampment since.

It is this kind of dedication to Death Valley as well as the Death Valley ‘49er Organization that has made Bill and Edie both worth their weight in desert gold.

Oh! Let’s not forget to mention that Bills wife Edie was also the Death Valley ‘49er Organizations President in 2000.

We salute you both for a job well done.

Excerpts from DEATH VALLEY NEWS ‘49er newsletter, Issue No. 79

2003 Phee Sherline-Graydon


Phee was born and raised in Idaho, and attended the University of Idaho. After graduation she taught English in Los Angeles, California.

She took up the guitar during the “Folk Boom” of the 60’s when her three children were small.

After a divorce she met Ken (2002 past president), in Los Angeles music circles. They began performing as a duo, gradually moving toward a specialty in music of the west. They continue to appear in festivals, cowboy gatherings and special events in the southwest.

Phee said that she originally came to the ‘49er encampments to watch Ken perform and that soon they were both invited to become Advisors.

Phee’s Chairman of the Fiddle Contest and was Editor of the ‘49er Newsletter for 13 years.

Phee states that “It is an honor to know I will be joining those past presidents who by now are good friends. It has been a great privilege to spend so many years as a ‘49er in various roles”.

Excerpts from DEATH VALLEY NEWS ‘49er newsletter, Issue No. 73

2007 Marvin Jensen


Marv Jensen was born and raised in San Francisco and is a graduate of Mission High School. He was active in the Boy Scouts and attained the rank of Eagle Scout. He was also a member of the California Chapter Order of DeMolay and served as Master Counselor. International DeMolay honored him with the Chevalier award for his service to DeMolay. After high school graduation Marv attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and Heald Engineering College in San Francisco and received his degree in Architectural Engineering.

In January of 1953 he married his late wife Mary and they had three children: Judy, Jim and Jan and five grandchildren. Mary was proud to be a descendant of the 1849 Death Valley pioneers Harry and Mary Wade and to serve on the Death Valley ‘49ers Board of Directors. Mary, by the way, also attended the 1949 Centennial Celebration.

Marv served in the United States Army from 1952 to 1954 and was a Topographic Surveyor in the Corps of Engineers, serving in the Philippine Islands. After his Army service, Marv worked in San Francisco as a civil engineer/structural designer and later was the general superintendent for a major builder in Daly City, California.

He’s also a member of Yerba Buena Chapter #1 of E. Clampus Vitus, joining that organization in 1962.

In 1963 he was the Master of his Masonic Lodge, Occidental/California #1.

In 1970 he opened his own business in Santa Cruz known as Washington & Jensen & Associates, Architects, Engineers and Planners. He was very involved with helping business people and homeowners after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and was active in the rebuilding of downtown Santa Cruz. He also represented Santa Cruz County on the Regional Red Cross Earthquake Recovery Funding Committee.

After moving to Santa Cruz in 1970, Marv became active in many community organizations. He was Scoutmaster for 14 years of Troop 674, sponsored by the Elks Lodge, and took his scouts to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, a National Jamboree in Idaho, and the World Jamboree in Norway. He is a recipient of the Silver Beaver Award, scouting’s highest honor for a volunteer. He still serves on the Board of Directors of the Monterey Bay Area Council, BSA. He has served on several other community boards and is also a past president of the Rotary Club of Santa Cruz.

In 1983, Marv was honored by the Society of American Military Engineers by naming him to the Academy of Fellows for his service to the Society and the engineering profession.

Marv first joined the Death Valley ‘49ers in 1957 when the Wade Monument was dedicated at the southern end of Death Valley just off of Highway 127. Since that time Marv and his late wife Mary have maintained their membership and in recent years became Life Members. Mary also provided Life Memberships for their children and grandchildren.

Marv and Mary authored the 2005 keepsake, “The 1849 Death Valley Pioneers, Where Did They Go? What Did They Do?” For 2007 Marv authored the keepsake “The Remarkable Life of Death Valley Pioneer John Colton.”

After serving the organization as an Advisor for a number of years, Marv became a member of the Board of Directors and is honored to serve as the 2007 President.

Biography provided by Mr. Marv Jensen