CALDWELL — Gary Stoller had many loves in his life, including his wife, Davy Stoller, his children and grandchildren and the cattle ranch they worked so hard for.
But over the last few years, Stoller’s newest love was flying. He had taken some lessons as a boy, but took it up again so he could fly back and forth from the family’s ranch in Palisade, Neb., to the Caldwell home he shared with Davy.
On his flight to Caldwell from Nebraska Saturday, Stoller encountered stormy weather. His family notified authorities about 4 p.m. when he didn’t arrive home as scheduled.
The wreckage of his 1969 Piper Cherokee airplane with Stoller’s body inside was found later that night on House Mountain, west of Anderson Ranch Reservoir in Elmore County.
“He died doing what he loved to do,” Davy said. “He always said ‘when it’s your time, it’s your time.’”
Stoller, 65, was headed to Caldwell so he and Davy could drive to Los Angeles and hop on a cruise for their 40th wedding anniversary.
City boy discovers cattle ranching
Born in Chicago, Stoller grew up as a city boy, living in Seattle and Los Angeles in his youth. There, one of his high school teachers mentored him and piqued his interest in cattle ranching through the Future Farmers of America organization. But Stoller’s teacher didn’t have faith that he could own a ranch of his own.
“His teacher told him that the only ones that afford ranches are the ones that inherit them, but Gary proved him wrong.” Davy said.
Gary and Davy met while working at the Beverly Ponyland, a pony ride just outside of Beverly Hills, Calif., as teenagers. The couple later purchased and ran the business after they were married.
In 1975, the Stollers bought their first ranch in Jamestown, Calif., which they ran until a gold mining company offered to buy the land from them in 1982.
Davy said she traveled all over the American West with her husband before they found a ranch in Angels Camp, Calif. Soon after, they purchased the Columbia Stage Line and started a horseback riding business in Columbia State Park, an Old West gold rush town in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills, which they operated for 16 years.
“We had the only business where the horses paid for the cattle,” Davy said.
Gary Stoller shared his passion for cattle ranching with his two sons, Brian and Scott, and the horse business paid for their sons’ expensive show cattle. The family established Bear Mountain Angus Ranch in Angels Camp in 1986. The Stollers later purchased a ranch in Melba that they sold when land prices were high.
The family moved to Palisade, Neb. in 2008, where they continue to operate the successful Bear Mountain Angus Ranch, relocated from California. Last year, Gary turned the ranch over to his oldest son, Brian. Even though Gary was semi-retired, his wife said he just couldn’t leave ranching.
Davy said she didn’t care for Nebraska, so the couple bought a second home in Caldwell. Gary earned his pilot’s license in 2010 and purchased his plane in 2011 to save money traveling between his residences.
Davy described Gary as her best friend and said they were a team throughout their marriage and their various business ventures.
A funeral service for Gary Stoller will be held in Columbia, Calif. at the Columbia City Cemetery, June 15 at 2 p.m.