Ty-High Gala of Gratitude

By Richard Mineards   |   April 19, 2018
Sponsor of wines with an impressive group of responders are captain/assistant fire marshal Richard Lauritson and wife Cathy; firefighter/paramedic Kurt Hickman and wife Melissa; Kim and Nick Eubank, Wanda Kelley, Keith Powell, Anna and husband, battalion chief Alan Wilding, Bucket Brigaders Linda and Thomas Cole with guitarist David Pratt (photo by Priscilla)

Montecito firefighters were out in force at the San Ysidro Ranch, but there were no flames to extinguish or new mudslides to clear up.

Thomas Cole, firefighter Kevin French, with a thankful Oprah Winfrey, who responded “Thank you” to all (photo by Priscilla)
Montecito Fire Department crew Jennifer Taylor, survivor and dispatcher, Robert Galbraith, “Jack of All Trades” Leslie Muller, dispatcher, with guitarist/singer Bill Coon (photo by Priscilla)

Just the opportunity for more than 100 blaze busters and other VIP guests to enjoy the bounteous hospitality of Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner, who hosted a dinner party in a beautifully decorated transparent marquee on the five-star resort’s upper lawn, for the firefighters and a number of the tony hostelry’s frequent guests.

The 500-acre ranch’s new manager, Maxine Rutledge, explained: “Ty was deeply appreciative of all the hard and extraordinary work done by the firefighters and first responders, and wanted to show his thanks in a tangible way.

“This was scheduled earlier after the Thomas Fire, but the flash flood and mudslides delayed matters.”

She is hopeful the ranch’s popular eateries, the Stonehouse and the Plow & Angel, will be open by June, but many of the cottages, particularly creekside, will not be available until year’s end.

Guests at the boffo bash were ferried in Mercedes Benz buses from the Montecito Union School to the resort, which looked surprisingly unscathed by the January disaster that destroyed or damaged 296 homes in our rarefied enclaves, as well as extinguishing the lives of 22 residents, a testament to the hard work put in by Ty’s employees and other agencies to deal with the massive cleanup.

Before the dinner, prepared by Stonehouse chef Matt Johnson, a moment of silence was held for victims of the carnage that brought our Eden by the Beach together like never before.

Montecito Fire Department chief Chip Hickman being welcomed and thanked by Maxine Rutledge, resort manager at the San Ysidro Ranch, Cat Pollon, and Sandi Nicholson (photo by Priscilla)
Taking their break are Rod Walkup, MFD engineer; captain Jordan Zeitsoff; and Alex Broumand, firefighter/paramedic being welcomed by San Ysidro chef Matt Johnson, and firefighters Eric Kelmowicz and Steve Cochran (photo by Priscilla)

After a reception with free flowing Perrier-Jouet champagne, Margerum, Babcock, and Brewer-Clifton wine and cocktails, together with handsome canapés including oysters, the guests – many still in uniform – sat down for the very in-tents occasion, decorated beautifully in an orchid theme by Bella Vista Lighting and Design and Imagine, with flowers by Camellia Floral Design, with tables, arranged banquet style, boasting Limoges china and gold-colored cutlery, to feast on the pan-seared halibut and prime filet mignon, donated by Newport Meat, and dessert of violet mousse cake and fresh berries, donated by the Berry Man.

TV mogul and Montecito’s most famous resident, Oprah Winfrey, who moved here 17 years ago, paid homage to the Montecito battalion.

“There is a price to be paid for tranquility, peace and paradise,” said Oprah. “My home is called the Promised Land. Martin Luther King never reached it, but I got here.

“Every day is a gift. When I heard my five dogs had been evacuated, I dropped on my knees in prayer. Thank you for putting your lives on the line. It is the highest calling on Earth.”

Ty, who was on business in Chicago, was unable to attend his fab fete, but among the gaggle of guests were Bob and Marlene Veloz, Sandi Nicholson, Doug and Marni Margerum, Chuck and Joyce Reed, Tom and Linda Cole, Montecito Fire chief Chip Hickman, Leslie Muller – a fire despatcher who handled more than 100,000 calls during a three-month period – Kevin French, David Johnson, Greg Brewer, Jack and Vicki Kearns, who split their time between Santa Barbara and Oregon, Jordan Zeitsoff, Rod Walkup, Melitta Ramsey, Keith Powell, Travis Ederer, and Cat Pollon, dressed in summery Oscar de la Renta couture.

Guitarists David Patt and Chris Wooley provided entertainment.

Marlene Veloz, SBPD pastor Charles “Chuck” Reed; Michael Keaton, Bob Veloz, and MFD chief Chip Hickman (photo by Priscilla)
At Ty Warner’s San Ysidro Ranch home turf in a comfortable setting for responders and their significant others, being treated to various specially delicious appetizers, spirits, plus dinner and dessert with specialty coffees (photo by Priscilla)
Grabbing a moment to share thoughts and thanks are Montecito Fire Department battalion chief Bob Wilding, Montecito residents Bob Veloz and Richard Mineards (photo by Priscilla)
Representing members of the hard-working Bucket Brigade are Josiah Hamilton, Jessica Powell, Alex Powell, Linda Powell, and Thomas Cole (photo by Priscilla)

Money Magnet

TV talk-show titan Oprah Winfrey‘s former vacation home, Fisher Island in Florida, has the wealthiest ZIP code in America.

The 216-acre, 722-residences island, a short 3-mile boat ride from Miami, had an average income of $2.5 million a year in 2015, with local residents including former tennis ace Boris Becker and comedian Mel Brooks.

Oprah, 63, sold her 6,170 sq.-ft. 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom penthouse condo in 2008 for $2,090,000, along with other apartments she owned in the ritzy enclave.

Atherton, California, a favorite of tech magnates, is runner-up, given its proximity to such behemoths as Facebook, Apple, and Google.

Palm Beach, Florida, ranks third with an annual income of $1.25 million and Palo Alto, California, the home of Stanford University, fourth with $1.175 million a year.


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