Nature 39

Stacy Victor Gebhards

August 31, 1930 ~ October 28, 2020 (age 90)


Stacy Victor Gebhards, 90, McCall, Idaho

In the early morning hours of October 28, 2020 under a bright moon, with coyotes yipping, Stacy loaded up his pack string for one last adventure.

Stacy was born in Peoria, Illinois to Stacy B. and Ethel H. Gebhards on August 31, 1930.  It was in Illinois that he began to explore the wilds of the Illinois River.  He and his friend Red Marteness could often be found exploring the river bottom, camping, fishing and hunting.  He learned many lifelong skills from people he met during his younger years.  After High School, he spent time working as a deck hand on a towboat and as bootleg commercial fisherman.  He gave up commercial fishing when Illinois Fish and Game determined that his main money fish (Buffalo Carp) were plentiful enough for true commercial sales which caused the price of the fish to drop.

He left Illinois in 1951 and headed west, landing in Logan, Utah where he attended Utah State University. He would receive both his bachelors and master’s degrees from USU.  While in school, he lived in a small log cabin near the Logan River.  Keeping to his adventurous nature, he would fish, ran a trap line, hunted, and learned how to make his own wine while in school to help make ends meet. We often wondered if he ever went to classes.

After graduating from USU, Stacy spent two years in the US Army.  He was sent to Germany where he met, fell in love with, and married Maria Theresia Wittmann on October 22, 1955.  He would often say that he knew just enough German to get married.  After being discharged from the Army, Stacy accepted a job with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.  He and Maria’s first home together was a wall tent near Warm Lake, Idaho, where Stacy was doing salmon spawning studies along the SF Salmon River.  They would later move around the State of Idaho and lived in Stanley, Salmon, Jerome and Boise while working for IDFG.  In his 38+ year career, Stacy held many positions including Chief of Fisheries and Regional Supervisor.  He worked on many hot button topics such as stream channelization, stream protection and clean water, which almost got him fired by Governor Samuelson in the early 1970’s.  Taking what he learned as a commercial fisherman, he prepared a net repair manual that would find worldwide distribution. He also developed a method to transport juvenile fish to high mountain lakes that is still in use today. In 1989, with little more than a homemade Plexiglas viewing box Stacy would envision, design and construct what is now the M-K Nature center in Boise. In his honor, the stream at the MK Nature center was named Gebhards Creek in 1995.  He was recognized for his work with several state and national awards including Life Time Achievement awards from IDFG and the American Fisheries Society.

Stacy was a passionate outdoorsman.  He hunted and fished all across Idaho.  He and his hunting partner, Wes Rose spent over 20 years hunting in the Upper Selway River in search of elk and deer.  To reach those locations, he learned how to pack horses and mules.  He loved packing stock so much that he wrote several how to manuals and taught packing classes for several years.  His outdoor skills weren’t limited to pack animals, he also backcountry skied on 3-pin bindings with leather boots, winter camped, rafted and kayaked, and backpacked when he couldn’t get a horse or mule into someplace.  On one ski trip, wearing nothing more than a hat and ski boots, Stacy did a nude ski crossing of Sawtooth Lake.  Just as he did with his packing classes, he wrote several how to manuals on winter camping and cold survival as well as taught classes through the Boise City Recreation program on those topics for many years. He was also known for his homemade wine and whiskey that he would share with friends and family.  After retirement Stacy and Maria settled in McCall where, Stacy wrote an autobiography that was published by the Washington State University Press titled “Wild Thing – Backcountry Tales and Trails”.  Stacy cut his own firewood into his mid-80’s and was still stoking the fireplace at 90.  In recent years when Stacy would give a presentation or talk, he would say that “the definition of an old timer is someone with lots of stories, some of them true”. He even made sure he voted one last time!

Stacy was also an accomplished musician.  He played the guitar, banjo, harmonica, and squeeze box accordion.  He was quite proud that he never did dishes on backcountry trips.  About the time dinner was over, he would break out an instrument and start playing music, referring to his accordion as his dishwasher.  He competed at the Yellow Pine Harmonica Contest on several occasions and was always up for a jam session with Muzzie Braun and Chris Guitirez as well as the many musicians in McCall and other areas. He played music with Chris one final time just weeks before his passing.

Through all the adventures, Stacy would often bring (sometimes drag) his kids along. Maria was content to let them go explore, fish and hunt the wilderness as long as they came home.  As a result, his family has a deep respect for the wilderness and has passed those values onto their families.  Stacy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Maria Gebhards, daughters Barbara Michels (Bob), Sandra Gebhards, Judy Gebhards, and son John Gebhards (Suzanne), grandkids Bob, Matt, Cody, Laura, Erin, Kelsey, Thomas, and Nicholas, and great grandkids Claire and Arlo. He was preceded in his death by his parents and a son Thomas Alvin Gebhards who died shortly after birth in Salmon, Idaho. A remembrance will be held sometime in the future when we can all get together and have a good old fish fry.  Stacy requested that any donations be made to the M-K Nature Center.

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Arrangements in care of McCall Funeral Home.

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