August 24, 1920 – July 26, 2009
A man of the land returns to the land
BIG SUR – The 4th generation of a well known homesteading family, Billy Post was a respected and enormously loved “old timer” in Big Sur. A humble and gentle man, he had an old fashioned sense of courtesy and manners. Billy had a vast love and knowledge of Big Sur, his home and community, its history and environment. He knew every tree and path at Post Ranch, and paid attention to the natural world around him, the wild creatures and plants and especially horses. In his younger days he was able to combine these passions and share his experience with others by offering pack trips on horseback into the Big Sur wilderness. Billy was an expert horseman and wrangler, and was known as a horse whisperer who always gentled, never broke his horses. While in his teens and twenties he drove cattle on the three day trip from Big Sur to the cattle yard in Monterey. After the opening of Post Ranch Inn in 1992, he took guests on nature walks on the ranch and when arthritis claimed his joints he mastered the nuances of an off road Segway to continue his contact with people and nature. In his last years he shared breakfast with guests of the inn, telling stories of the bygone era of his life. Bill had a way of paying attention and taking care of others, of giving them a glimpse of a simpler and quieter time. A man of integrity, he positively influenced the lives of thousands of people with his warmhearted graciousness and generosity.
Named Joseph William Post III after his grandfather and father, Billy was born before there was a highway connecting Big Sur to Carmel. His great-grandfather, William Brainard Post, originally from Essex, CT, was among the first pioneers in Big Sur in the 1860s. His great-grandmother, Anselma Onesmio, was a native Costanoan from Carmel Valley. The family’s two-story home is a registered historical landmark, the last homestead still standing in Big Sur. It was a working ranch, and Billy was put to work at a young age. He drove out to gather firewood as soon as he was able to handle a team of horses (he was so young that someone else had to harness the team for him). Wood stoves consumed a lot of fuel, and keeping plenty of firewood on hand was Billy’s job. He spent time behind the traces of a mule pulling a plow, milked cows, took care of chickens and turkeys, gathered eggs and looked after livestock. He got up at 4:00 a.m. so he could finish his morning chores before the hour-long school bus ride to Monterey. After high school Bill studied animal husbandry at UC Davis. He hoped to become a veterinarian. To finance his education he went raccoon hunting to sell the pelts and bought a bulldozer to grade and clear building sites along the coast. World War II put an end to that dream and he joined the Marine Corps and since he was a crack shot, he became a rifle instructor at Camp Matthews. He spent time in the Pacific at Nagasaki, Okinawa, Saipan, and Tinian, and he was one of the first to see Nagasaki after the bomb was dropped.
When he returned home to work on the ranch he helped build the Rancho Sierra Mar café and campground. He was employed for many years as a highway electrician for Caltrans. Bill wed in his middle thirties, and the next few years saw the birth of his two girls, Gayle and Rebecca. When that marriage ended, he raised his daughters alone. Then he met Luci Lee, a business woman and mother of two daughters, Nancy and Linda. In 1969 Billy married Luci, his sweetheart and the love of his life. Together they created a new family with their four daughters. In 1973 they returned to Big Sur to help his ailing parents. After their passing, Billy’s family moved into the home he had built for his parents, now called the Post House. Later they moved to Carmel Valley.
As a man who lived most of his life far from town, Billy could fix, make-do, and repair practically everything. He loved equipment that could shape the earth. He operated heavy equipment before and during World War II, built roads, cut fire lines, and prepared land for construction. All the tractor work in the development of Post Ranch Inn was done by Billy, and he operated the bulldozer, backhoe, and the auger that set the foundations for the inn.
Very committed to his family, Billy was a true and devoted partner to his wife Luci. They were always together and traveled extensively. He was very close to his sister, Mary Fleenor, and after her death, Bill, who hadn’t been able to finish college, put Mary’s estate into a trust to pay the educational expenses for eleven children of family and friends. He performed in many Big Sur Revues, loved to square dance, was a founding member of the Big Sur Grange and the Big Sur Historical Society, and was an active member of the Monterey Elks Lodge and Monterey Model A Car Club. He had a private pilot’s license and delighted his family by flying them on trips with their dog, Tini. Billy donated a site on the ranch for the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Department to build their firehouse, which was named in memory of his father.
He was preceded in death by his daughter Nancy Downing. He is survived by Luci, his beloved wife of 40 years, three daughters; Linda J. Lee of Seaside, Gayle Forster of Marina and Rebecca Post of Olympia WA, seven grandchildren; Pamela Patterson (Rick), Gregory Paley (Maria), Anna Vargas, Gabriel Forster (Jessica), and Richard, Shane and Daniel Forster, and seven great grandchildren; Jessica, David and Julian Paley, Paley and Madison Martin, and Rafael and Jade Vargas.
For the large family of employees at Post Ranch Inn, Billy was a treasure. He represented the strongest redwood on the ranch. With his passing, it is as if a giant tree has fallen. On his walks Billy always pointed out the new sprouts and small trees growing in a circle where an old tree had once stood. So too, his loving legacy will live within his large circle of family and friends. The spirit of a wonderful man has flown through the window of the Ventana mountains. Billy Post will be loved, remembered and missed by all who knew him. Memorial donations may be sent to the Big Sur Grange, the Big Sur Health Center, the Big Sur Historical Society or the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade. For information or to leave comments or remembrances, see http://www.JWPost.com