Azad McIver leaves town a lasting legacy
Azad McIver was a small, seemingly shy woman who lived in a tiny Gateway cottage, but her longtime friends say she had a huge giving spirit that had a large impact on the Truckee of today.McIver died July 13 at the age of 95. She and her siblings – Roxie Archie and Richard Joseph, who preceded her in death – emigrated from Turkish Armenia in the early 1900s and left a strong legacy in the Truckee community.McIver, considered the most soft-spoken and easygoing of her siblings, was one of the last in a generation that formed Truckee into what it is today.”Azad was this remarkable spirit. She always had a giggle or a laugh,” said Embree “Breeze” Cross, a longtime Truckee resident and former town council member. “She always found delight in things. She was the most delightful girl.”Namesakes of McIver’s generation are splattered all over Truckee. There are McIver Arena and McIver Hill, named after Azad McIver’s late husband, Jim. And then there is the Joseph Government Center, named after the Joseph family.In 1949, McIver’s brother donated the land for Tahoe Forest Hospital and the money for many of its facilities. Decades later, after her siblings died, McIver provided more land for the hospital’s current expansion project.”They wanted to build more, I said ‘OK,'” McIver told the Sierra Sun in March 2003, her words colored with the remnants of her Old Country accent. “My brother’s wish was to build a hospital. I’d rather take care of our people here than give it to Uncle [Sam].”McIver saw most of her friends die in the same hospital. Others moved from Truckee to more temperate climates.Azad McIver outlasted most of them.”I’ve had a lot of good friends,” she told the Sierra Sun. “Most of them just aren’t around anymore. I come from good stock.”
From Armenia to TruckeeThe imprint the Joseph (formerly Hovsepian) family left on Truckee came after many life struggles and a lot of old-fashioned hard work. Until her death, McIver was able to tell the stories from her youth in the Old Country and Truckee in astonishing detail.McIver was born in Harpoot, in Turkish Armenia, on Oct. 12, 1908 – 18 years after her brother, Dick, and four years after her sister, Roxie.At age 6, McIver fled her homeland under her 10-year-old sister’s wing during the Armenian massacre. They left Turkey on foot, walking through the Syrian desert to Aleppo, Syria. The girls were placed in an orphanage staffed by British and French missionaries who kept them from starving to death.After contacting their Uncle Mgurdich in Andover, Mass., the sisters purchased third-class boat tickets and came to the United States on July 4, 1920.”I cried – what a beautiful place with beautiful people,” Azad recalled about her experience coming to America. “It was strange. All I knew before was Turks, and they wanted to kill us.”At 16, Azad’s sister, Roxie, married and moved to Worchester, Mass. Soon after, the newlyweds and Azad moved to Chicago.In 1922, Dick Joseph – who moved to the States in 1906 and to Truckee in 1917 – advertised for his sisters in an Armenian newspaper published in Fresno, Calif. Someone in Chicago brought the ad to the sisters’ attention, and McIver and Archie met their brother in Truckee later that year.A legacy of her own
Although McIver always maintained she donated money to fulfill the wishes of her brother, who passed away in 1986, McIver created quite a legacy of her own, said Bob Tilton, who started the Tahoe Forest Hospital Foundation in 1987.”Dick did a lot for the community, but Azad carried the banner after his death,” Tilton said. “Every single expansion the hospital has ever done, Azad either took part in fund-raising or donated money.”Tilton, 58, grew up in the Truckee-North Tahoe area and knew the Joseph family well. He went to Azad once a year to seek a donation for the hospital, even when her older sister was the one handling the family’s business.”[McIver] definitely felt compelled to help the hospital. She always told me the hospital was vital to building a strong community,” Tilton said.In addition to what she gave to Tahoe Forest Hospital, McIver became a founding member of the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation in 1999.The Joseph family also donated to the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation and Shriners Hospital, among other causes.Modest livingA photographer and barber by trade, Dick Joseph made his money as a businessman. He owned Manstyle Barbers, a cigar store and the Pastime Club in downtown Truckee.As a young adult, Azad worked at the Pastime, which was a popular local hangout and speakeasy at the time. Azad met many interesting people while working at the restaurant, including her late husband, Jim McIver, a local blacksmith, dairyman and car salesman who delivered mail to Tahoe City. Azad and Jim McIver were married in Reno on Aug. 10, 1944.In 1935, Richard Joseph purchased the land between Gateway and Donner Lake from the Union Ice Company. The family built the Gateway Motel in 1939, near the present site of Safeway,
McIver lived modestly in one of the former rental cottages in Gateway for decades. The walls of her home were plastered with photos depicting Truckee at a different time.”They had a lot of money, but you’d never know it,” Tilton said of the Joseph family. “They traveled a lot, but they didn’t dress fancy. Dick would be dressed in his old coat. Azad would be dressed in her old coat.”Responsibility for communityWhen Truckee became a town in 1993, Archie and McIver asked then-Mayor Kathleen Eagan and council member Breeze Cross to come to their Gateway home. Cross had no idea why at the time.”They called us over, and they’d heard the town didn’t have any money, since it was new,” Cross recalls. “They said ‘It’s terrible that the town doesn’t have any money, so here’s a check for $25,000.’ We were amazed. It was so touching.”Archie and McIver were known to pop into a public meeting every now and then when an important decision was going to be made. They wanted to know about the decisions made in their community, Tilton said.”That’s the way our community used to be – we helped each other. We had to,” Tilton said. “Any decision you made affected someone you know personally.”In 1997, Archie – McIver’s sister and lifelong companion – passed away in the Tahoe Forest Hospital long-term care center. Since Archie handled most of the family’s business, there was some concern about McIver, the shy sister, carrying the family torch.But friends say she blossomed and continued to give in the Joseph family spirit.”Truckee was their family and they always made us part of their family,” Tilton said of the Josephs. “The whole family just took it on as their responsibility, and Azad carried that legacy.”
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The Truckee Town Council has unanimously approved of a pilot program to remove snow on privately maintained paved trails in the area.