North Shore stalwart dies ascending old Highway 40
Pete Jeffalone, a beloved homespun historian and North Shore old timer, died Saturday from a heart attack while attempting to push an old-style English bicycle up Donner Summit.Jeffalone, 66, was pushing his penny farthing, a bicycle with a giant front wheel and a miniature back wheel, up old Highway 40 to raise awareness of his candidacy for the Placer County Water Agency, when witnesses say he collapsed about one mile up from Donner Lake.Several bicyclists stopped and attempted to revive him, but Jeffalone was pronounced dead at the scene by medical technicians that arrived by ambulance and helicopter. As a resident of North Lake Tahoe for more than 40 years, Jeffalone was known for his generosity, boundless sense of humor, and unique approach to life, said the many that knew him closely. He moved to the north shore in the early 1960s from upstate New York and soon immersed himself in the culture and history of the area. To many of his close friends, Jeffalone was family.”I kind of think that he was about as well known as anyone around here,” said Dave Ferrari, Jeffalone’s longtime friend. “He was just a friend of so many people.”
Jeffalone, a past board member of the North Tahoe Public Utility District, was renowned for his inventive ways of drawing attention to political issues. One of the spectacles that Ferrari and other friends said they will never forget is when Jeffalone hitched a trailer carrying a cardboard outhouse to his bicycle and pedaled around North Tahoe neighborhoods with the words, “Vote for Pete” emblazoned on the Porta-Potty.”He would ride this thing up and down the street and talk to everyone,” Ferrari said.Not long ago he purchased the penny farthing. His attempt to conquer Donner Summit with the antique bicycle was Jeffalone’s way of attracting attention to his bid to serve on the Placer County Water Agency.”He was always doing crazy things,” said longtime friend Larry Sevison. “He was always doing something off the wall.”Under “profession” in the Water Agency candidate profile, Jeffalone had filled out “Tapdancer/Historian,” another example of his Mark Twain-style wry sense of humor.While Jeffalone will definitely be remembered for his humor, he was an intelligent man who knew the history of the area like few others, friends said. He could talk about the old newspaper editors of the 1880s, Mark Twain, and obscure 1800s figures like the three north shore brothers that were all born on the same day of different years.
He also dabbled in learning Chinese, Russian and Polish, his friends say.Jeffalone was an avid outdoorsman. Sometimes his outlandish ideas and love for the outdoors melded in semi-organized mountain biking trips through the mountains that often had long sections of direction-questioning and head scratching. Just this year he finished hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, one of his longtime ambitions.But perhaps most of all Jeffalone will be remembered as a great friend and a generous and caring individual. His holidays were often spent in Reno at a homeless shelter, preparing meals for the less fortunate. And it wasn’t unusual to see Jeffalone shoveling out several widows’ driveways after a strong winter storm.”He was a true volunteer guy,” said Sevison, who worked with Jeffalone to build the ball fields in King Beach. “If there was anything to do that needed help, Pete was the guy.”Other friends agreed.
“Everybody that knew Pete would tell you that if he had 10 cents and you needed it, you got it,” said Art Sable, who met Jeffalone in 1971. “You couldn’t say more about him than he was a humanitarian.”Jeffalone, who worked as a real estate agent and carpenter, never focused on making a lot of money. Instead, he dedicated his time to his friends, his love of history and those he could lend a hand to, his friends say.”Not a rich man, but a very rich man,” said Sable.Pete is survived by his brother Jim of Tucson, his niece Raina of Denver, and nephew Lane, currently in the Navy in Naples, Italy. His uncle Frank and numerous cousins still live in their hometown in upstate New York.A celebration of Jeffalone’s life is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 14 at the North Tahoe Community Conference Center from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Keep an eye on the Sierra Sun for more details.