Tahoe City loses longtime shopkeeper
Leigh Rozvar, who died this month, served as a fire chief and public utilities district commissioner
Leigh Rozvar was a skier, sailor, motorist — a general outdoor enthusiast and engaged member of the North Lake Tahoe Community.
The former fire chief of Alpine Meadows Volunteer Fire, a Tahoe City Public Utilities District Water commissioner and owner of the Sunnyside Market, now known as West Shore Market & Deli, died earlier this month.
Rozvar died Feb. 5 in Silver Springs, Nevada, at 85. His wife, Kay Edwards, two sons, Leigh and Lance, and two grandchildren, Tia and Braden, survive him.
A burgeoning love
Rozvar, born Nov. 4, 1935, first lived in the Tahoe National Forest as a teenager while his father served as superintendent of Truckee High School.
“The family came up for the Truckee job and then left when it was over,” Edwards said.
The family claimed residence in the region for a few years, but the climate and opportunity for adventure made an indelible impression on Rozvar, Edwards said.
“He was there first during the big snow storm of ‘51,” Edwards explained.
According to an article published by the Journal of the Sierra College Natural History Museum, Donner Summit received over 65 feet of snow that winter.
Before Rozvar had the chance to return, Edwards said he served four years in the Air Force, near Okinawa, Japan, and Oxford, England. Rozvar began studying civil engineering at Sacramento City College upon his return to the United States. During this time, Edwards said Rozvar lived and worked as a janitor at a nearby Episcopal church.
Edwards said one of Rozvar’s first jobs in the Tahoe region was drafting the roads up to Alpine Meadows in the early 1960s. Edwards worked for different engineering firms in the area before moving into a ski shack on Ski Run.
Edwards said Rozvar purchased Deer Park with some college friends long before it became “Powder Bowl,” at the base of Alpine Meadows.
Edwards said Rozvar was the general manager for Alpine Meadows until 1972, and said he is referenced a few times in Ingrid Wicken’s book, ’Lost Ski Areas of Tahoe-Donner,’ released in November.
Rozvar’s sense of responsibility to community extended into the off season, David Smelser of Alpine Meadows said.
“He was the manager of the Alpine Springs County Water District and the chief of our volunteer fire department,” Smelser said, adding that he estimates he volunteered under Rozvar’s direction for nearly two decades. “We weren’t too professional when we started out and there were some funny hiccups along the way, but we did get better.”
Smelser said he saw Rozvar take charge of the lower end of the valley to stage rescue personnel and operations up the valley after the avalanche of 1982.
“He did a masterful job of keeping things moving,” Smelser said. “I may have a biased view because he gave me the job of driving a pickup up and down the back way leading workers up to the ski area.”
John Lilly said he assumed the role of Alpine Meadows fire chief in 1988, just as the state started mandating certifications from first responders.
Nourishing the community
Edwards said Rozvar’s service-oriented mentality remained constant as he operated Sunnyside Market for the next 27 years.
Edwards said Rozvar purchased Sunnyside Market in 1987, but the building has been a fixture of the lake’s northwest shore for nearly a century.
“There was a store there in the ‘30s,” Edwards explained.
Edwards said the store had several identities before Rozvar took over and added a ’mom and pop grocery,’ a deli, movies and ice cream.
“He loved to sell ice cream, or give it away as often as he would sell it,” Edwards said, adding that Rozvar’s foremost rule of shop keeping was that no one leave hungry. “He said, ’I will not give them cigarettes or booze, but if they are hungry I will feed them — that’s my rule.’”
Edwards said Rozvar also hired people that were “down on their luck” and drove people to the hospital when needed.
“I fell in love with him because of that heart,” Edwards said.
Edwards was one of many visitors and locals that appreciated Rozvar’s generous spirit.
“We had pretty regular, steady clientele,” Edwards added, “a lot of tourists who came year after year after year.”
A second chance at love
Edwards said she first met Rozvar as a recent widow, trying to sell her first husband’s motorcycle in their glass shop.
“My husband had been diagnosed with cancer in May and died in November,” Edwards said. “I had the glass shop, and met Leigh the following spring.”
Rozvar visited more than once before purchasing the bike. Edwards said each visit revealed another facet of Rozvar’s sensitive nature.
“When he found out I was trying to fix up the front part of my house, he called and asked to bring by a flat of flowers,” Rozvar explained. “Then, he dug holes for them.”
Edwards said she was grateful for Rozvar’s generosity as she navigated the financial and emotional fallout of her husband’s death.
“I was having a hard time,” Edwards said, adding that she was 51 when her husband of 25 years died. “I was up in Tahoe by myself. I hadn’t lived there that long.”
Months after buying the motorcycle, Edwards said Rozvar returned with the refurbished vehicle and offered to take her for a memorial ride.
“He asked if I would like to go on a memorial ride because he knew I rode with my husband,” Edwards said. “We went and then started dating.“
Edwards said she began working at Sunnyside Market in 2003 and moved in with Rozvar above the market shortly afterward. Edwards said she was Rozvar’s fourth wife.
“He used to say: ’I wish I had met you when I was younger,’” Edwards said, adding, “There was no way I could keep up with him.”
Lou Allison of Rubicon Bay said he remembers his friend Rozvar as “colorful” and “easygoing.”
Edwards said Rozvar’s biggest complaint as he aged was that he wasn’t doing enough.
“He loved to go and do and experience,” Edwards said.
The couple moved to Silver Springs, Nevada, after selling the shop in 2014. They chose Nevada because of their love for the Sierra and high desert.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun.
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