Letty Barry moved to Mariposa County with her family in 1972 and resided in the Merced River canyon until her retirement in 2003.
Letty passed away peacefully on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. Her fierce intellect and loving heart had long since been lost to Alzheimer’s disease and this second loss seemed a mercy to those who loved her. She will be remembered as a loving, independent and strong willed person who loved her family, literature, Native American history, science and wildlife.
Letty was the owner and manager of Savage’s Trading Post and the Yosemite Redbud Lodge. Her regular customers quickly became friends and her store was a social hub for the river canyon community. It wasn’t unusual to see somebody drop in for coffee but stay for an hour or more catching up on recent events and sharing stories. For those who visited with her she was some combination of counselor, confessor, gossip, professor and for those uninsured and brave enough, a country doctor. If you were one of those people, you will know that your visits were the highlight of her day.
Letty loved the wilderness of the river canyon and worked hard to preserve its biological diversity and promote access by the public. She oversaw improvements to the Hite’s Cove trail system and managed public access to the South Fork River canyon for nearly three decades. She wanted visitors to see the raw, untamed beauty of the Sierra foothills and to appreciate the long history of Miwok culture. At a time when dams and reservoirs were being proposed for both the Merced and South Fork Rivers, she worked with the Merced Canyon Committee to achieve “Wild and Scenic” status for over 122 miles of both rivers in 1987.
Letty cannot be properly remembered without discussing the fact that she was also radically, vocally and irrevocably liberal. Although we currently live in an increasingly divided country, it should be remembered that she cultivated close, lifelong friendships with many of the most conservative members of the Mariposa community. She believed in reason, decency, science and common sense and thought that as long as intelligence was non-partisan that we could find ways of living together and building a better world.
Letty’s burial wishes were for her body to be stolen and illegally buried in the South Fork river canyon. Her family is understandably quite busy with planning and executing the details of this, her last bit of criminal mischief and in lieu of flowers, donations in her name can be made to the Sierra Foothill Conservancy. Those who wish to remember her are also encouraged to hike the Hite’s Cove trail this spring, to sit amongst the wildflowers and listen to the free flowing river that she called her home.