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Nathan Russell Vail Jr.

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VAIL-Nathan Russell Vail, Jr., died Thursday March 31 at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena California, at the age of 83. Mr Vail was a cattle rancher and partner in the Vail Company and Vail & Vickers Company, two ranching companies which played a major role in the settlement of Los Angeles and Ri verside Counties, as well as in southeastern Arizona. He was born November 24, 1921 in Los Angeles and grew up in Beverly Hills, where he attended Beverly Hills High School. He worked summers on the cattle boat Vaquero which shipped cattle to and from the family ranch on Santa Rosa Island in the northern Channel Islands 30 miles off Santa Barbara. The Vaquero was requisitioned in World War II and eventually replaced by the Vaquero II, which still survives and was the last commercial wooden vessel of the Pac ific lumber schooner type built on the Pacific Coast. He attended Stanford University and was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. During WWII, he joined the Merchant Marine and attended King's Point Academy in Great Neck NY, graduating first in his class in 1943. He served as an officer on several vessels in the Atlantic and Pacific theatres, and the sea remained his first love throughout his life. Upon demobilization Mr Vail returned to Southern California to work in the family ranching enterprises, and married Jean Betts of Spokane WA in 1948. He worked on the Pauba and Santa Rosa ranches near Temecula, then transferred to Los Angeles in 1956 to work in the Vail Land & Cattle Company office, at first downtown, and then on Wilshire Blvd. The Riverside County ranches were sold in 1963 to form the present Rancho California; at that point Russ returned briefly to the sea serving as second mate on the Magnolia State to Da Nang, Vietnam. He subsequently returned to work with Vail & Vickers Co. in Santa Barbara. With his siblings Alexander Vail and Margaret Vail Woolley, he managed Santa Rosa Island and started a deer and elk-hunting operation; he was a regular luncher at Joe's Cafe on State St. Santa Rosa Island was acquired by the Department of the Interior in 1986 as part of the projected Channel Islands National Park. The three Vails and their children continued to work closely with the Park Service in preserving the heritage of the 'Ranches in the Sea' and founded the Santa Rosa Island Foundation as part of t he Santa Cruz Island Foundation. Mr Vail was a member of the Valley Hunt Club of Pasadena, First Century Families of Los Angeles, and the Society of Los Alamos. He is survived by his wife, Jean; his sister Margaret Woolley; his children, the Rev Nathan Vail of New York City, Dr. Timothy Vail of La Quinta California, and Diana Vail of Brooklyn New York; and his grandchildren Vail and Max Rainey. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in the name of the Nathan R. Vail Jr. Family Trust to the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. A reception will be held in Pasadena on Friday, April 8. and in Santa Barbara at a future date.
Published in Pasadena Star-News on Apr. 6, 2005
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