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Friday, May 14, 2021

Ken "Rotch" Rothschiller: 1947-2021

Posted By on Fri, May 14, 2021 at 7:06 AM

Ken "Rotch" Rothschiller, Jan. 21, 1947 to April 20, 2021. - SUBMITTED
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  • Ken "Rotch" Rothschiller, Jan. 21, 1947 to April 20, 2021.

Throughout his life, the artistic sensibility of Ken “Rotch” Rothschiller manifested in many forms, Rotch was best known, and beloved, for being Humboldt County‘s first surfboard manufacturer, shaping and glassing beautiful, functional surfboards that were invariably works of art.

A longtime resident of Manila, Rotch was born in Klamath Falls, Ore. His family moved to Eureka when he was nine months old, renting a place over Phillip’s Camera shop until his dad had the opportunity to buy five-and-a-half acres of land in Manila – for $300 – where Rotch and his friends would make rafts out of old railroad ties to play around in the bay. This interest in being on the water grew exponentially when Rotch began surfing in 1963. He was a junior at Arcata High at the time and inspired by a surf contest on the Wide World of Sports. When relaying what motivated him to start, Rotch said, in a long-ago interview, “I just looked at it and thought, ‘Wow, that is so cool.’”

Despite not knowing how to swim and having no idea what a wetsuit was (they had only been invented in 1952), Rotch borrowed an old Hobie balsa wood board from a friend, layered up with several sweaters and went up to Moonstone Beach to give surfing a try. When the sweaters turned out to be useless against the cold water, he borrowed a buddy’s diving suit, but that proved too inflexible for surfing. Undeterred, Rotch continued to paddle out, hiking across the Manila Dunes with his surfboard tucked under his arm.

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At the time, the only stores offering surfboards in Humboldt County were Olsen’s Paint and Bob’s Ski Shop — and the only boards carried were “Malibu foamies,” surfboard-shaped pieces of foam covered in vinyl with metal frames running through them. Rotch made his first board around this time, a minor disaster in which the foam melted and collapsed, and the inexperienced glass job resulted in sharp edges lining the board. He painted this initial attempt hospital green, added stripes with black electrical tape and named the board “Leprosy.” Although that particular surfboard came to an abrupt and untimely end, Rotch wasn’t discouraged. He continued reshaping castoff longboards, learning to deglass and even sometimes piling bricks on them for months at a time to change the horizontal curve of the board. In 1982, Rotch and former Arcata Exchange owner Keith Newcomer formed Lost Coast Boards together.

In the following years, many up-and-coming shapers benefitted from Rotch’s mentorship, including renowned Humboldt shaper Brian Kang, who was stoked to have Rotch’s guidance. “I’d heard about him and he shaped boards for all the big local crazy guys, so for a young shaper from Los Angeles, that was a big thing. He was a great mentor, never judgmental, and a funny guy. It was nothing but bitchin’ times! I feel honored to learn the lessons passed down by Rotch.”

Some years later, Rotch partnered with his longtime friend John Thomas in a new business, Out of the Woodworks, thinking woodworking would be more financially lucrative than shaping surfboards (which turned out to be true). All the years of shaping surfboards had trained his eyes to follow curves, resulting in beautiful craftsmanship in many forms including bowls, lamps and beds. One of his favorite projects was making a four-poster bed with, at the client’s request, light-up mushrooms on the top of each post. His lifelong ability to see things three-dimensionally continued to serve him even in two-dimensional media — his vibrantly detailed paintings have long been collected by surf and ocean aficionados.

Carol Vander Meer, former executive director of Friends of the Dunes and longtime Manila resident, remembers Rotch as “an amazingly talented artist,” who was also curious and knowledgeable about the natural world.

Rotch was preceded in death by his parents, Leona and Nick Rothschiller, his brother Richard Rothschiller and many, many friends.

Join a celebration of the life of Ken “Rotch“ Rothschiller on Saturday, May 15, at 3 p.m. A paddle out will be held at “G.I. Joe’s,” the bayside beach just south of the Humboldt Bay Coast Guard station. All are welcome! Following the paddle out, friends will gather to share food and talk story at the North Jetty. All COVID-19 safety guidelines will be respected.

A number of Lost Coast surfboards and art pieces will be on display for people to enjoy. Those who are fortunate enough to have a Lost Coast surfboard are invited to bring it and add it to the display.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

David Keith Nicholson: 1954-2021

Posted By on Tue, May 4, 2021 at 6:36 AM

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David Keith Nicholson was born on April 5, 1954, at the old Scotia Hospital. He died on April 24, 2021, at the age of 67 from complications of multiple myeloma in Bakersfield, California, while on vacation with his wife Cheryl.

Shortly after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, Dave wrote his own obituary:

Dave grew up on the family dairy farm at Grizzly Bluff in Ferndale. He graduated from the old Grizzly Bluff School and Ferndale High School, one of the “mighty crew of  ’72.”

After graduation, Dave went to work for Peers Motor Sales, selling parts. When the dealership closed, he purchased the Ferndale Garbage Company, and operated it for 10 years. He was a partner in another agriculture business for 10 years and finished his parts career at Fernbridge Tractor.

After retiring, he and Cheryl planned to travel, and since Dave loved the Giants, their first trip was to spring training to see the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale. The trip was cut short when Dave was called back to Eureka, where he learned he had cancer.

While living on the Ferndale side of the river, Dave was baptized, confirmed and an active member of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. He was a member of the Ferndale Volunteer Fire Department, serving many years as assistant chief. In 1994 he was named Fireman of the Year. Also in Ferndale, he served two terms on the city council (two years as mayor). Dave was also a charter member of the Ferndale Kiwanis club.

After moving across the river to the Fortuna side of Fernbridge, Dave continued his community service. He was a volunteer firefighter, and served as captain of Company 1, and as an assistant chief. After going exempt, he served the Fortuna Fire District as a commissioner. He was a member of the Fortuna Rodeo Association, served on the Fortuna Parks and Recreation Commission and was an active member of Christ Lutheran Church. In 2011, Dave and Cheryl were named Volunteers of the Year by the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce. Dave was a member of AA and recently received his 20-year chip.

For many years Dave played Santa for Eel River Valley families and other groups. Anyone who asked. He loved seeing the families grow and knew many of the children and their parents by name.

Dave was preceded in death by his parents, Keith and Helen (Farley) Nicholson, and his grandparents, Milton and Matilda Nicholson and Ambrose and Mary Farley.

He is survived by his wife Cheryl, and his stepchildren, who he loved like his own: Tina Mallo, Cherie Mallo and Grant Bryant, and his grandchildren Tarin, Talin, James and Vivienne. Also, his brother Larry Nicholson and wife Helene, and sister Shirley Bianco and husband Dan. And too damn many nieces, nephews and cousins to list. (His words.) Dave was a fourth-generation Humboldter, and now the Nicholsons can claim seven generations, with family still on the dairy at Grizzly Bluff.

Dave was a proud Republican! He thought Reagan was the best president and Truman was OK for a Democrat.

A Celebration of Dave’s Life will be held as soon as we can safely gather. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to University of California at San Francisco Cancer Research.
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