TRI-COUNTY REGION – Ridgway native, miner and rancher Mario Bart Zadra died at home in Montrose last week at age 97.
He had suffered for the last few years with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.
Zadra was well known in Ouray County, where he was born and raised, as well as in Telluride and Norwood, where he ranched for over 30 years, and in Montrose, where he spent his last years in the care of his daughter and son-in-law.
Born in a small brick house near Ridgway in 1916, Mario Zadra was the third of five children born to Italian immigrants Matteo Zadra and Ottilia Marinelli. He attended the Piedmont School midway between Ridgway and Ouray, but left at age 12 to help support the family. He worked at the Camp Bird Mine for a time, leading ore-laden mule trains down the treacherous Canyon Creek Road to Ouray. He also helped out on the Zadra family ranch in the valley south of Ridgway. In the 1950s and 60s, he was elected to two terms as Ouray County commissioner, one as chairman.
In his teens, in addition to running his own cattle operation with his brother Victor, Zadra began working for legendary Ridgway rancher Marie Scott, whose shrewd dealings and immense landholdings at one time stretched all the way to the Utah border. Zadra was one of 12 “inheritors” to the Marie Scott estate. She had no heirs and wanted, according to The Denver Post in a 2010 article, to leave her land to the people who loved it (and who worked it for her). Zadra insisted that he inherited no land, but rather purchased his considerable holdings, on Specie Mesa, between Telluride and Norwood, from Scott before she died, in 1979.
The Zadra family’s TL Bar Ranch was most recently in the news as the proposed site for a Marie Scott Reservoir, part of an ambitious Montrose County plan to develop future water sources for West End industrial and residential growth. That plan has since been greatly scaled back and no longer envisions a reservoir on Saltado Creek.
Zadra married Eda Terresa Tessitore in 1951. They had one child, a daughter, Jan.
Zadra moved his family to Norwood in 1964, where he continued to ranch in the old way. He was said to be one of the last to give up his team of horses. He served on the San Miguel County planning commission in 1979, as the resort in Telluride was beginning to take off. He also served for 20 years on the board of directors of San Miguel Power Association.
He is survived by his daughter, Jan Scharf of Montrose; his sister, Victoria Hudson of Denver; and by numerous nieces and nephews and their extended families. A funeral service will be held Saturday, June 15, at 11 a.m., at the Montrose Christian Church, 2351 Sunnyside Road, Montrose. Graveside services will follow at Valley Lawn Cemetery. Arrangements are under the direction of Crippin Funeral Home.