Daniel F. McCarthy, a Chicago-area businessman who bought the 2,800-acre East Fork Ranch in 1970, and had been a frequent presence in Pagosa Springs for the past 40 years, died Jan. 3 in Evanston, Ill., his primary residence all his life. He was 92.
McCarthy, the only person to have earned a B.A. from the University of Chicago in one calendar year, served in the U.S. Navy and Marines during World War II, piloting 799 flights stateside and across the Pacific between 1942-1945, many of them involving such destinations as Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. He was discharged with the rank of major.
After forging a successful business and real estate career, McCarthy searched potential Colorado sites for two years before acquiring East Fork from Frank Teal, initially with the idea of developing it into a major ski area, for which its natural beauty, perfect potential runs and abundant snowfall would have made it ideally suited. Geological and environmental surveys went on for many years, during which time McCarthy and his family ran cattle on the land during the summers and spent considerable time on the ranch.
By the 1980s, McCarthy had abandoned the ski idea, but became involved with the Piano Creek developers, who sought to turn the area into a private club and exclusive residence area, an idea which similarly came to naught.
Eventually, McCarthy and the family came to share the view of environmentalists, who periodically fought the development projects, that the best use of the land would be to leave it as it was, one of the last large pristine high-mountain ranches in the country. Aside from upgrades in the form of river work and cabin restoration, the land remains unchanged over the four decades of McCarthy ownership and is now essentially destined to remain so by virtue of the conservation easements that began being put in place a year ago. The private portion of the ranch remains in family hands.
McCarthy loved Pagosa Springs and developed many strong relationships in the area. He remained vitally active in business through his 80s and his survived by his widow Barbara, son Todd (who married Sasha Alpert at the ranch in 1993), daughter Kerry Stilwell, grandchildren Justin and Tyler Stilwell and Madeleine and Nicholas McCarthy, nephew Tom McCarthy and niece Mimi Gaudette.