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Doug Tompkins’ Healdsburg daughter reminisces about dad

Healdsburg photographer and ecologist Quincey Tompkins Imhoff is awash in memories following the death Tuesday of her father, Douglas Tompkins, the world-class conservationist and co-founder of The North Face and Esprit clothing lines.

For Doug Tompkins, 72, to have died while kayaking in Chile causes his daughter to recall the paddling trip that she and her then-future husband, Dan Imhoff, took with him on a Chilean fjord at Christmastime in 1991.

Early on in the adventure, a party consisting of several paddlers and kayakers camped for the night alongside the fjord, located north of what would become Doug Tompkins’ Pumadín Park, the world’s largest private nature reserve.

It surprised Quincey Imhoff that her dad pulled his kayak away from the waterline and then up, up, up into the forest. He offered no explanation.

“He was a man of not that many words,” said Imhoff, the mother of young adults Willa and Gardner. “He was more a man of action.”

Dragging his kayak higher into the forest, Tompkins led his daughter and future son-in-law to the spot where they camped for a very wet, windy night.

Quincey Imhoff recalls that in the morning they broke camp, her dad grabbed hold of his kayak and they hiked back down to the fjord - to discover that every other kayak had been swept away by the overnight storm and super-high tide.

Imhoff can still see her father shaking his head and uttering, “You should have followed me.” Everyone else got to work searching the reeds for their kayaks and other gear.

“That was a very, very memorable Christmas,” said Doug Tompkins’ daughter.

She prepares now to fly to Chile for her father’s burial at a piece of his legacy, the future Patagonia National Park.

“His work will live on for a long time,” Quincey Imhoff said. “He did so much for the wild.”

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TWO CARS COLLIDED back on Aug. 29 at Highway 12 and Llano Road, east of Sebastopol. The initial impact wasn’t so bad, but the force of a deployed driver’s airbag crushed 88-year-old Vilma Ginzberg.

To breathe hurt terribly, owing to her five fractured ribs and severely bruised breastbone.

Vilma, a retired psychotherapist and a prolific writer who was once Healdsburg’s poet laureate, feels forever grateful to the stranger named Tracy who “gently tended to me ... called for emergency assistance and controlled curious passers-by until help arrived.”

Then the driver of the other car, known to Vilma only as Tim, poured water on her engine to guard against fire and astonished her with “his clear-headed know-how and compassion.”

Vilma thanks Tracy and Tim, and all of her fellow Healdsburg-area poets who rallied for her throughout her recovery.

She wrote in an expression of gratitude that, undeniably, great trouble roils humankind.

“But,” Vilma added, “I also know for certain there is much natural kindness and generosity all around us. Underneath all the headlines, right here, right now, it’s a wonderful world.”

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.

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