|Subject: Peter Presnell, stepson of actress Marsha Hunt (1917-)
Dies at 80
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Date Posted: Sunday, March 01, 07:25:56am
Feb. 5, 1940 -Feb. 24, 2020
It is with great sadness that I share the news of my husband's passing. Peter died from cancer just weeks after his 80th birthday, and his passing away has now left a void in my life. For those of you who knew Peter, remember him for his many talents and quick humor. I want to take this opportunity to thank my family, friends, staff of St. Joseph's Hospital and Hospice for all their help during this difficult time.
Peter Robert Presnell, affectionately called Peter-Robin by his wife, Antoinette Gosselin, was born February 5th, 1940 in Greenwich Village, New York, first and only child of Kay Brown and Robert Presnell Jr. At age 13 he moved to California to live with his father (Robert Presnell Jr) and his actress/activist step mother (Marsha Hunt Presnell). Peter did not adapt well to Hollywood, and his first job while still attending high school, was wrangling horses for a summer camp in the Sierras, and later at a pack station in Kings Canyon Nat'l Park where he spent a summer packing hunters into the back country and carried supplies to fire towers deep in the wilderness.
Peter went to Europe and earned an Associate Arts Degree from the University of Grenoble, France. After 3-1/2 years overseas, he returned to Southern California, taking up residence in Topanga Canyon. Based upon his art portfolio, he was accepted as a student at The Art Center School of Design, Los Angeles, where he attended classes for two years, solidifying his grasp of industrial design. In 1966 he opened a gallery in Topanga Canyon which featured the arts and crafts of the local population. After several years of working as a designer/draftsman for the travel trailer and mobile home industry, he made the decision to make his way on his own as a craftsman. While he worked on his designs, he went to work building and remodeling homes in southern California. He became fascinated with leather smithing, taught himself the craft, and within several years, his line of travel bags and other leather work were carried by a number of retail outlets like Nieman Marcus, Sax Fifth Avenue, Macy's, and Marshal Fields.
Peter spent much of his spare time backpacking the Sierras, and Death Valley. By the end of the '60s he wanted out of southern California, and moved north to Humboldt County where he established his home first outside Orleans on Ishi Pishi Rd. Here he learned to work in the woods and in time became a timber faller, and spent many years cutting right-of-way for roads and falling trees on forest fires. Several years later he traded the Ishi Pishi property for 40-acres on the Klamath, downriver from Weitchpec. For ten years he lived his dream of building a life on the edge of the wilderness, felling and milling the lumber for his handmade home. It was there, in the '70s, that he built a shop and became a designer/builder of one-of-a-kind furniture; a trade which he pursued successfully for the rest of his life. His work was noticed internationally, and he won many ribbons presented to him over the years from the annual College of the Redwoods juried wood show, including First Place Best of Show. His work was published in international design reviews, and his articles and photography appeared in "Woodwork" and "Fine Woodworking" magazines. He became an art instructor for College of the Redwoods for two years, teaching people to transform what they saw into paintings". It's interesting that he never referred to himself as an artist, although others did. Somewhere in that decade he was hired by the Hoopa Tribal Clinic and within a year had become an Emergency Medical Technician and state certified Radiographic Technician.
Having completed "My little Empire in the Mountains" Peter left the wilderness and moved to Eureka in 1984 to pursue his dream of flying. By 1987 he had become a commercial pilot (ATP and CFII flight instructor). During the next 13 years he followed various flying jobs from Santa Monica to Seattle Wa. to Palm Springs and finally back to Eureka where he flew air charter and gave flight instruction at Murray Field. Ultimately he became Chief Pilot for Northern Air, and later, lead pilot for Northern Pacific Air Ambulance, a job he cherished, and carried out for four years before retiring from flying in 1998 to become a certified weather observer at the McKinleyville airport. For Peter, saving lives by flying the air ambulance through storms at night was a dream job. He cherished every minute in the air, and wrote stories about his experiences. By the end of his flying career he held the highest certifications available in American aviation from CFII through Multi-engine Air Transport Pilot. But he never gave up designing and making things. Ultimately, it is the one-of-a-kind designs in wood, of which he created hundreds in his lifetime, that remind their owners of his special vision, and devotion to excellence.
He never gave up trekking in the Salmon Trinity Alps, a place he loved dearly, and found a way to get out there several times a year for nearly forty years, usually going solo for days at a time and in all seasons. Peter was not a religious man, but there were places in the Trinities he called "Church".
In 1989, going on 50 years of age, Peter met the most cherished person of his life, Antoinette Gosselin, and they were married in 1997. Peter and Ann enjoyed the most special life together in the mountains they loved, east of Eureka. They were a devoted couple. Their abiding love and their appreciation of each other never waned, never stopped growing. Not a day passed when they did not tell each other how lucky they were to share their lives together. They complimented and lit up each others' days. He was clear that Ann was the very best thing that had ever happened to him.
Peter's been called a "renaissance" man. He was full of surprises and was possessed by boundless curiosity. He loved flying, he loved climbing in the mountains, he loved Credence Clearwater, Roy Orbison, and Beethoven. He loved the very idea of starting with a blank piece of paper and creating something that no else had ever done, and he did it every time. He charged much too little for his work, but that was because he loved making furniture for friends beyond anything else. He introduced himself as a Latte drinking, Volvo driving, Timber Faller. And that was an apt description. Mostly, he found adventure in everything he did, and whatever he did, he did it with a passion that made you want to do it too.
Services for Peter will be private and held at a later date.
Published in Eureka Times-Standard on Mar. 1, 2020.
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