Life Story for
Geoffery Stephen Bushell
When Geoffrey Stephen Bushell recently died in a snowmobiling accident, a major chapter in Ketchum folklore and in the lives of a huge, extended family came to a sad end. Since 1974, interrupted only by a brief move to Pebble Beach in the mid-1980’s, Bush-well, had worked, played and lived large in the area he loved so much that his license plates read “5BFORME”.
Geoff was born on Catalina Island in 1945 and grew up in a challenging household in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where he attended high school at Lake Oswego High before earning a bachelor’s degree from Portland State University. He began his college studies in architecture, and maintained a thoroughly artistic eye even as his career path took him into real estate sales and development.
Arriving in Ketchum originally with a mandate to sell commercial filing systems, he eventually went to work for Ketchum Realty and started a family by marrying Linda Larson. Always a friendly guy, Geoff greeted everyone with his big, silly smile that verged on an outright laugh and an open-armed invitation to a hug. His fun-loving, game-for-anything approach led to their household, and all of Geoff’s future homes and cabin, becoming a social center, dormitory and halfway house where anyone with good intentions and a yearning to socialize was welcome. In the late 70’s, Geoff was largely responsible for two new arrivals that many, many people in our community remember with great love. One was the birth of Geoff and Linda’s son Boo, a remarkable child and young man who brought profound joy to them and who died in a tragic accident at age 21.
The other was the 1978 launching of the Ketchum Spring Prom, an idea born amid cigars, booze and hilarity, with Geoff its spiritual leader. Held first at the Kneadery and by invitation only, the next year it moved to the American Legion Hall and was sort of public and featured admission and all-you-can-drink for $3. By the third year it had gotten so popular that it was permanently moved to the Limelight room where live music and flamingos added to the allure and the Prom became a large fundraiser that benefited all manner of local charities by always selling out its maximum capacity of 750 tickets. The Prom, with its formal attire (typically acquired at the Gold Mine and other thrift shops) continued the next day when many attendees would go skiing in their outfits from the previous evening, some having foregone sleep and the need for a clothing change entirely.
The early 1980’s were a real estate disaster for Ketchum, but Geoff kept at it as real estate agents fled in droves for better markets. When money got too hard to come by, he bolted a plow blade to his pickup and founded the short-lived “Plow McPlowson” venture. Eventually even Geoff, despite being easily one of the 10 most stubborn people ever born, saw the wisdom of a hiatus from Ketchum real estate and moved to Pebble Beach for 4 years. He, Linda and Boo returned and Geoff became the sales manager for the new Lane Ranch development which he eventually left to found Bushell & Company, a real estate brokerage. “Handguns and handshakes” was an informal motto, meaning that his word was all a deal took and you had better hold up your end as well. Geoff was more than capable at all aspects of the real estate business, but took the most joy in looking at a property and seeing a vision of what it could become, a vision that his clients very often completely bought into.
Things change and people evolve, and eventually Geoff and Linda parted, though as friends. Geoff then met his other love, Nancy Curci, and in 2004 they were married (while on their honeymoon) by a Fijian village chieftain, with Geoff resplendent in a traditional Fiji sulu skirt. Together they continued to enjoy the cabin near Alturas Lake that Geoff had owned and treasured for decades. Like all of Geoff’s places, it was regularly filled with his extended family of invitees and drop-ins.
During all of these decades, Bush-well, remained ready to try anything, do anything, go-for-broke. He loved “kick ass” bonfires at his cabin, hiking, sailing in the Caribbean, river rafting, ballroom skiing, snowmobiling, gurgling on Redfish and reading. He is remembered (often with a chuckle) for “poodling the neighbors trees to obtain a better view, for fireworks displays worthy of a metropolis with each lit fuse accompanied by a sharp “Oh Jesus” and for his fine display, along the shore of his illegal water feature, of plastic flamingos that the Forest Service ultimately banned as non-native to the cabin area. It is ironic, but perhaps somehow fitting, that after years of precarious snowmobile adventures like crossing Petit Lake on soft, thin ice he should meet his end in a snowmobile accident. He would likely say there are worse ways to go.
Ultimately, though, Geoff Bushell will be remembered for building and constantly adding to an extended and joyous family, all of whom think of their years together as among the best of their life. Most importantly, Geoff always, always had time for kids. He would listen to and advise them in a way that few grownups are able or willing to do. There are literally dozens of young adults in this area that still call him Uncle Geoff. May he now find peace.