(Updated at 4 p.m. with quotes from several of the Modini's friends.)
Local environmental steward and lifelong rancher, Shirley Modini passed away on Tuesday following a fall. She had recently been suffering from health challenges and was receiving hospice care. She was 89.
"Shirley Modini was [an] intelligent, independent woman who had an unusual strength in hard times," wrote Judy MacDonald Johnston. "Her calm perseverance combined perfectly with her husband Jim's infectious optimism."
Modini’s husband, Jim, passed away last November at 94. They had been married for 68 years and spent most of their life together on the ranch.
Although people often thought the Modinis led a quiet life because they rarely left their ranch. Their friends differed in that opinion.
"I've always said that they should have installed a revolving door to accommodate the comings and goings of all of their friends and visitors," said Ernie Osborn in an email. Osborn was the son of Jim's best friend, the late Shirley Osborn.
Local attorney and activist Gail Jonas knew both Shirley and Jim Modini. She spent significant time with them during the last 13 or 14 years.
“As they gave throughout their lifetime, their community gave back to them at the end of their lives,” said Jonas. “Their community included both their two-legged and four-legged friends.”
Both the Modinis were passionate about their ranch, their land and its preservation. They had no children or other heirs.
"I am just one of many, many of people who fell hard for Jim and Shirley Modini, and who subsequently came to share in their passion for preserving their pristine ranch for the wildlife that called it home," wrote Judy MacDonald Johnston.
Jonas agreed with that opinion.
“The Mondinis were among the most wonderful people I've ever met,” wrote Jonas upon Jim Modini’s passing.
They sold ranch’s development rights to the in 2000 for $1 million. They left the 1,725-acre ranch to Audubon Canyon Ranch. ACR is a conservation group dedicated to “more than preservation. It’s about conveying a love of nature and fostering an appreciation for the native plants and animals that call these special places home.”
It’s the same mission the Modinis fostered throughout their lives. According to friends, they lived modestly and spent most of their time on the ranch.
"Their friends share the significant peace of mind that Jim and Shirley had, that the wonderful Audubon Canyon Ranch organization will be stewarding the beautiful land for them in perpetuity," wrote Johnston.
To read more about the Modinis in the Press Democrat click here.