PITTSFIELD -- George W. Jervas, who had owned Bousquet Ski Area for more than 30 years, died suddenly on Monday. He was 76.
The Richmond resident died at Berkshire Medical Center where he been taken for treatment after suffering cardiac arrthymia on Monday afternoon while working at Bousquet.
"This was a shock," said his attorney, William Martin of Pittsfield. "George had survived a stroke and some other medical issues, and in spite of that had been working at the ski area full days everyday for as long as anyone could remember."
But Jervas had limited mobility and had taken to using a golf cart to maneuver around the 200-acre property on Dan Fox Drive that he had owned since July 1981.
"I think he was driving around the area when he was struck," Martin said.
Bousquet, which operates water slides, go carts and a zip line during the summer months, was closed on Tuesday in Jervas' memory.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi volunteered at Bousquet when his children were young.
"George was a real hands-on owner and operator," Bianchi said. "This will be a great loss."
Jervas, who originally purchased Bousquet as a member of a four-way partnership, had been the ski area's sole owner for around the past 15 years, Martin said. A deal to sell the ski area fell through in 2008. Jervas' companion of the past 19 years, longtime Bousquet employee Sherry Roberts, will continue to operate the ski area.
"Sherry Roberts is just as committed to the ski area as George," Martin said. "The ski area can continue to be successful and we can all thank George for making that possible."
A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Jervas had been the administrator of nursing homes in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, before joining Four Skiers Enterprises, the partnership that purchased the ski area two months after the First Agricultural Bank foreclosed on Bousquet's mortgage 31 years ago. Founded by the late Clarence Bousquet in 1932, the ski area was also sold in 1955 and 1967.
Jervas became interested in the ski industry while working for Channing Murdock at Butternut Ski Area in Great Barrington.
Developing Bousquet for year-round recreation was Jervas' passion, according to his obituary. The ski area began operating year round some 19 years ago, Martin said.
"That guy was as strong as an ox," said close friend Steve Lynch, who is a ski instructor at Bousquet. "His will to keep Bousquet going was stronger than anyone that I ever saw in my life. He was always looking forward."
"George had a very gruff exterior," Martin said. "But he just beamed when kids would go up and down the mountain."
Despite the lack of snow in the Berkshires last winter, Martin said Jervas made snow at the base of the mountain so that Wahconah Regional High School's cross country ski teams could have a place to practice.
"In my opinion the happiest time of the year for George was the first cold nights when he could make snow," Martin said. "You'd see the lights go on and see that cloud over Dan Fox Drive. He was absolutely thrilled by the amount of [snow] guns he could get going and the snow that he could lay down."
Jervas is survived by two sons, Scott and Troy Jervas, and a daughter, Tammy Jervas, who all live in Richmond. He is also survived by Sherry Roberts' children, Paul Roberts Jr. and Marki Lee Roberts; a brother, Robert Jervas, and his wife Carol; and two sisters and brothers-in-law, Helen and Michael Signorelli and Dorothy and Al Wolf, who live in Long Island, N.Y.
A celebration of life for Jervas will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Bousquet Ski Area. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Jervas may be made to Bousquet Race Club. The Dery Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
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