OAKHURST – The Lutz Apple Ranch will be open this week, Monday through Thursday, honoring the life of Paul Andrew Lutz, who loved tending the 750 apple trees on the property until his death in an accident on Sept. 27, at the age of 86.
Friends and family, including his twin brother John, are working hard to finish out the first season without Paul in 25 years.
Born in Selma on Dec. 17, 1927, to Fred and Martha, Paul was the second to the youngest of 10 children.
For 37 years, he worked as Chief Medical Pharmacist and x-ray technician for the Community Hospital of Sacramento, retiring 25 years ago. In 1989, he returned to this area, and became a gentleman farmer when he bought the Lutz Apple Hill Ranch on Road 426.
On the day he died, Paul was headed into town to pick up his daughter Paula, who was going to help him sell apples the next day. It had been raining that afternoon, and Paul apparently skidded on the wet road and rolled his pickup several times.
Though he was coherent after the accident and appeared to have only suffered moderate injuries, he had several crushed ribs and a damaged lung, and passed away later that evening.
Paul’s daughter Cheryl says she is blessed and grateful that she made the trip from Sacramento the week before to help her dad prepare for a visit from a group of school kids.
“Dad called me about 10 days earlier and said he needed my help,” says Cheryl. “He said ‘The school kids want to come and we need to clean up and get everything ready.’ So I started thinking about all the things I could get together for the kids to do.”
Cheryl filled a jar with candy corn so the kids could guess how many were in there, and began gathering crayons, pipe cleaners, glue and glitter so they could decorate the paper bags they would fill with apples. She also dug out a big pan so they could bob for apples, and made apple cupcakes.
“I was really glad I had gone, and even spent an extra day there,” says Cheryl. “We expected dad to live to at least 100; he was always healthy.”
She says Paul had no idea how much people knew and loved him, and the family was overwhelmed with the outpouring after he passed away. One touching event took place at the Big Fresno Fair.
“Dad always tried to grow the world’s largest pumpkin,” she remembers. “He was a far shot off from that, because these pumpkins now-a-days are like 2,200 pounds, but he would always get one up to about 600 pounds every year. The next door neighbor would truck it on down to the Fresno Fair for him.”
This year, Cheryl says her dad’s pumpkin rotted so he wasn’t able to enter one, but down at the fair, they had a memorial in the pumpkin section for her dad.
This week, the ranch is once again open during the apple-picking season, in honor of Paul and in celebration of his life. Everyone is invited to stop by for tree-ripened apples and cider. They have Granny Smith, Yellow Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Mutsus and Pink Ladies, and will open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
The ranch is located at 52137 Road 426. Call 559-683-3217 for more information.
Services for Paul Lutz will be held on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 2 p.m., at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, followed by refreshments in Holbrook Hall.