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N. J. Skip Retherford


N. J. “Skip” Retherford, 82, died Friday, May 10, after a three-year battle with cancer at the Castro Valley home of his daughter, Kathy Gatterer, and son-in-law, Bill Gatterer. The couple cared for Mr. Retherford at their home throughout his bout with cancer.

He trained thoroughbred racehorses in California from 1968 to 1993.

A native of El Monte, he was a longtime resident of Oakdale and got his start in horse racing working as an assistant for Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham in Southern California. He took out his trainer’s license in 1968 and maintained a stable in Southern California for several years before moving his operation to Northern California in the mid-1970s.

Mr. Retherford trained many stakes winners including Cari’s Story (winner of 1984 Bay Meadows Oaks), Lulugal (1981 Vallejo Stakes at Golden Gate Fields), and Les Aspres (1981 Seabiscuit Invitational Handicap at Bay Meadows). Also an owner and breeder, he owned and operated Oak Knoll Farms in Oakdale from 1979-1990 and stood the stallion Battle Call.

He loved growing grapes and making wine, gardening vegetables and fruits, singing, dancing, dominoes, all sporting events, and his family and three loving dogs. He traveled the world, including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and China, making many friends along the way. Those who knew him across the world, will be left with many amazing “Skip” stories to tell and great memories of an accomplished and inspirational man.

There are houses, fireplaces and masonry walls across the state that stand perfectly level and intact because of his skill, and grape vines and fruit trees that blossom and bear fruit each year because of his care and nurture. He will be missed by so many, he filled others’ lives with laughter, jokes, singing, wine and a passion for life. He also enjoyed singing, playing the piano and the flute.

The family thanks all of the doctors at Summit in Oakland and Eden in Castro Valley, Vitas Hospice, Mr. Retherford’s longtime love, Connie Polvorosa, along with his beloved dog Pearl, Selina Castaneda, Robert Gonzales, Thomas Chapman, Joe and Pat Visco, and Tony Diaz.

He is survived by his daughters, Kathy (Bill) Gatterer, Terry Garcia, and Stacie Retherford-Marrero; son, Roland Retherford; sister, Freda; grandchildren, Jake Gatterer, Haley Garcia and Joseph Garcia.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be made in his name to Dusty Paws Rescue, P.O. Box 2794, Castro Valley 94546, Dusty Paws is where he adopted his dog Pearl Soliel, who was a trusty companion throughout his illness.

A celebration of his life will be held on Monday, June 17 in Castro Valley. Those interested in attending should e-mail for more information.