“The kind of universal and versatile
genius that restores faith in mankind.”
Guy Lester Winfrey was born in Carbondale, Illinois in 1883. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1901 at the age of 18, assigned to the 12th Cavalry Regiment–discharged with “excellent character” in 1902 as a Sergeant. By 1910, he was living on Big Ranch Road in Napa with his wife, Joan, and daughters and worked as a mechanic and carpenter until about 1913. He later became the orchardist for Napa State Hospital until his retirement in the 1940s due to a heart ailment.
His first poem was written in 1910 after he saw his first airplane in Tanforan, California. He continued to write essays, children’s books, and poems throughout his life. His last poetry collection, A Snare of Vintage, focused on life in the Napa Valley among other subjects. His fascination with flight apparently started early, leading him to create the first Glider Club in Napa County with several other men who were also interested, if not experienced in aviation of any kind. He served as the president during its short existence.
The home Winfrey built with his wife around 1935 was recognized in multiple newspaper and journal articles for its distinct character and comfort. Winfrey continued his woodworking hobbies, creating carvings in his workshop.
Joan hand made the rag rugs in their sandstone house on Monticello Road, and hand-carved furniture by Winfrey. They maintained a garden and several varieties of stone-fruit and citrus trees. They lived there until about 1960, when they decided to move to Hartson Street in Napa due to Winfrey’s failing health.
Winfrey died in Yountville in 1961, remembered in an editorial in the Napa Register as a man of many talents and capabilities.