Grass Valley loses Loma Rica Ranch legend Edith Freitas |

Grass Valley loses Loma Rica Ranch legend Edith Freitas

Christopher Rosacker
Staff Writer

A vestige of California's thoroughbred horse racing golden days passed away shortly before Christmas, depriving Grass Valley of an icon.

Edith Freitas, widow of Henry Freitas, who managed Loma Rica Horse Ranch for four decades, passed away Dec. 20.

Freitas, 88, ran the renowned ranch with her husband, helping organize the family and feed the many guests and riders who lived there, such as John Shirreffs, a trainer who won the Kentucky Derby in 2005 with long-shot horse Giacomo.

"They took him in like a son," said Roxann Freitas, their daughter who grew up on the ranch. "He learned racing from my father. He was his mentor."

The first horse Shirreffs ever trained was named Pee Wee Painter, named after Lawrence Painter, the owner of SPD Market. Edith Freitas was the grandmother of Ben Painter, who manages the Nevada City SPD Market.

The couple met in 1940 and moved to Grass Valley to manage Loma Rica Ranch, owned by Frank Knoop, in 1957. They managed the ranch until 1984. It is now poised for a large commercial development.

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"It's sad. When I lived there it was gorgeous," Roxann Freitas said. "A place to be talked about."

Ben Painter, 40, remembers San Francisco Giants baseball players Bobby Bonds and Jim Davenport frequently visited his grandparents at the ranch.

Magnates of oil and steel also stayed there at times, he said.

But it wasn't all glitz and glamour. Roxann Freitas said, recalling how her father slept in the stables from January to May during the birth season.

He'd ache back into the house, she recalled, sometimes grumpy, and his wife would feed him and then send him back out to the stables.

"She was definitely the woman behind the man," Ben Painter said. "She was strong, opinionated and forceful. She wore the pants."

While her husband trained riders and cared for horses, Edith Freitas would cook, clean and care for the farm. Painter remembers her splitting wood to cook hand-picked blackberry pies.

"She was a great cook," Painter recalled.

It seemed as if there were always guests at her mother's table, Roxann Freitas remembered.

"My mom wasn't much into horses," she said. "I think I
saw her ride once in my whole life."

While remembering Edith Freitas invariably touches on memories of her husband and the ranch, she was a strong woman on her own, said grandchild Lacy Peard, who lives in Roseville.

"She was very sharp and witty," Peard said.

Freitas was a socialite, her daughter said.

She golfed, bowled, played bingo and was a fan of gambling who enjoyed trips to Reno. She also had a good sense of humor, Ben Painter said.

"She was on the phone 24/7 and always going somewhere," Roxann Freitas said. "She was always involved in something."

Edith Freitas had high expectations of people, Painter said. She was never late — always early — and if you were late or said something she disagreed with, she would let you know, Painter said.

"If the doctor said she was going to pass away at 10:30, she would have done it at 10," Painter said.

Henry Freitas died in 2001. His widow was also preceded in death by her two sisters, one older and one younger. Edith Freitas is survived by two children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, Painter said.

"She was a really good lady," Painter said. "We had a lot of good times together."

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email or call (530) 477-4236.

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