Harry “Sam” Bash was an explorer, constantly seeking a new thrill or personal discovery.
It was that passion that led the longtime Whittier man to serve his country carrying out underwater demolitions with the U.S. Navy, to scale mountains and to fly airplanes.
Unfortunately, it was the same passion that put him in the Angeles National Forest, prospecting for gold, when he was caught in a mudslide in September. He was killed in the incident. He was 67.
Bash’s body was discovered by a hiker about 5 p.m. Sept. 19 along the East Fork of the San Gabriel River, between the Bridge to Nowhere and Heaton Flats, Ed Winter, assistant chief of operations at the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner said. He was not officially identified by coroner’s officials until this week.
An autopsy determined he died from “multiple blunt force injuries,” and the death was ruled accidental, Winter said.
Coroner’s records listed no hometown for Bash.
Friends described him as a retired longtime Whittier resident who grew up in Pico Rivera and U.S. Navy veteran who enjoyed exploring the outdoors.
Property records indicate Bash owned a home in Whittier for more than 20 years, but friends said he had lived there more than three decades.
Dan Klausen said he first met Bash when the two attended school together in the first grade. They’ve remained friends ever since.
“He was truly my closest friend,” Klausen said.
“He was just a fun guy. He had a great sense of humor. He would call me up and call me ‘plutonium breath,’” Klausen said.
The friends took many trips together, scaling Half Dome in Yosemite, visiting Mt. Whitney and going on bike trips lasting days and hundreds of miles, Klausen said.
And Klausen said Bash’s curiosity knew no bounds.
Upon looking through Bash’s home following his death, “The books this guy had: quantum physics, geometry, calculus,” Klausen said. “He was so fascinated with science and mathematics and how things work.”
Bash often went prospecting in the mountains, generally taking day trips, but sometimes camping overnight, friends said.
Klausen said he speculated his friend must have touched on a good spot for gold, as he was believed to have been camped in the forest for about a week before becoming swept up in a debris flow.
“Otherwise, he never would have been up there that long,” he said. And witnesses reported that Bash’s car had moved in the parking lot at the mountain entrance at least once during the his camping trip, indicating had returned to it and possible resupplied.
Bash was found with his backpack, indicating he was trying to work his way out of the forest when he died, Klausen added.
Friend Jenny Reisner said she believed Bash may have been caught off-guard.
“He was hard of hearing, so likely didn’t hear it coming,” she said.
Bob Garcia said he was a friend of Bash for more than 50 years.
“Sam was a true outdoors man who loved and lived life to the fullest. He touched the lives of many people and he will be missed by all,” Garcia said.
Garcia said his friend spent four years with the Navy as an underwater demolitions expert, followed by a 29-year career at a chemical company.
Bash was a licensed pilot, a scuba diver an underwater welder, a mountain biker, a hiker, a rock climber, an explorer and a prospector, Garcia said.
Bash’s eulogy,delivered at an Oct. 10 memorial in Whittier, described him as “the quintessential explorer,” an accomplished guitarist and a lover of geography, botany and astronomy who spoke Spanish fluently.
Bash was never married and had no children, friends said.
He’s survived by twin sister, Sally, and sister Barb, three nieces, three nephews, six great-nephews and four great-nieces.
“His zest for life, insatiable love of learning, and thirst for adventure impacted and inspired practically everyone around him,” according to the eulogy. “Sam’s kind qualities, gentle demeanor, boundless curiosity, and beautiful spirit earned him immense love and respect. He will be sadly missed but remembered for the rest of our lives by all those who knew him.”
PHOTOS: [TOP] – Harry Samuel Bash, 67, of Whittier (courtesy, Connie Petty); [BELOW] – Sheriff’s recovery effort (courtesy, LASD)