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Gene Chappie; Colorful State Officeholder

June 03, 1992| From Times Staff and Wire Services

COOL, Calif. — Gene Chappie, one of the state's more colorful politicians, has died of cancer at the age of 72.

Chappie, a former congressman, assemblyman and supervisor, died Sunday. He was known for his folksy, straightforward manner, his disdain for bureaucrats, his hard work and his practical jokes.

He began as an El Dorado County supervisor four decades ago, moved to the California Assembly in 1964 and was elected to Congress in 1980.

After three terms in Washington, the Republican rancher and winemaker announced in 1986 that he would not run for a fourth.

"Hell, some of my colleagues make George Burns look like a kid," he said at the time. "They don't have the good sense to quit."

As an assemblyman, Chappie was sharply outspoken, once demanding that Sacramento messenger girls lower their hemlines and complaining that a new $400 desk he had been issued "didn't (even) have enough room for my dirty socks."

Chappie and his wife, Nancy, retired to the El Dorado County community of Cool, where he had been raised on his family's 640-acre plot of pastures and orchards.

But in May, 1989, then-Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him to an El Dorado County supervisorial seat. He was defeated in the 1990 election.

"He was the kind of guy who could tell you off and you still liked him," said El Dorado County Supervisor Jack Sweeney.

"He was very flamboyant, and of great humor. But he had a great record of being able to accomplish things," former Assembly Speaker Robert Monagan said.

Chappie was one of the organizers of the annual Jeepers Jamboree, a July trek across the Sierra Nevada by 1,200 people in 400 vehicles.

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