Thursday, February 2, 2006
Legendary diver and sculptor Don Wobber likes to say he’s “jade rich, but cash poor.”
The 76-year-old Pacific Grove man has even more jade on hand than usual these days because of the sale of Carmel’s Barnyard shopping center and Thunderbird Bookstore’s closure last weekend.
Recently five tons of polished Big Sur jade were delivered from the Barnyard, where they spent the last seven years, to Wobber’s already jade-encrusted home. The green boulders of Nephrite jade, which Wobber spent a lifetime collecting and extracting from Big Sur’s Jade Cove, litter his yard like gleaming monuments.
A 3,000-pound stone which has resided in Ventana’s meditation garden in Big Sur is scheduled to come home soon as well.
“My stones like to travel,” Wobber laughs. “But they always have a tendency to find their way home.”
The author of the best-selling memoir Jade Beneath the Sea: A Diving Adventure, Wobber has lived and dived in Monterey County for nearly four decades. He quit the family printing business in San Francisco at the age of 40 and moved to Pacific Grove to be near Jade Cove after discovering the place and falling in love with its hidden treasure—the largest underwater vein of jade in the world.
His memoir tells of his adventures finding and floating a 9,000-pound boulder of jade he dubbed the “Nephripod” back in the 1970s. Today, the book is considered a classic among divers and rock hounds and the “Nephripod” resides in the Oakland Museum.
He also has stones in a local cemetery, Carmel High School, the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, the Monterey Bay Custom Frame Shop, and in the homes of numerous private collectors.
“The Touchstone,” a piece that spent years in the Thunderbird Bookstore, will have a new home at The Works, a Pacific Grove bookstore and café slated to open next month in the space previously inhabited by Bookworks and Wildberries Cafe on Lighthouse Avenue.
Wobber recently sold his piece “Sleeping Mermaid” to the Canterbury Woods Retirement Facility.
“They designed this patio like a nautilus that’s encrusted with shells and the mermaid rests at its center on a pedestal,” Wobber says. “The residents there love touching her.”
And that, says Wobber, is what it’s all about. He’d rather have his stones out in the public where they can be appreciated rather than piling up in his backyard.
“Jade is meant to be touched,” he says. “It needs it. We need it.”