Joyce and Rich Mason are the couple who were inspired by the idea of returning the World Gold
Panning Championship to El Dorado County.
How did Rich get the name “Uncle Fuzzy”? Joyce states, “We were visiting my family. My
little nephew could not remember Rich’s name. So when describing Rich, Joyce’s nephew said,
‘Oh you mean Uncle Fuzzy!’”
Now Rich and Joyce are referred to as “Warm and Fuzzy.” Rich has had his beard since 1983
and he has the perfect look of a gold prospector.
When asked how long they have been gold panning, Joyce says they moved to the Pollock Pines
area in the 1990’s. In 1998, the World Gold Panning Championship came to Coloma in El
Dorado County celebrating the 150 th anniversary of the discovery of gold. The Masons decided
to check out the Coloma event. They had never panned for gold so they did some practice runs.
“We both competed but neither of us won anything.”
Joyce shares a memory that inspires her about these competitions. “I remember a Japanese lady
sitting in the bleachers creating origami designs. She shared her skill with others.” It impressed
Joyce that the woman didn’t speak English, but she communicated so well in sharing her craft.
After Coloma they joined a club in Auburn. They had fun with recreational prospecting and
started participating in state championships. “We improved our skills and I started taking
frequent medals. I got more medals than Rich.” Rich enjoys telling the story of a time he was
getting uppity with Joyce. Joyce states “I took all my gold panning medals and hung them from
the cupboards in kitchen.” Joyce and Fuzzy enjoy being very competitive with each other.
Joyce received her first medals in 2001 when they made a trip to the Yukon and into Alaska.
The Yukon celebrates a Canada Day celebration where she won two third place medals. At that
point they started winning in California, winning 15 to 20 medals.
In 2009 Joyce won a bronze in Italy in the International World Championship in the veterans’
category for men and women over 60. She was the third person from the United States to medal
in the World Championships, and the second woman to win in the competition.
When asked why she tends to win more medals than Rich, she states she has “more patience and
concentration.” Fuzzy won medals in a European competition which is like our state
They have visited many countries for the combination of enjoyment of travel and gold panning.
They panned in individual country competitions in Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and
Switzerland. They have competed in the World competition in Spain, Sweden, South Africa,
Italy and the Yukon.
Why are they so enthusiastic about bringing the championship to El Dorado County? Joyce
states, “We have enjoyed our trips and gold panning so much, we have made so many friends,
spent time with them and stayed in their homes. They showed us around and we have had great
experiences. We would like to give that experience back to our visitors.”
“I wouldn’t have believed that we would be as involved as we are today, but it grew. Fuzzy has
his beard and personality. Many people liked us partly because some of Uncle Fuzzy’s family
was part of the Gold Rush and that created a connection for Uncle Fuzzy to the history of the
Gold Rush. His family came over the Oregon Trail and was part of the same train as the Donner
Party. However, his family split off from the Donner Party.”
Uncle Fuzzy felt obligated to pursue sharing the event in El Dorado County. He wants to teach
others, especially children, about our history. He is especially enthusiastic about the events for
His grandfather was in Placerville the summer of 1848 where he mined for gold. His
grandfather’s surname was Campbell, and after he made a fortune mining gold, he returned to
the Santa Clara Valley and founded the town of Campbell, California.
Some fun tidbits. Joyce is now retired from her lifetime career of nursing.
Uncle Fuzzy loves the kids, being Santa and being a prospector.
On one of their trips they visited Scotland to attend the Campbell Clan family reunion. They had
their picture taken with the Duke of Inveraray and the Campbell Clan.
Joyce and Fuzzy have been together since 1983 and have been married 28 years. This is the
second marriage for both of them. Fuzzy has two children from his previous marriage, and Joyce
has three children from her previous marriage. They have five grandchildren, and four 4-legged