Gary Coulter has been managing the Meeker Airport for as long as I’ve been alive.
That sort of puts it in perspective for me.
Coulter was honored Saturday for 50 years operating and managing the Meeker Airport for Rio Blanco County. The celebration included a flyover, a pancake breakfast put on by the Masonic Lodge, a presentation by County Commissioner Kai Turner and a pig roast prepared by Gerald Morris.
It was nice to see so many friends and flying buddies from all over the area as well as from other states show up to congratulate Gary, who turns 75 today.
“It seemed to mean a lot to him,” said fellow pilot Frank Huitt of Rangely. “Anybody who survives in a business for 50 years has to do a lot of things right.”
Huitt said he wouldn’t have missed Saturday’s anniversary celebration and the chance to congratulate Coulter.
“I think they’re a first-class FBO (fixed-base operator),” said Huitt, who took flying lessons at the Rangely Airport, but uses Coulter Aviation to service his airplane. “They’re just some good people, and they provide a good service to Meeker and the community.”
Coulter Aviation is a family business, with wife Relda, son Lanny and daughter Sam involved in the operation. Gary and Relda have two other children who helped out at the airport when they were growing up, but they have moved away.
Huitt trusts the Coulters to take care of his airplane.
“They have done the maintenance on my airplane, ever since I owned one,” said Huitt, who has a Cessna 182. “Anytime I need some maintenance, an oil change, repairs, whatever … nobody else has ever done any maintenance on my plane. They’ve done all my work.”
Like many pilots in the area, Gordon Byers of Rangely took flying lessons from Gary.
“I took my initial training here at Rangely, but I finished up my training with Gary,” Byers said. “That would have been late ’61 or ’62. He had been in business about three years when we got acquainted.
“The last few years, I’ve pretty much been out of aviation, but we’ve stayed in touch,” said Byers, who attended Saturday’s 50th anniversary celebration along with Woody Williams, another former flying student of Gary’s, who now lives in Washington state.
“I’ve enjoyed my association with Gary through the years,” Byers said.
Bob Crosthwaite of Meeker knew Gary even before he took over managing the airport.
“He used to run a milk delivery route for my dad in the Yampa Valley area,” Crosthwaite said. “He drove a truck, delivering milk, ice cream, what have you. That was right before he came to Meeker.”
Crosthwaite also took flying lessons from Gary.
“He taught me how to fly,” Crosthwaite said. “We’ve been close friends since way back. God, that’s been a long time ago.”
Crosthwaite was glad to see the community recognize Gary for 50 years at the Meeker Airport.
“That was great,” Crosthwaite said. “I was really proud they put that on for him. How many people in this world have the same job for 50 years? That was good (to recognize Gary). He’s a good man.”
Merle “Ric” Lynch of Cedaredge said Coulter Aviation has provided an important service to the town and the county.
“Out here on the Western Slope, it’s almost a three-hour drive (from Cedaredge to Meeker), as opposed to a 40-minute flight,” Lynch said. “Having an airport is very important when it’s hard to get from here to there.
“I’ve probably been flying into that airport for 20 years,” Lynch said. “From the very first, they’ve been so accommodating and nice to me, just like they are to everybody else.”
Gary started Coulter Aviation, but the whole family has been involved at one time or another.
“It’s definitely a family business,” Lynch said. “Lanny told me how lucky he was to make a living working with his dad. It’s a great situation. They all get along.”
Let me add my congratulations to Gary and Coulter Aviation on 50 years of running the Meeker Airport. And with son Lanny carrying on the family business, here’s to the next 50.
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Mark Jansen was one of the finalists for the principal’s job at Rangely High School.
But the offer went to another candidate.
Around that same time, he heard from Dave Walck, a former Rangely teacher and coach, now the assistant principal and activities director at Grand Valley High in Parachute. One thing led to another, and Jansen ended up accepting an offer to teach social studies and coach track at Grand Valley.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy to leave Rangely.
“Oh, yes, it’s very hard to leave,” said Jansen, who taught and coached in the Rangely School District for 18 years. “There are a lot of tearful goodbyes.”
However, Jansen said not being hired for the principal’s job in Rangely made it easier to make a move.
“If I had gotten that, we definitely would have stayed,” Jansen said. “We didn’t really look around after I didn’t get the principal job, but Dave gave me a call, really on another matter. It just so happened there was a track and social studies position, and there was a job perfectly suited for my wife, all in one school. We always had a long-range plan, if we were going to make a move, we’d do it when the kids got in school.”
Jansen and his wife, Edie, whom he met when both started teaching at Rangely High School, have three children, ages 11, 8 and 6.
Edie was a special education and English teacher at RHS before she left teaching to start a family. She’s pursuing a speech language pathology degree online. She will be the director of severe needs special education at Grand Valley.
Mark came to Rangely from his home state of North Dakota.
“This was my first real job,” he said. I had sent out hundreds of resumes and I got one interview, and that was here. I did about everything (during his time in Rangely), but I wanted a job. I met my wife here. That’s all pretty tough to leave.”
During his time in Rangely, Jansen taught social studies and English, directed school plays, coached football and track, served as activities director, was a scoutmaster and spent eight years on the Rangely Town Council, from 1998 to 2006.
“It was great for about six years,” he said. “The last two were a little more contentious, but I enjoyed (serving on the council).”
All in all, it’s been a good experience in Rangely, he said.
“I don’t have any real regrets,” he said. “I’m a little concerned about the schools, and the some of the direction they’re going in, but I’ve really enjoyed the community.”
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The opening of the new Meeker Elementary School is still a ways off — June 2010. And the future of the current grade-school building/site is still undecided.
Meanwhile, the county is moving forward with plans for a new jail and courtroom space.
“As for the justice center, this past week the architect was here to review with the commissioners a ‘tentative’ layout of a proposed new justice center, get feedback, etc.,” said Pat Hooker, county administrator. “We still have several changes to make to the layout, but it’s getting there.”
A site for a proposed new justice center hasn’t been determined, but the county, along with Colorado Northwestern Community College, has expressed an interest in the site of the grade-school building, located across from the courthouse.
“We’re still interested in chatting with the town of Meeker regarding the current elementary site as a possible future site of a new justice center,” Hooker said. “But before much can happen there, the new school has to be completed and the old school vacated. Last I heard, the new school probably won’t be ready until next year. That seems like a long time from now, but I’m sure it will be here before we know it.”
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Meeker Family Health Center lost out on a doctor it was recruiting. Dr. Ross Armour of Berthoud declined the hospital’s offer for a family practice position.
So, it’s back to the drawing board.
“Yes, our search continues,” said Bob Omer, chief executive officer for PMC. “We are making our own contacts and search efforts, as well as working with a national recruitment firm and the Colorado Rural Health Center.”
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Not too long ago, I noticed the flags in front of the Rio Blanco County courthouse were flying at half-staff, but I didn’t know why. So I asked County Clerk Nancy Amick.
“It was by order of the governor in honor of Sgt. James D. Pirtle, 21, of Colorado Springs,” Amick said. “He died on May 1, 2009, in Afghanistan as a result of injuries received from direct fire. Pat Hooker receives these messages and passes them on to the maintenance department here at the courthouse.”
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A big crowd turned out for last week’s member appreciation barbecue at Elks Park in Rangely, sponsored by Moon Lake Electric Association.
“The barbecue went very well and there were approximately 500 people who attended,” said Diana Rasmussen of Moon Lake. “This is an annual event.”
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Lee Light, a longtime Meeker seamstress, is recovering from hip replacement surgery, her daughter Chrys Sackett said.
But she hopes to resume sewing soon.
“It’ll be two weeks before she’ll be back at the sewing machine,” Chrys said, adding her mother has been sewing for many years.
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Kim O’Connell of Bellco Credit Union in Meeker, has been appointed to the county’s master plan technical advisory group. O’Connell serves as treasurer of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
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I mailed a thank-you card last week to Dale Hallebach, the former Meeker postmaster, who retired in January, thanking him for the use of one of his cameras while mine is undergoing repairs. I was surprised when the card was returned because of “insufficient address.”
Oops, I made the mistake of mailing the card to Dale’s street address. But I would’ve figured someone at the post office would’ve known Dale’s box number.
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Speaking of mistakes, I incorrectly reported in a story last week the amount of the Rangely school bond election was $17. 5 million, instead of $15 million. I mixed up my numbers. The $17.5 million was the initial estimated cost of the new Meeker Elementary School, also approved during last November’s election.
It dawned on me I had mixed up the numbers when I was visiting with Dwayne Newman, the former Rangely school superintendent. We were talking about the school construction projects getting under way, when I suddenly had this sinking feeling I had reported the wrong number of the bond election.
Unfortunately, it was too late to make the correction, as the pages had already been sent to the printer.
At least we could correct the story on the Herald Times Web site, but it still didn’t make me feel any better about the mistake appearing in the paper.
I suppose if I stop feeling bad about mistakes that are published in the paper, then I’ll know it’s time to do something different.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.