Opinion: Tucker legacy continues to support local students

For nearly 30 years as a coach and teacher, Bob Tucker touched the lives of students.
Tucker died in 2006, but through a golf tournament honoring his memory, his legacy is still having an impact on students’ lives.
A scholarship committee, which included two of Tucker’s former Meeker players — Dale Dunbar and Jim Hanks — met last Friday to interview three of the applicants. The winner of the one-time, $500 college scholarship will be announced at the Meeker High School graduation in May.
Saturday will mark the third annual Coach Bob Tucker Memorial Golf Tournament, which is generally held the first weekend of May and is the first or second tournament of the season at the Meeker Golf Course. Proceeds benefit the scholarship fund bearing the former coach’s name.
Contributions to the Bob Tucker Scholarship Fund can be made to Mountain Valley Bank in Meeker.
Neenan Archistruction, which designed the new elementary school, is the corporate sponsor for Saturday’s tournament at Meeker Golf Course. Other sponsors include Shelton Welding, Bolton Fencing and Construction, Rio Blanco County Abstract Company, White River Energy, Kester Jewelry in Craig and City Market in Rifle.
“We really appreciate all of the sponsors as well as the participants … it’s really them who allow us to provide scholarships,” said Shelie Tucker-Gustafson, one of three daughters of Bob and Jo Tucker.
Shelie sat in on last Friday’s interview process, along with her mother, Jo. Daughters Bobbie Jo and Erin are also part of the scholarship committee. Bobbie Jo will be on hand for Saturday’s event.
“We all have our different roles, “ said daughter Shelie, who lives in Denver.
“It’s very helpful to me,” Jo Tucker said.
As part of the application, students are required to write an essay.
“They talk about either a challenge they have been faced with and overcome, or talk about sportsmanship and integrity,” Shelie said.
Her father was a standout multi-sport athlete for Meeker and then went on to play three sports at Mesa State College. Bob Tucker was inducted into the Mesa State Hall of Fame in 1998. He was the first Coloradan to be named to a junior college All-American team in football.
“They say he was one of Meeker’s best athletes,” said Jim Cook, the pro at Meeker Golf Course. Bob Tucker was Cook’s high school football coach.
In retirement, golf became Bob Tucker’s game.
“He was an avid golfer until the end,” Cook said. “He loved the game. He had one of the most natural, graceful swings.”
Dunbar had Tucker as a coach for three sports.
“He was my eighth-grade basketball coach, he was my football coach all four years of high school and he was my baseball coach in high school. My first experience with Bob Tucker as a coach was in little league baseball, where he was my coach for the 8-10 year olds,” said Dunbar, who will play in Saturday’s tournament named for his former coach. “Our families were always good friends. He was around the same time as my dad in high school. Back in the day … he was quite the athlete.”
He was also quite the coach.
“He coached everything except wrestling,” Jo Tucker said. “People used to say you could tell what season it was by what ball Bob Tucker had in his hand. He did enjoy the sports.”
In 1995, the year Bob Tucker retired, the road between the middle school and high school was named for him.
“He was a hometown boy,” Jo Tucker said. “He never wanted to leave here.”
As proceeds from the tournament grow, the family hopes to build the scholarship fund.
“We are working to build a sustainable scholarship,” Shelie Tucker-Gustafson said. “We’re hopeful in the next one or two years, we will be able to make it a renewable scholarship.”
Previous scholarship recipients were: Chas Mills 2007, Tyler Howey 2008 and Clinton Kilduff 2009. Two of the recipients are attending school, while one is training for the Navy Seals.
“It’s really about the kids, because dad had such a passion for what he did and he wanted to help others be successful and a lot of people helped dad when he was growing up,” daughter Shelie said. “So this is a way to continue to pay forward. This is a way for him to continue touching kids’ lives.”
• • • • •
Upriver has changed considerably in recent years. The Sleepy Cat Lodge and Restaurant is no more. The Buford Store and Lodge is closed.
Another iconic upriver enterprise — Fritzlan’s Guest Ranch — is doing the same.
“The cafe will be closed to the public,” Arlene Fritzlan said. “I will feed my own people staying here (at the guest ranch). But it got too expensive, and I can’t hire help. Plus the economy. Last year, it was way down. We didn’t have the walk-ins. There just weren’t the travelers. It’s tough.”
Arlene has been operating the cafe since it opened in 1975. The family has been outfitting since 1961. Arlene and her husband, Calvin, operated the business together. He died in 1996. Arlene has been running things ever since, with the help of family members.
Traditionally, the cafe would open for the season on Mother’s Day. But not this year.
“Mother’s Day was a big day. We used to be wall-to-wall people. That and Father’s Day were always big days. But (business) just fell off, and I got to the age I couldn’t handle it,” said Arlene, who will turn 79 in December. “People don’t want to stay up here and they don’t want to drive (upriver).”
She said the closing of Fritzlan’s is another sign of the changing times upriver.
“It’s been fun,” she said. “But things have changed. We have to deal with it.”
On the bright side, Arlene said business at the guest ranch is picking up.
“We almost have the cabins full for hunting season, and I have some big bookings for the summer,” she said.
• • • • •
Dirt work has begun on the new Kum ’N’ Go in Rangely, while interior work is winding down on the new Family Dollar store, both will be new additions on Main Street.
“Kum ’N’ Go has an estimated five to six months for street improvements, access, tank installation, canopies, store and lot surfacing,” said Rangely Town Manager Peter Brixius. “Family Dollar is expected to open before the end of May. Fixtures and shelving are coming soon, with product stocking to follow.”
• • • • •
County commissioner candidates Shawn Bolton and Pat Hughes are moving ahead with plans to petition to have their names placed on the August primary ballot, along with Wendy Gutierrez, who was the only candidate to receive the required number of votes at the Republican County Assembly. Her name will automatically be put on the ballot.
“I have decided to petition,” Hughes said.
Said Bolton, “I’m working on getting signatures now.”
• • • • •
Rangely’s new Tea Party group hosted the county commissioner candidates in a forum last week.
“The meeting went well. We had about 20 attendees. All three prospective candidates were in attendance. Discussions included personal information on the candidates, why they were running, their qualifications and their views on their impact on Rangely and the historical division in this county,” said Lisa LeFevre, one of the Tea Party organizers. “Community members asked about solutions to issues facing this end of the county, ranging from the impact resulting from the closure of the dump on this end of the county, to fiscal responsibility and willingness to advocate for our issues at the state and federal level. As with all of the meetings thus far, there is a recognition that we, as the democracy, must get involved, get informed, and advocate for ourselves at all levels of government. Although there were expressions of frustration with issues, the meeting was quite congenial and we appreciate everyone’s willingness and participation.”
• • • • •
Tom Kilduff, commander of Meeker VFW Post 5843, said Bill Brennan, a World War II veteran, will take part in the next Western Slope Honor Flight trip to visit the war memorials in Washington, D.C. He will be accompanied by his son Mike Brennan.
Jerry Wilber, another WWII veteran and one of two surviving charter members of Meeker VFW Post 5843, which was started in 1945, will also be on the Honor Flight trip. Anita Peters, a nurse from the Walbridge Wing, where Jerry is a resident, will go along as his guardian.
The Western Slope Honor Flight Committee is making preparations for the second flight to Washington, D.C., for WWII veterans.
“The inaugural Honor Flight (on Aug. 25 and 26 of last year) was such a tremendous success that the committee voted unanimously to host a second flight,” said vice president Kris Baugh of Grand Junction.
The mission of Honor Flight is to transport World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials dedicated in their honor.
“The goal of WSHF is to make this dream a reality for members of ‘The Greatest Generation’ who have waited so long for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Baugh said.
The dates of the second Honor Flight trip are May 4 and 5. Plans are to take approximately 175 veterans, guardians, medical personnel and media on board for the 36-hour whirlwind trip to Washington, D.C.
• • • • •
Rangely Wrestling Club will host a peewee wrestling tournament Saturday. A similar tournament was held in Meeker on April 17.
“This will be our last tournament of the season and our only home one,” said Rangely coach Jeff Heinle. “Everybody gets a a tournament. There are seven teams in the league and six of them get to host a tournament, so it rotates. It’s the biggest moneymaker for your program.”
The Rangely team will sport new singlets, thanks to contributions from local businesses.
• • • • •
April 21 would have been Stone Martin’s 10th birthday.
“The Martin family was blessed to have him in their lives and are missing him today,” said family friend Neal Pollard in a Facebook message. “Please remember Paul, Vanessa and Alahna as they continue to cope, adjust, hope and trust.”
Stone died Jan. 20 from injuries he suffered in a car crash the day before.
• • • • •
Roy Light of Meeker came into the Herald Times office last Thursday, and he had a newspaper in his hands.
“I accidentally grabbed two newspapers,” Roy said, who had stopped by earlier in the day to buy a newspaper.
I said, “Well, talk about the honor system. That’s awfully nice of you.”
Roy said, “If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to sleep tonight.”
Now, there’s a honest man for you.
• • • • •
There has been some sad news lately.
The communities on both ends of the county have both lost prominent residents — Jerry Hayes of Rangely and Darryl Stout of Meeker. Then there was the news that Herb Blagg, the longtime Meeker pharmacist who was retired and living in Florida, died last week — the same day as a Chamber of Commerce After Hours event was held at Meeker Drugs. The third generation of the Blagg family is now running the business. Herb would have been proud.
I also was shocked to learn last week that James Quintana, operations manager of the new Williams Willow Creek Gas Plant, suffered a heart attack and died April 17. He was 43 and left behind a wife and three children.
Then there was the newest shocking revelation that Kris Borchard, director of Meeker Emergency Medical Services and president of the Pioneers Medical Center Board of Directors, has been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. She first had something detected during testing at the Meeker 9Health Fair April 17.
Kris, please know the thoughts and prayers of all of us are with you.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.