Like so many others, Mark Patterson was shocked when he heard about the Oct. 11 shooting deaths in Grand Junction.
One of the victims of the random attacks was Terry Fine, a dentist, who was a friend of the Colorado Northwestern Community College dental hygiene program in Rangely.
“My wife opened the paper up that morning (and read about the shootings),” said Patterson, who heads up the CNCC dental hygiene program. “I just couldn’t believe it.”
Fine had been a long-time supporter of the CNCC dental hygiene program.
“I’m not sure when it started,” Patterson said of the relationship. “But it goes back quite awhile. He always said very kind things about our program and our graduates.”
Some of those graduates went on to work at Fine’s dental practice in Grand Junction.
“As far as dental hygienists working in his office, most are CNCC graduates,” Patterson said. “They absolutely loved working for Terry.”
There was the time when Fine extended the use of his dental practice to CNCC.
“Terry offered the use of his office to do some certification and training for dental hygienists when we didn’t have a facility large enough at CNCC to do that,” Patterson said.
Patterson saw Fine at a Western Colorado Dental Society meeting around 2004 or 2005. Fine’s partner, Anthony Naranja, was also there. Patterson talked about the school’s plans to expand.
“I just went there to ask for support for our dental hygiene expansion,” Patterson said. “I didn’t expect to walk out of there with a $2,500 check.”
Patterson doesn’t remember exactly the last time he saw Fine, but he said it wouldn’t have mattered, because Fine would have acted like they were old friends.
“He was the kind of person where, you could see him and have a really good visit with him. Then, five, seven or eight years go by, and it was just like you saw each other yesterday,” Patterson said. “He was a very kind and thoughtful person. Just as a person, never mind that he was a terrific dentist.”
As an example of Fine’s thoughtfulness, Patterson remembered a time when CNCC’s dental hygiene program was in a bind and needed an instructor, and Fine was willing to help out.
“In July 2004, the previous director retired on short notice, and I was appointed director,” Patterson said. “But we needed a clinic dentist to teach some courses, and we just didn’t have anybody. Terry found out about the dilemma and he gave me a call. He said, ‘You know, I’m really wanting to cut back on the days I practice, and I would like to teach.’ He wasn’t interested in the position full time, but he was willing to hold down the fort for us, so we could do the search.”
As it turns out, Philip Brown ended up joining the dental hygiene staff, and Fine’s services weren’t required. But, just the fact he was willing to come to the program’s aid left a lasting impression with Patterson.
“Terry was just a very generous person,” Patterson said. “I was always thankful he was there if we needed him.”
Patterson has nothing but admiration for Fine, as a person and a dentist.
“This is biased and subjective, and I don’t have a measure for it, but he was one of the most respected dentists on the Western Slope by his patients, his colleagues, his friends, his community,” Patterson said. “He was just a wonderful man. It’s just an absolute tragedy.”
Soon after the incident, as investigators where trying to figure out if there was a connection between Fine and the 21-year-old gunman, Patterson was asked whether the shooter, who killed himself, had been a student at CNCC.
“They thought maybe he was a student who was dismissed from the program,” Patterson said. “They were just throwing darts at the wall. I said no one here recognized the name, that he had never been a student here.”
Patterson is still grappling with the death of his friend and colleague.
“It’s just one of those random acts of violence,” Patterson said. “There’s no explanation for it.”
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Tracy Boyd, a spokesman for Shell Oil, said the company was pleased with last week’s publication by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management of final regulations to establish a commercial oil shale program.
“Shell welcomes the publication of the Bureau of Land Management’s commercial oil shale leasing regulations as an important step toward the responsible development of the nation’s oil shale resources,” Boyd said. “The establishment of final regulations for commercial oil shale development is an important step for all companies seeking to understand the commercial terms on which oil shale development will take place in order to allow them to plan for the future.”
Boyd said it is important to understand what the rules do, and do not do.
“These regulations start to define the parameters under which commercial leasing will eventually occur,” Boyd said. “They address provisions of the Energy Policy Act that establish work requirements and milestones to ensure diligent development of leases. … However, these regulations do not authorize leasing to occur, or even set in motion activities that will lead directly to leasing. The timeline leading to eventual commercial leasing must accommodate NEPA requirements as specified in the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which is currently being finalized for issuance by the BLM. This makes the earliest likely commercial leasing several years into the future.”
Not everything in the BLM announcement met with Shell’s expectations, Boyd said.
“The royalty rate in the regulations is not what Shell had been hoping for,” he said. “Considering that we’re talking about a new industry, with technology not yet proven viable at a commercial scale, in an area lacking the necessary support infrastructure, what we had sought was a rate that would more favorably recognize the considerable risk and investment these companies have taken, and thus be more conducive to attracting start-up operations.”
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Rio Blanco County has not been hit nearly as hard by foreclosures as other parts of the country. Karen Arnold, county treasurer, reported 11 foreclosures, with the year almost over.
“With housing in demand in our area, foreclosures have been kept low,” Arnold said.
That compares with seven foreclosures in the county in 2007 and 13 in 2006. The number of foreclosures reached an all-time high in the mid-1980s.
“In 1987, we had a high of 75,” Arnold said. “That was during the oil shale bust. We’ve never hit that since then.”
None of the foreclosures this year has gone to a sale.
“So far, we have not had a sale,” Arnold said. “Most have been caught up between the lender and the owner, the property sold, etc., before the sale date. The new foreclosure laws took the redemption period away after the sale and added it to the front of the foreclosure, giving the homeowner and the lender more time to come to some kind of settlement other than foreclosure.”
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With the Thanksgiving holiday, I asked some of my regular newspaper contacts to share what they are thankful for.
Mandi Etheridge, mayor of Meeker: “My family is healthy — there is nothing more important to be grateful for. The school bond issue passed and my son will have a beautiful, state-of-the-art new school to attend in the fall of 2010, and my school teacher friends at all three schools will have a better work environment overall. That our nation will soon be under a new governmental administration that will hopefully bring more transparency and ethical leadership to the country. The people that work for the town of Meeker — each and every one of them makes our town a better place to live through their daily efforts to serve our community. Blue skies, mountains, fresh air, snowfall, no Wal-Marts, nice people, good friends and easy living; in essence, Meeker.”
Peter Brixius, manager for the town of Rangely: “I am most thankful for my beautiful wife who tolerates me and actually says repeatedly how much she loves me, and I am very thankful for the blessing of my son and his wife and this great land that we live in.”
Pat Hooker, Rio Blanco County administrator: “I’m thankful for my good health, good friends, and a loving, supportive family. I’m especially thankful for my first grandson, who was born this past April.
“I’m thankful to be living in a community that values life, liberty, tradition and has close ties to the farming and ranching way of life. A community that values our abundant and beautiful natural resources and wants to preserve these resources and assets for future generations.
“Lastly, I’m so grateful for a God of my understanding that has provided for all my needs in life and has blessed me by fulfilling many of my never ending wants in life. I’m thankful for living in the most powerful, abundant, and free nation on earth. I’ll be forever thankful and grateful to those that came before me and to those who defend this nation today and tomorrow to keep it that way.”
Brenda Hopson, Rangely Museum: “I am thankful for family, friends and all the wonderful people in our community. This is what makes Rangely a great place to live.”
Phyllis Henley, Rangely Chamber of Commerce: “I am thankful to see the first snow, smell fresh air and enjoy God’s beautiful world. I am thankful for my good health, which enables me to help others. I am thankful for my family and little children as they show us the way.”
Dwayne Newman, Rangely school superintendent: “My family. My friends and colleagues. Living in the USA and our freedom.
Living in Colorado and enjoying its natural beauty. This community, and passing the school bond. The warm fall we’ve had. And good health.”
Sandy Shimko, White River Museum in Meeker: “I am thankful for the people I love and who love me, for having had the pleasure of knowing the people who I cared for and who have now passed on, for being able to worship each in our own way, for my friends, for living in Meeker and knowing its people, for living in the United States and, especially, for my great-grandson who will be born in February.”
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For me, I’m thankful for my four great kids and a family that supports me no matter what, a job that I absolutely love, the chance to work with two of my best friends in the world, and a place to live where I have felt at home from the start.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.