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RANGELY I Educators make such a significant impact on a community, their influence extending far beyond the classroom. Small, rural communities are fortunate when one exceptional teacher moves in and intends to remain for the duration of their career. The benefits are simply immeasurable when that person is married to another teacher, as is the case with long-time Rangely educators, Bill and Martha Mitchem.
The two met in spring 1948 in a psychology class while attending Colorado Teacher’s College in Greeley (now UNC). They both graduated from college in 1951 and married that fall. They moved to a ranch on the eastern slope of Colorado, but as fate would have it, drought and low cattle prices led to an opportunity for Martha, then for Bill, to fill in teaching until the school could find another teacher. They liked teaching and the students liked them and they were both employed for the next two years in Bill’s hometown of Agate, Colo.
Following this teaching stint, Bill and Martha went searching for their next destination. They checked out Sydney, Neb., Moab, Utah, and Rangely. Rangely’s new high school building and higher salaries made the choice an easy one and they moved to town in August 1956. Housing was not easy to find at the time and they settled in the Leech Apartments. After receiving their contract for the next year, they purchased the Pan American Camp House on Stanolind Avenue. They intended to stay three to five years and then “look for greener pastures.”
“… But the roots went down as we became involved in church and the community,” they said, as they discovered Rangely truly is “a great place to live.”
Bill and Martha have five children: daughter Patti (Fred) of South Berwick, Maine and her daughters Johanna and Maggie (currently pursuing graduate work from MIT); their son Jim (Linda) of Milner, Colo., and their daughter Mira (Bill) of Pennsylvania and daughter Ashlyn; their son Brian (Sherry) of Paonia, Colo., and his daughter Kelli (Dennis) of Colorado Springs is expecting her first child in July. Their son Alex re-enlisted in the Air Force, will be married in September and also lives in Colorado Springs. Their son Jeff (Randi) of Broomfield, Colo., have four children: Joe (who will attend the University of Colorado this fall on a track scholarship), son Jake, and twins Emily and Katie. The Mitchem’s son John (Tracie) of Whidbey Island, Wash., where he is a design engineer for Boeing.
The Mitchem’s children “have been and continue to be the joy of our lives.”
Bill and Martha retired from teaching in 1988. They have truly enjoyed outdoor photography and joined a camera club in Grand Junction in 1986. Bill has been very active hiking and taking phenomenal pictures of the beautiful scenery he has encountered. They have traveled to California, through the national parks in Utah and Colorado, and taken incredible pictures near Price, Utah.
The First Baptist Church (The Community Church) has been an important part of their lives since they first moved to Rangely and they have donated countless hours to the church and community. They have always enjoyed volunteering. They began volunteering with the Colorado Welcome Center in Dinosaur when it opened in 1990. Martha has logged nearly 5,000 hours and Bill has more than 4,000. Bill currently spends a great deal of his time at the Bed Rock Depot, “The place to stop in Dinosaur, Colo.” He and Martha help their friends Robert and Leona Hemmerich with the business they opened in 2004. They make ice cream, coffee, espresso drinks, deli sandwiches and even added a gift line in 2005. They want to become the “place to stop between ski areas in Colorado and Utah.”
Martha has also been an active member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha Sorority (social and philanthropic) for approximately 50 years. Bill has served on the Library Board, the College District Committee and the WRBM Recreation District Board, tutored with the adult literacy program, spent time with the boy scouts, and served approximately 30 years on the Rio Blanco Schools Federal Credit Union Board. The two enjoy the home they built 50 years ago “at the interface of town and the desert.” They garden, putter, and collect various items.
The Mitchems have shared 60 years of marriage, with 56 of those in Rangely. They have loved this community and have given endlessly to it and the students they taught. Seldom is a community so fortunate to get two individuals like this who’ve had such a positive impact.