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RANGELY I From the classroom, to the visitor center, to the Radino Senior Center, and so many areas in between, Tommy and Dorothy Collins have made positive contributions to all ages of people in Rangely.
Tommy came to Rangely in June 1946, when he was 12. When he and his brother Donny, who was 10 at the time, started school in Rangely, they only went on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as the oil boom had brought in more students then the school could handle and kids were split into two groups – a Monday, Wednesday, Friday group, and a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday group. When Tommy began the eighth grade, it was in a one-room school, it was later moved to the park and used as a “teen canteen” and then a museum. The building was moved to the outdoor museum at the east end of town where it remains today.
Tommy remembers the town being “wild and woolly” during the boom, with about 10 bars and no jail.
“The sheriff would handcuff offenders to the light poles until they sobered up and then they would turn them loose,” he said. While in high school he wrestled and participated in boxing and rode his bike or a horse everywhere he went, including his job at the theater making popcorn in the first concession stand. In the summer Tommy worked in the ice house and for Smith’s Chevrolet servicing cars. His first car was a Model A Ford given to him by his grandfather. He was graduated from high school in 1952 and began working for C & R Drilling Company until he was drafted. He served 18 months in Germany in the peacetime army. When he returned home he went back to work for C & R Drilling. One evening he went on a blind date with Dorothy Belt and the two were married a few months later. Tommy worked for Joy Motor Company and then went into business for himself doing automotive repair in a little tin building behind the Snak Bar. He started working for the school in maintenance before receiving a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Fort Collins A & M. He worked for the school for 25 years, teaching auto mechanics, sponsoring the pep club and cheerleaders for several years and serving as the activities director before retiring in 1992. Tommy was active in the Elks at one time and served as the exalted ruler at one time. He serves on the Museum Board and in the winter months while in Mesa, Ariz., he plays guitar and sings at country jams about four days a week.
Dorothy came to Rangely in 1956. She had been teaching in Fort Collins but decided to come to Rangley as they offered $5,200 per year compared to her previous $3,000 salary. She saved $1,000 that year and it was used as a down payment for the house she and Tommy would later buy. There was a great deal of pipeline work going on in Rangely at the time, so the overflow students from grades one through three were put in a transient room where Dorothy began teaching. At the beginning of the year she had nearly 20 students, by January there were only six left as families came and went with the work. She took over art for the teacher that was taking a leave of absence. In the next school year she was back teaching first grade and remained for 29 years before retiring in 1992. Dorothy is also a member of the museum board and has been involved in the Epsilon Chi Sorority for more than 50 years. While in Mesa, she enjoys taking oil painting classes, reading, crafting and scrapbooking.
She and Tommy have volunteered at the Colorado Welcome Center in Dinosaur for 19 years, and have earned almost 5,000 hours of volunteer time.
“We have really enjoyed meeting and helping the many visitors who come through, it is a very rewarding experience.” Dorothy said. They are also very active at the Radino Senior Center. They have served as officers and simply enjoy the company the center offers. They have been members of the Rangely Christian Church for more than 55 years. Tommy has been the choir director and Dorothy has played the piano for more than 25 years. Tommy currently serves as an elder. They have seen so many friends move from the area but appreciate the new ones they have made, and the ones that have stood the test of time.
Tommy and Dorothy have three children: David, Tim, and Michelle. They have six granddaughters and one grandson. They also have two great-grandchildren with another little girl due anytime. They feel lucky to have them close and said, “They keep us young.”
The two have been very busy since they retired. They travel to see their youngest grandchildren and take time to enjoy the sights along the way. They travel to Arizona for the winter but feel that Rangely will always be home.
“Rangely has been very good to us and we have some wonderful memories of past teaching experiences, and wonderful friends,” they agreed.
They have truly given so much to the community of Rangley, as former teachers and as current volunteers, they have impacted people for more than 50 years. Their longevity in education and dedication to helping others through service still is amazing and greatly appreciated.