Stone Martin died far too young. He was only 9.
But his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of his family, his friends and everyone who knew him.
The community has been invited to join the Martin family in celebrating Stone’s life at a memorial service Friday, March 19. The public service will be at 2 p.m. in the Meeker High School auditorium.
“We would have had it at the church building, but we didn’t think that would be (big) enough,” Vanessa Martin, Stone’s mother, said. “We will have family coming from out of state, and this (having the service in the high school auditorium) will allow for more people to be able to be there.”
Paul Martin, Stone’s father, is the minister at the Church of Christ in Meeker.
Stone Martin died Jan. 20, the day after he, his older sister Alahna, 12, and his mother were involved in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 13, just outside of Meeker. His death sent shock waves through the community, which has grieved with the Martin family over the loss of a child.
“We want to make sure we express our thanks to the community,” Vanessa Martin said of the public service honoring Stone. “We pray that you all can come and celebrate Stone’s life with us.”
Stone had been a fourth-grader at Meeker Elementary School. March 19 is the last day of school before spring break and classes will be let out early.
“I know, for sure, teachers at the elementary school would want to attend (the memorial service) and I would hope (Stone’s classmates will attend),” Vanessa Martin said.
Since coming home from the hospital Feb. 10, Alahna Martin, who is recuperating from injuries she sustained in the accident, has visited Barone Middle School, where she is a sixth-grader, but has not been able to resume a full class schedule.
“She’s doing great,” Vanessa Martin said. “She is still having severe headaches, just because of the injury (severe brain trauma). We’re seeing improvement as far as short-term memory, cognition and motor skills. Right now, she’s being able to express herself more through pictures and drawings, so she’s able to heal emotionally. That’s the outlet she has right now.
“She’s been attending a few classes here and there, but it’s been very short, just what she can handle,” Vanessa Martin added. “The school has been great working with us.”
Vanessa Martin said she hoped Alahna would be able to advance with her sixth-grade classmates.
“That’s our plan,” Vanessa Martin said. “That would be our goal, but we’ll wait and see how all that goes. In my mind, I don’t think this will put her too far behind. She was homeschooled before, so I know how she learns, and I intend to work with her this summer.”
A couple of weekends ago, the Martins invited some of Alahna’s friends over to the house so they could spend time together.
“They had a great time,” Vanessa Martin said. “It was really nice. I think it was healing, just being able to bond with peers.
“First, the girls made ‘sunshine’ cards for bringing smiles to the residents at the Walbridge Wing. Then they painted their nails, played Uno, and had cupcakes and punch. They had a wonderful time,” Vanessa Martin said. “Alahna really enjoyed watching the girls’ faces when they opened their gift bags from her. It was a perfect occasion to fortify friendships, supporting her reentry into school.”
Alahna and Stone were extremely close as sister and brother, and Paul and Vanessa Martin wanted to wait to have Stone’s memorial service until Alahna was sufficiently recovered from her injuries.
“(Stone) was her best friend,” Vanessa Martin said. “She hasn’t had complete closure with everything that happened. It’s a role we (as parents) can’t fill (replacing Stone). We’re not Stone. She has drawn some of the most insightful pictures of her friendship with him. She loves to draw, and she will express so much emotion. It shows me how she grieves. We talk about it. We keep him alive (in their memories). If it hurts, then it hurts. If it’s happy, then it’s happy.”
The Martins have invited some of Stone’s friends to the house, too, so they can play with his toys, so they can remember him.
“(When Stone’s friends visit), that’s fun for her (Alahna) and it helps. It was music to my ears to hear them play pretend with the Star Wars figures and playing Legos. She really misses him, and this was a good thing for her to get to play like that again. But they (the friends) go home, and we don’t have him here,” Vanessa Martin said. “It is different. His room is empty. But his presence is there. We see him all around us. We will keep it that way, and we will always do that.”
Allowing emotions and memories to come through — not keeping them bottled up — is part of the healing process, Vanessa Martin said.
“I don’t try to block out memories,” Vanessa Martin said. “The only way to heal is to deal with the emotions that you feel, never blocking them out.”
Even driving on the same road where the accident occurred can be part of the healing experience, Vanessa Martin said.
“When we go out of town — that morning was no exception — one of us always says, ‘Look at that valley. We live here. This is the most beautiful place to live. We are so blessed,’” Vanessa Martin said. “This valley is still our favorite valley. It reminds us of God’s glory.
“Every time I pass that stretch of highway, the place where we wrecked, I thank God for all of my blessings … the nine precious years God allowed me to be Stone’s mother, my strong, supportive husband, my amazing daughter and the progress she has made, and for all of the people that love us and pray for us every day. God has blessed us so richly that by the time I am done thanking him, I have arrived at my destination.”
While the Martins have the strength of their faith and the support of family, friends, their church and a caring community, the sense of loss is still profound and at times overwhelming.
“I miss his hugs,” Vanessa Martin said. “He had the best hugs.”
The memorial service will be about one month before what would have been Stone’s 10th birthday.
“His birthday is the 21st of April, and I’m sure that will be very difficult for us, but we’ll do something special,” Vanessa Martin said. “It will just be another chapter of healing for us.”
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Meeker School District, which experimented with a four-day school week in the 1990s, but went back to five days, had, in light of budget challenges, considered going back to the four-day schedule to save money and avoid staff layoffs.
However, the four-day school week option is no longer on the table.
“The four-day week is not a consideration at this time,” superintendent Doug Pfau said Monday.
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A major rockslide early Monday morning — shortly after midnight — in Glenwood Canyon, just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel, closed down traffic in both directions on I-70, between approximately Dotsero and Glenwood Springs. Several detour routes were initiated, including for mail service.
“Anything that’s not 814, 815 or 816 (ZIP codes), I’m taking to Craig and then it can go to Denver,” said Meeker postmaster Caryl Meitler. “So, yes, the mail is going out. It’s just going over another pass. But we’re still getting our mail on time, so it’s working. There shouldn’t be any delay. We will get the mail there.”
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Stanley and Vicki Crawford of Meeker passed through the Glenwood Canyon about six hours before the rockslide and were stopped because of rocks on the road. It was a prelude of what was to come.
“We were just getting to the tunnel in the middle of Glenwood Canyon when we got stopped on the east side of the westbound tunnel,” Vicki Crawford said. “We were about 20 cars back. Once they finally let us through, we could see a rockslide just outside of the tunnel on the west side. They had cleared it so we could get through. So, man, we were really lucky.
“(Son) JR and I were in a truck and Stanley and his sister Kim were in his truck. It was pretty scary just thinking about how close we were (to the major rockslide). It was dark by the time we got to the tunnel. We were just lucky we came over when we did.”
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Doug Overton of Northwest Auto in Meeker received a phone call last week informing him that General Motors had reinstated his dealership. However, he wanted to wait to receive official notification in writing before making an announcement.
Northwest Auto was one of about 2,000 dealerships nationwide last summer that was notified by GM that it would not have its franchise agreement renewed as part of the automaker’s reorganization. Last week, GM announced it will reinstate more than 600 of those dealerships.
Northwest Auto is Rio Blanco County’s only new-car dealership.
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Sam Tolley of Rangely is the proud owner of General Lee, or at least one of the models of the Dodge Charger popularized in the “Dukes of Hazzard” show.
“It’s one of ’em used in the reunion movie,” Tolley said. “I don’t know if there are any left from the TV series. This is one that John Schneider (one of the stars of the show; he played the character “Bo”) had built and he used it in the reunion movie. All of the cast members signed it.”
Tolley’s first connection with the “Dukes of Hazzard” show involved actor Denver Pyle, who played Uncle Jesse.
“He used to own some investments in the area and he would come through quite a bit,” Tolley said. “That’s how I got to know him.”
Pyle died in 1997.
Tolley bought the General Lee car at an auction in October 2009 in Las Vegas.
“I’m not exactly sure what I will do with it,” Tolley said. “The car is a lot more popular than I thought it was. I’d like (to use the car) to do something for charity or fundraisers.”
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The nearly 20-page mysterious e-mail sent to employees of the Meeker School District began with this introduction:
“Teachers, this is an intervention that combines the concerns and ideas I’ve heard about your school district, its current issues and how the district is being managed. You can call me Mrs. Q. This is not my real name, and my name doesn’t start with the letter Q. I may or may not even be a female. I need to keep my anononimity (sp.) to protect my acquaintances and friends from being identified and involved. I’m a retired Meeker teacher who has decided it is time for the school personnel to examine their selves and their practices.”
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Congratulations to the board of directors of the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, which announced last week that the municipal bonds used to construct the Taylor Draw hydroelectric project were paid off in December, four years before their mature date.
The early payoff resulted in a savings of more than $195,000 in interest to the water district’s taxpayers, said Dan Eddy, director of the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District, which oversees operations at the Taylor Draw Hydroelectric Plant, located at Kenney Reservoir, five miles east of Rangely.
“We would like to recognize the achievement of Wade Cox, as our president, in spearheading the move to pay off the bonds, thus saving the taxpaying public many, many dollars,” Eddy said. “And Norm Klements, who served many years on the board of directors, for his efforts in refinancing the bond issue.”
An additional $85,000 was saved on the project in 1998 by refinancing the balance on the bonds through the Colorado Water Resource and Power Development Authority.
Members of the board of directors of the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District are: Peggy Rector, president; Mike Morgan, vice president; Bernie Rice, treasurer; Wade Cox, past president; and Chris Brasfield, board member.
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Meeker’s Chamber of Commerce will be looking for a new executive director. Again.
Shondah Otwell, who took the job in November after serving on an interim basis, will leave the position in May. She and her family will move back to Wyoming to take over the family ranch.
“Shortly after moving to Colorado my dad unexpectedly passed away, leaving my mom running our family ranch in northeast Wyoming by herself,” Otwell said. “We have spent the past year living between here and there, assisting with lambing, calving, haying, etc. Mom has decided that she no longer wants to run the ranch alone, so in order to keep our family ranch operating, Randall and I are moving back to Wyoming to take it over. My great-grandfather settled there in 1938, and we will be the fourth generation to operate the ranch.”
Otwell said she and her family have enjoyed their time in Meeker.
“It has been a difficult decision for us to leave Meeker, as we really like it here and have made some wonderful friends,” Otwell said. “But, this is an opportunity that we cannot give up, for all our families’ sake, not just ours. If we ever want the ranch to pass on to the next generation, it is up to Randall and I to make that happen, there is no one else in our generation that can do that.”
Though her time as executive director was short, Otwell said she thoroughly liked her work with the chamber.
“I have loved my job with the chamber and wish I had more time there,” she said. “But I know it will continue to grow and flourish with or without me.”
Otwell replaced Dave Cole, who was hired as the chamber’s executive director in March 2009. Margie Joy, president of the chamber’s board of directors, announced at the annual banquet Feb. 11 Otwell would be stepping down.
“In regards to the chamber staffing, no decisions have been made,” Joy said. “Right now, the chamber is business as usual for the next couple of months. But we will begin the staffing process later this spring.”
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Drivers in Rio Blanco County are paying more at the pump.
According to the Web site, ColoradoGasPrices.com, average retail gasoline prices in Colorado have risen 5 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.60 per gallon as of Monday. In Meeker and Rangely, prices ranged from $2.84 to $2.86 per gallon.
This compares with the national average that has increased 4.5 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.74 per gallon. Prices in Colorado are 81.3 cents per gallon higher than the same day one year ago and are 10.8 cents per gallon higher than a month ago.
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Drew Riegel of Meeker was sentenced Jan. 8 to three months unsupervised probation after pleading guilty to reckless endangerment, a class 3 misdemeanor, for his involvement in an underage drinking incident last summer. All other charges were dismissed as part of the deferred sentence.
Riegel’s probation is scheduled to end March 31, if he successfully completes the terms of the probation. At which time, he reportedly plans to enter the U.S. Coast Guard.
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Kenneth Coughlin, the defendant in an illegal hunting case, was sentenced March 1.
Coughlin, who now lives in Kalkaska, Mich., “entered his straight plea of guilty as an Alford plea” that he “did unlawfully hunt in a closed area,” according to court records.
All other charges in the case were dismissed.
The defendant was ordered to pay court costs, but there were no fines as part of the sentence and the court ruled Coughlin was “entitled to take possession of the head and antlers” from the bull elk that was shot in September 2009.
The Alford plea “is a guilty plea, where the defendant does not admit the act and asserts innocence. Under the Alford plea the defendant admits that sufficient evidence exists with which the prosecution could likely convince a judge or jury to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Coughlin was issued a citation by the Colorado Division of Wildlife on Sept. 24 for unlawfully hunting in a closed area.
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Wyoming wrestler Joe LeBlanc, who was a state champion for Meeker, was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler for the NCCA West Regional. Wyoming came from behind to win the tournament, with LeBlanc winning at 184 pounds to become an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Div. I Wrestling National Championships. It was UW’s first-ever West Regional team title.
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Now that temperatures have been warming up, it revealed about three or four months’ worth of dog … well, you know … in my backyard, which had been covered by snow until the melt-off. So, I spent part of Sunday afternoon scooping poop in my backyard.
You gotta love springtime in Colorado.
Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.