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MEEKER I More than 300 Rio Blanco County Pioneers Association members, including many former Meeker residents from across the nation, traveled to Meeker for the centennial celebration of the “Old Timers” Reunion Dinner and Dance on Saturday, June 2 at the Fairfield Community Center.
Rio Blanco County Pioneers Association co-presidents Connie Theos and Mary Ann Wilber extended a warm welcome to pioneers who attended the 100th anniversary celebration. Reunion festivities began at 3 p.m. with a reception and visiting with members, some of whom had not been back for many years.
The first reunion was held in 1912 and has continued each year since then. Many prestigious Rio Blanco County citizens have served as presidents of the association and were honored in a special media presentation prepared by Tonya Morris. The show featured photos of each president and the top music hit from that year. DVD copies of the show are available by contacting Theos or Wilber, who extended special appreciation to Tonya Morris for her extensive work in coordinating and preparing the show and to all families and friends who provided photos of their relatives who served as past presidents.
Sandy Shimko of the White River Museum was especially helpful in gathering photos and historical data on past presidents.
Music educators and musicians Bob and Suzie Eggebraten, and their daughter Anna Todd, all of whom teach in the Meeker school system, entertained pioneers with a special litany of popular music from the early years of the annual reunion to the present during a buffet dinner catered by Kris and Henry Arcolesse of Ma Famiglia restaurant. Group and individual photographs were taken by Dale Hallebach for pioneers, and a montage of photos will be available on DVD and on the www.rbcpioneers.org website after the occasion as centennial memorabilia.
A special feature of this year’s gathering was the Capturing Our Culture oral history interviews of individuals, families and groups. Interview with cowboys, teachers, members of class reunions, family reunions, regional groups, area residents and many others were documented on video and may be transcribed to DVD as a basis for possible future publication by the Rio Blanco County Historical Society in cooperation with the Meeker Arts and Cultural Council and the Rio Blanco County Pioneers Association. More than 20 interviews were conducted before the dinner and provided an amazing documentary of early day and contemporary history of the colorful residents of the Meeker area. Anyone interested in scheduling future COC interviews is encouraged to contact the White River Museum at 878-9982 to set an appointment for an interview. The COC team will meet in any venue to conduct the interviews. Special appreciation is extended to Ellene Meece, president of the RBC Historical Society; and Meeker Arts and Cultural Council members Vanessa Hansen, Stephanie Kobald, Gary Zellers, Laurie Zellers, Ron Hilkey, Robert Amick and David Meece for coordinating and videotaping the interviews.
A special all-class centennial reunion was held for classmates of all classes of Meeker and Rangely high schools. Among the classes holding reunions were the class of 1944 coordinated by Lucy Jane Howey; the class of 1947s 65th reunion coordinated by Eddie Collins, Dick and Nyla Merriam, Jerry Pierce, Betty Oldland, Norma Oldland with nine classmates; the class of 1948 coordinated by Dick and Merle Dean Moyer; the class of 1952 held its 60th class reunion coordinated by Sue Ann and David Smith with 23 classmates present; the class of 1953’s 59th class reunion coordinated by Sally Wilson and Emma Lou Frisby had 11 classmates attending; the class of 1958’s 54th class reunion coordinated by Don and Rosemary Hilkey had six classmates present; the class of 1961 had five classmates present; the class of 1962 and 1973 were represented; 1963 with six classmates attending.
Community Reunion Groups included the Little Beaver Community coordinated by Geri Camera.
Refreshments and a cash bar was provided by the Meeker Lions Club
Proclamations and commendations were received from a variety of government dignitaries including Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, U. S. Senator Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator Mark Udall, Representative Scott Tipton, Meeker Mayor Mandi Etheridge and RBC Commissioner Kai Turner. Colorado State Senator Jean White attended the dinner with her husband Al White, director of tourism for the state of Colorado, to personally present a special proclamation in honor of the centennial reunion from the Senate.
Recognitions of special pioneers were made as follows:
Oldest Pioneer Lady: Evelyn Metzger, 99
Oldest Pioneer Gentleman: Gerald Wilber, 94
Youngest Pioneer Lady: Ms. Catherine Campbell
Youngest Pioneer Gentleman: Garrett Morris
Pioneer Couple married the most years: Glen and Phyllis Wigington, 69 years; Byron and Jo Linden 69 years.
Pioneer Trails award (pioneers traveling greatest distance): Rodney Smith, Alaska; Nicole Morris Freeman, Georgia.
A special resolution approved by the association membership has empowered and directed the RBCPA leadership to create a steering committee of members to seek methods and resources to expand membership, and to enhance attendance and opportunities for future events. Accordingly, the steering committee will be charged with creating new bylaws, articles of incorporation necessary for registering as a non-profit organization with the Secretary of State, and applying for IRS 501 [c] 3 nonprofit designation. These efforts will permit robust fund-raising efforts to offset increasing costs of producing the annual event, and recruiting new and younger members.
The nominating committee, chaired by Mary Whalin, and members Mike Whalin, Geri Camera and Mary Kay Krueger presented a slate of 2013 officers including Kay and Robert Bivens as co-presidents, Sandra Bradfield and Robert Amick as co-vice presidents, Haley Kracht as secretary, Connie Theos as treasurer, and Kay Bivens as historian. Nominations were approved by the membership and officers were installed. Appreciation was expressed to retiring co-presidents Connie Theos and Mary Ann Wilber, vice presidents Kay and Robert Bivens, secretary Vicki Crawford and treasurer Rhonda Hilkey.
A souvenir centennial commemorative program included the names of all pioneers who had passed away during 2011-2012. They were remembered in a moment of silence by historian Kay Bivens. The names of all RBCPA presidents since 1912 were published as well as reproductions of all proclamations and letters of commendation from government officials. Each member received a souvenir centennial name card and a centennial key chain.
Mary Ann Wilber will be returning all loaned photographs to their owners in the near future.
The dance that followed was enjoyed by all with particularly fine music from the Blue River Band from Kremmling. A midnight supper ended the 2012 festivities.
The RBCPA wishes to extend special appreciation to the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to the centennial event:
The Board of County Commissioners, Shawn Bolton, Ken Parsons and Kai Turner for providing the use of the Fairfield Center at no cost and especially to Kai Turner for dedicated efforts on setting up and takedown and for delivering the commissioner’s proclamation at the dinner; Senator Jean White and husband Al White, for delivering the senate proclamation; Bobby Gutierrez, editor, Rio Blanco Herald Times for promotion, publicity and support; Tonya Morris, graphics designer, for programs, invitations and media show production; local artist Pat Daggett provided the beautiful artwork for centennial banners that were displayed on the walls depicting the many resources and attributes of Rio Blanco County; Miguel Pinela for creating the photo backdrop and extensive efforts in setting up; the decorations committee of Tonne Mangus, Kathy Kracht, Sandy Bradfield, Mary Ann Wilber, Diane McKee, Alex Halandras, Elena Theos and Pauline Wilber; Bryce Purkey for conducting an auction of memorabilia to help defray expenses; Father Scott of St. James Episcopal Church for the invocation; Kris And Henry Arcolesse. Ma Famiglia Italian Restaurant for excellent catering; the Blue River Band of Kremmling, Colo., for music.
Benefactors donating funding for expenses: First National Bank of the Rockies, Nichols Store (Rangely), Moody Construction (Meeker), NAPA Auto Parts, Overton Brothers (Meeker), Northwest Auto (Meeker), Villa Ranch (Meeker), White River Electric Association, White River Soil Conservation District, Pauline Wilber, Mary Ann Wilber, Connie Theos and Robert Amick.