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MEEKER I In the universal quest of living life to the full, perhaps success can best be measured by how sincerely you give of yourself, maintain a positive outlook and take every opportunity to make each day an experience to enjoy, to give and to share with someone who shares your interests.
Ethel Starbuck and Joe Sullivan have achieved that kind of success so fully it has strengthened, and even lengthened, their lives. Now 94 and 92 years old, respectively, the couple continue to help their community in many ways.
Ethel came to Meeker in 1941. She had been a teacher at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., after receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and her master’s degree in business education at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo.
When she arrived in Meeker, “We had two horseshoe shops and a grain elevator here in town,” she said. She worked first as a substitute teacher while her two children were small. In 1953 she accepted a full-time teaching position as the business education teacher and taught for 30 years before her retirement in 1983. She was an exceptional teacher. A picture of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds is framed above a letter from Captain Tony Seely, thanking her for her influence. When her picture was posted on Facebook recently, former students responded, all echoing the influence she had on them.
A parent whose three children were taught by “Mrs. Starbuck” said, “She was probably the best teacher for the kids, ever.” She had a way of working with the kids in a sincere, intelligent, respectful manner, and the result was an educational model worth copying.
Through the years, Ethel was also involved in other facets of the community. She was a member of the Meeker Investment Group, served as the Chapter B.A. of the P.E.O., was a member of the Meeker Golf Association, the Colorado Education Association and the National Education Association. She regularly attends photography classes at CNCC.
Joe came to Meeker in 1946 after World War II. He volunteered for the Army Air Corps the day after the Pearl Harbor attack and was sworn in on Dec. 10, 1941. He served four years, working as a crew chief on B-24, B-26, A-20, B-29 and C-47 airplanes in Biloxi, Miss. After returning to Meeker, he raised wheat. Joe was a member of the Soil Conservation District, president of the Colorado Wheat Growers Administrative Committee, chairman of the town’s planning commission for 10 years, a member of the Mined Land Reclamation Commission of Colorado for seven years, a member of the ASC Committee which administered farm programs for Rio Blanco County and he is a board member of the White River Historical Society and co-chair of the Milk Creek Battlefield Park Project.
“I believe very strongly in history,” he said. His work on the Milk Creek project are worth the trip. The military monument has been relocated near the Indian monument, and a fence and beautiful entry into the site erected. They eventually hope to have tables, and pictures of the influential people involved in the battle. The Milk Creek Battle was an important military encounter between the United States and the Native Americans. The Milk Creek project intends to provide both perspectives.
Together, Ethel and Joe have always enjoyed horseback riding, ranching, fishing, reading, dancing, photography and traveling. The two took a boat trip from the Ladore Canyon entry to Dinosaur in 1995. They have become very involved in Elderhostels — also known as road scholar programs — which are educational trips around the country and abroad. Ethel received an award for attending 30 Elderhostels. Joe and Ethel have visited Central Arizona College; Seashore Methodist Assembly in Biloxi, Miss.; Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.; Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, Kan.; Wonder Valley Ranch and Conference Center in Sanger, Calif.; and Road Scholar in Tucson/Rio Rico, Ariz. They drive to their destinations, often taking the opportunity to visit combined families along the way. On their trip to Biloxi, they took a quick detour north to Memphis and even took a ride on a modern cottonpicker along the way.
Both are members of the United Methodist Church of Meeker. They have contributed greatly to our community and enjoyed this area together.
“Rio Blanco County is the center of the universe for us,” they said. “It has the nicest scenery, and the nicest people.”
They have seen the community change a lot since 1941, from being primarily agricultural to more energy and service-based now, but their love for the area and for their friends and families has not changed. Ethel’s 11 great-grandchildren are a source of pride and joy.
Joe and Ethel are an example of how to show respect for one another: they never interrupt, and they truly listen when the other speaks. They converse in a gentle, intelligent, sincere manner.
They plan on continuing to ride and be active in the community as long as possible. The photo of Ethel on horseback was taken just four weeks ago. It doesn’t appear that either of them are slowing down any time soon.