benevolence - estes park is mostly good

August 20, 2017

“We are better off today because of Jean Weaver having been our neighbor all these years.”

Jean Eleanor Clark Weaver, 89, long-time Estes Park resident, died late Friday, August 18, true to herself and the home she fiercely cherished – stealing one last glimpse of the Big Thompson, willow-bent, and a sky massed with stars.

Born on April 13, 1928 in a working-class neighborhood of Trenton, NJ, Jean, the only child of Bliss and Ethel Clark, navigated the Great Depression and World War II with a tomboy efficiency, mixing natural athleticism, effortless wit, and remarkable dedication, even as a teenager, to improvement through community service. She helped with scrap drives and learned to operate a tractor while cultivating victory gardens for the Women’s Land Army.

She also displayed an early independent streak, ignoring her mother’s pleas and hitchhiking to Colorado in 1949 with a classmate while on summer break from Trenton Teachers College (now The College of New Jersey). Any free time from waitressing jobs at Colorado Springs hotels was spent thumbing rides to hiking spots, including in Rocky Mountain National Park, where Jean saw her future in full repose, and cached a secret promise.

After graduating the following year with a degree in physical education, Jean returned to Estes Park, taking lodging in Mrs. Baldridge’s “Colonial Rooms” boarding house and waiting tables, initially at Mrs. Burgess’ Old Plantation.

Jean met and married Carl Wilbur “Web” Weaver soon after, in May 1951. Web, an avid fly-fisherman and demolition expert, was a transplant from the opposite coast, California, and in many other ways this union met in the middle. Both Jean and Web shared a fondness for the outdoors, especially the Estes Park outdoors. Early on, Web found an off-season job in Arizona, but they couldn’t even last one winter with their Christmas cactus before heading back to Estes, homesick.

In time, Web became a valued employee of the Estes Park Light and Power Division, while Jean, plucked from the cafeteria line at Hidden Valley, discovered another talent – ski-school instructor. Despite being barely one lesson ahead of her first group of students, Jean’s innate ability and dogged determination made her a quick study, and she ultimately became one of Estes Park’s most awarded adult downhill and cross-country ski racers.

When Web died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack on April 4, 1971, Jean again found strength in self-reliance and only-child independence. Since she had little patience for cooking or the time required to prepare multi-ingredient meals after Web’s death, she also pretty much retired her stove.

Encouraged by EPHS music teacher and close friend Claudia Irwin, whose budget for school musicals required an outside financial boost, Jean embarked on a mostly underappreciated venture at the time, that of recycling items in Estes Park that would have otherwise ended up clogging landfills or adding to forest and fossil fuel waste. What was initially derided as little more than rag-picking or dumpster diving has now come full circle, to the point where people feel guilty for not recycling enough. For her tireless efforts in promoting community-wide recycling and the local celebration of Earth Day, Jean had semi-regal titles bestowed upon her, like “Jean the Recycling Queen” and “Green Jean”.

Jean almost single-handedly launched and manned Estes Park’s nascent recycling program through the 1970s, growing it to the point where it, a decade later, it was recognized for statewide excellence. Jean eventually handed the bulk of operation off to the Recycling Committee of the League of Women Voters as the second-longest continuously operating recycling program in Colorado (behind Boulder), and her pioneering efforts earned her a RMNP Stewardship Award in 1991, and the Larimer County Environmental Stewardship Award in 2009.

Jean loved: Hiking with her Thursday Hiking Club (that hardly ever hiked on Thursdays), downhill skiing, trapping beaver, Rockies baseball, the Saturday Oldtimers’ breakfasts, creating local history clippings files, chocolate, counting honks every Wednesday with Patriots for Peace, and attending and speaking at the Sunday morning Quaker meetings. She had little interest in ostentation or nonutilitarian fashion, and counted her wealth in the people she influenced and the acres of wilderness she preserved. No one could ever accuse Jean of being soft or indecisive – She was a breast cancer survivor, spent a month one winter living above treeline and 100+ mph winds near the top of the Ute Trail while assisting in research on a type of alpine sedge, and signed the papers to donate her body to medical science in 1971.

Jean was a charter member of the Beaver Point Association and gave naturalist programs at Baldpate Inn and the YMCA. She summited Longs Peak a dozen times, including by technical routes, and climbed all the peaks above 13,000 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. She let people hunt and fish on her property, and, now that it doesn’t matter, one secret previously known only to close friends can be revealed – She trusted the decency of humankind so much her door was always left unlocked.

A celebration of Jean’s life will be held on Wednesday, 13 September from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Estes Park Senior Citizens Center on 220 4th Street. Price of admission is two (empty, or emptied on site) aluminum cans. At 4:00 p.m., an impromptu motorcade through the parking lot will attempt to break the standing record for honks in Estes Park within a defined period. At Jean’s request, departure gifts include one of her medals from years of dominating various regional and statewide sporting events.

Memorials can be sent to any of the charities Jean supported: Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, National Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy, Rocky Mountain PBS, or KUNC radio.

When Jean laughed, her eyes sparkled. When Parkinson’s became increasingly unyielding to a life spent in perpetual motion, Jean battled it to an uneasy truce, never allowing it to define or defeat her, finally waving it through like a toreador flourishing a cape, another example of Jean’s strength and quiet dignity.

Once Jean achieved the status of “living legend” in the community, laudatory newspaper profiles became more commonplace, and one in particular found the mark: “We are better off today because of Jean Weaver having been our neighbor all these years.”

April 4, 2017

Local Historian draws New Zealands national museum curator to Estes Park

Fred Clatworthy was a household name in Estes Park- although more commonly in the early 1900's. His skill in capturing images of the Estes Park community remain the gold standard for detail and composure, and to have one of Clatworthy's pieces of work is notable. So important is Clatworthy's work to the history of New Zealand, the historical photography curator of Te Papa will visit Estes Park and Denver during her search for original Clatworthy autochromes during the coming summer. Te Papa is the national museum of New Zealand, and has been likened to our Smithsonian.

Local historian John Meissner just returned from New Zealand on an Estes Park history mission, and the next chapter will come as national museum curator Lissa Mitchell visits our community during her own search. Here's an excerpt from the New Zealand National news:

A joint mission to find and identify more than 150 rare scenic colour plate photos of New Zealand taken by an American National Geographic photographer in the late 1920s is under way.

First patented in 1903 autochromes - an early form of colour photography - were single unique glass plate images that had no negative and no multiple prints. It was the main colourisaton process before subtractive colour film took over in the mid-1930s.

John Meissner - who runs the Estes Park Archives in Estes Park, Colorado, where Clatworthy spent most of his life - has recently been in New Zealand on a fact-finding mission to Te Papa.

Before Clatworthy arrived Meissner said some of his work had been featured in the esteemed National Geographic magazine, and he used this status as a calling card to convince newspapers and government officials that he was here as an agent of the magazine.

John Meissner is a longtime Estes Park resident, and has become the authority about anything that is Estes Park. Meissner can recite paragraphs of facts on demand about most historical people and property in our community. He is adept at relaying stories about the way things were, as if he had experienced them himself.
Fred Payne Clatworthy made his home in Estes Park for most of his adult life. The pursuit of Clatworthy's New Zealand photographic expedition is coming to Estes Park.

"This was probably only partly true. He was mostly there on a Matson cruise ship promising them some of his work for their advertising and publicity campaigns in exchange for a free berth," Meissner said.

"The autochromes he produced from this Cook Islands-Tahiti-New Zealand trip are something of a mystery, since what he sent back to the New Zealand government has apparently been lost, and the remainder of his work from that trip suffers in semi-obscurity in a Denver museum."

In April that year the Evening Post heralded Clatworthy as "America's leading exponent of the art of colour photography". For his part Clatworthy was equally taken with the country's scenic endowments: "I am amazed at the wonderful variety you have packed into these two islands, and have found it quite impossible to make more than a brief selection in the time at my disposal," he told the Post. Based out of the capital Clatworthy first headed south to Mt Cook then Queenstown and the Southern Lakes and along the Milford Track before returning to Wellington and heading north taking in the marvels of Whanganui, Taranaki, the Rotorua thermal zone and Auckland and its vulcan harbour. The Post, on October 24, 1928 reviewed Clatworthy's visit, describing his autochrome of Mt Taranaki "capped in snow, it's slopes tinted with the colours of the rainbow," while his rendering of Mt Cook and The Hermitage was "artistic" enabling "one to realise New Zealand's charms from a new angle."  Meissner, who runs the Estes Park Archives in Estes Park, Colorado, where Clatworthy spent most of his adult life has recently visited New Zealand to show Te Papa curators documents of Clatworthy's tour and ask for help in identifying over 1000 unidentified or poorly identified autochromes held in the US and probably taken here. "We need help here in America in distinguishing generic scenic shots of New Zealand from similar scenes in Tahiti, Hawaii and the Pacific coast of Mexico, and Te Papa needs help in locating the 50 autochromes that Clatworthy sent back to the New Zealand government in 1928," Meissner said. Lissa Mitchell, Te Papa's historical photography curator, became acquainted with Meissner and US collector Mark Jacobs a few years ago after writing a journal article on the use of the technique in New Zealand. Before this bit of archivist's serendipity Mitchell had not been able to find any of Clatworthy's work. Meissner and Jacobs contacted her saying they knew where some of the autochromes were held. "I was surprised and delighted to make contact with them and start to uncover more about Clatworthy and where his collection is. However, short of visiting the US I can't see most of them," Mitchell said. Mitchell confirms the fate of the selection of his best New Zealand autochromes is unknown - although the government did acknowledge their receipt. Autochromes are small and often mistaken as glass colour lantern slides, which compounds the problem of identification. Mitchell said autochromes, especially those made here, are rare - which adds to the allure. "Because it is such a rare and special form of early colour photography, it would be great to access Clatworthy's New Zealand autochromes held in the US," Mitchell said. But she will have to wait - the Clatworthy collection held in Denver's History Colorado Museum is currently under 'quarantine' until June, while it is conserved and reorganised. 

Read the entire National article here, accompanied by some early Clatworthy autochrome images from New Zealand.

Nice Work, John Meissner! Thanks for keeping the history of Estes Park alive and well in your caring hands.

February 27, 2017

"Captain Colorado" raised in Estes Park

303 Magazine, radio station KTCL (93.3) and Illegal Pete's restaurant banded together to find 2 people who most embody everything that's great about our state- and found one that was born and raised in beautiful Estes Park.

Cameron Stark is a natural co-winner of the 2017 "Captain Colorado", a title he will share with Jess Martin of Westminster. Cameron is easy to spot around town and on the National Park trails where he works, with his long golden locks streaming behind him. You might catch sight of Cam ferrying his snowmobile atop his truck camper on the way to adventure, or slinging a pick on the trail crew in Rocky. With a wild curb appeal and tender heart, Cameron has participated in most of the outdoor activities that surround us, and then some. 

Wild yet tender Cameron Stark on another adventure,
and now: "Captain Colorado"

Serving on the Alpine Hot Shot team as a wildland firefighter, and spending Search & Rescue time on top of giving to youth through outdoor activity outreach, Cameron is someone you like immediately and will enjoy listening to his stories. His supportive family are well known in our community for their involvement in the schools and local sports, and are a great example of a family getting involved in the place they love. 

There's a party to celebrate "Captain Colorado" at Illegal Pete's locations across Colorado on Friday March 3, check out the 303 Magazine article to read more about the winners, and the party. ARTICLE HERE

Way to go Cameron - you make Estes proud!