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Richard, born in Vineland, “attended his first four grades in the one room school at Cedar Grove School near Good Pasture. When the family moved to Rye in 1929 he enrolled in the Rye School and joined the Rye Home Church.”
He remembers riding on the horse drawn plow with his older brother, Herbert, who had the job of clearing Greenhorn Road on snowy days. Paul Ray Jr., became a life-long friend and the two of them spent a great deal of time horseback. One of their favorite things to do was to chase cattle around the bottom of what is now San Isabel Lake.
During his high school years, Richard tells “I met a Brown eyed beauty named, Mary Elizabeth Wilcox. Our courtship tired many a horse on the road between the Bigelow farm three miles south of Rye and the Wilcox farm three miles north on the Old San Isabel Road.” The best, according to Richard, were the all night dances at the Christenson’s barn, when he managed to return home just in time to milk the cows.
He dropped out of school his junior year because the principal would not let him graduate early by taking two years of English in the same year. He soon regretted this mistake and returned to get his diploma by passing all of the required examinations.
After graduation Richard moved to Pueblo, were he worked at the Colorado State Hospital as a cook’s assistant from 1937 to 1939. The job paid 30 dollars a week plus room, board and laundry. He also tended bar at night to make ends meet.
“In October of 1939, short on vacation time and short on patience with Colorado’s mandatory 3 day waiting period, Richard and Mary decided to drive to Raton, New Mexico to get married. Unable to continue living in the dorm at the State Hospital, the new couple rented a small apartment in Pueblo. His new father-in-law, Earl Wilcox, was on the board of the Rye Creamery Co-op and recommended ‘that Bigelow boy’ for the vacant milk-man position in Pueblo. He got the job! He and Mary enjoyed several very contented years delivering milk together in Pueblo.”
When World War II began Richard was initially disqualified for military duty because of an eye injury. He and Mary decided to take advantage of the training available and moved to Denver to become airplane mechanics, eventually working at a base in Ogden Utah.
In 1944, Richard was re-qualified for military service. Mary returned to Rye and he joined the Army, 20th Air Force, home of the B 20 Bomber; spending most of his military time on Mariana Island in Guam. He became a Water Purification Specialist for the duration of the war. “Over the years, Richard proudly displayed many of the seashells that he harvested during his time in Guam.”
Richard returned to Rye in 1946 to six-month old daughter, Sandra. He and Mary bought the house at 6009 Boulder. Briefly, Richard worked at the Rye Fish Hatchery. Then he went to work for the Medill brothers, Earl and Wesley. He learned the skills of carpentry and assisted in the construction and remodeling of many of the homes in the Rye area.
The cold winter of 1950 and new baby Dick, born in December of 1949, put an end to his construction career. In 1950, Richard, with the Medill brothers, took temporary jobs at the Pueblo Army Depot. They carpooled to their jobs east of Pueblo. Richard became the head of the training division in special weapons. He traveled all over the United States, Europe and Indonesia. In 1976, he retired as Director of Administration for the Depot.
Richard served 40 years on the Rye Town Council. When William “Bill” Roley passed away in 1969, Richard completed his mayoral term. The Council begged him to continue as Mayor, but Richard said “no, hell no!”
“Richard’s retirement allowed him to pursue his passion. He called it collecting treasures. His kids often called it collecting junk. His face and his checkbook were legend at auctions and antique shops all over Colorado and parts of Texas. In 1993, Mary lost her battle with liver cancer and went home to be with her Creator. Soon after Mary’s death, Richard renewed his long time friendship with Jenny Kouba. They had several wonderful years together before she also passed away.”
“In 1997, Pearl Walker entered Richard’s life as a dear friend and companion. They spent many joyous hours; traveling, dining, playing cards, and generally looking out for one another.”
“Richard always held learning in high esteem. He took college courses in the 60’s just for the joy of learning new things. He was an avid reader of newspapers, periodicals, novels, biographies, and he especially loved poetry. Richard knew the importance of relationships and truly valued all of his many friendships. He gave freely of that winning smile to all God’s creatures. Except for the war years, Richard spent his entire life hiking, hunting, fishing, loving, laughing, crying, working and playing amid the shadows of his beloved Wet Mountains; following in the tradition of his parents and grandparents. . . He peacefully surrendered to the Lord on March 18, 2013.”