A star winks out: Starr Doll was a bright spot in Eagle for nearly 93 years
EAGLE — When you thought of Starr Doll, chances are the name made you smile, and not just because of its whimsical nature.
Starr was as lovely as her name. She was a rare woman — kind, funny and sweet — and Eagle is a dimmer place now that she is gone.
Starr passed away on Sunday, Sept. 10, 10 days short of her 93rd birthday. She was born on Sept. 20, 1924, in Gypsum. Her mother, Meda Higdon, died in childbirth. Starr was raised by her maternal grandfather and grandmother — Dr. William L. Conway and his wife, Lillian Conway. Her given name was actually Naomi Lillian Higdon, but her grandfather always called her his “Little Star,” and that nickname stuck. Years later, she officially changed her name to “Starr.”
Starr’s son Morton Jr. “Buddy” Doll described Dr. Conway as a “horse and buggy” doctor who made lots of house calls. He also served as the Eagle County coroner for many years. The Conways lived along Eagle Street, and growing up in Gypsum, Starr formed one of her lifelong friendships with Charlotte Anderson (Mayne).
“They always liked to hang out at the Poor Farm because the old folks would give them candy and tell them stories,” Buddy said.
Starr grew up during the Great Depression, so she remembered that people sometimes couldn’t pay their medical bills. She recalled waking up, or coming home to find produce and meat on the doorstep and she said that her grandfather was okay with the barter system, but her grandmother, who kept the doctor’s books, wasn’t a huge fan of the arrangement.
She attended local schools and graduated from Eagle County High School in 1941. One of her classmates was Morton Doll, whom she married in 1946. After high school, Starr traveled to Detroit to attend college, but she returned to Colorado in pretty short order because she was so homesick.
During World War II, Starr worked for the Gypsum rationing board.
“That’s how my dad was able to drive to rodeos, because she kept him in gas and tires, both of which were heavily rationed in those days,” Buddy said.
Mort and Starr were married on Jan. 6, 1946. Locals Jack and Joanne Clark stood up with them, and their honeymoon was a trip to Denver with Gene and Myrnellis Trump. The couple then settled at the Deep Creek Ranch, located about a mile up the Deep Lake road, and soon after moved to the log house in Dotsero. That’s where the Dolls brought home sons Buddy and Kevin and where the family lived until 1963 when the ranch was sold.
Buddy said becoming a ranch wife was an eye-opener for his mother. He noted it was her first exposure to cooking meals for the spring branding or fall haying and potato picking crews. While on the ranch, the Dolls welcomed sons Buddy and Kevin, and Starr would pack up her infant children to spend summers at the Deep Creek cow camp.
“She had no electricity or running water for many years. We would come off the mountain very rarely in the summer,” Buddy said. “One of the delights of the summer at cow camp was when we would see dust coming off the road to the north of our cabin.”
The family didn’t get many visitors at cow camp, so when peddler F.M. Light dropped by, it was a big deal.
“He had saddles, saddle blankets, belts, buckles, cinches, bridles, boots, Levis, hats, coats, long underwear and even a shiny bobble or two that made for costume jewelry for Mom,” Buddy said.
He said his mother eventually learned how to drive the power wagon while Mort fed animals off of the back, ride a horse, milk cows and feed chickens. She was a great cook, and when the crews gathered around the big table at the Deep Creek ranch house, all 10 or 12 of her dinner guests would enjoy a fine feed.
“We were exposed to some pretty salty characters that my brother and I found fascinating,” Buddy said.
Moving to Eagle
In the late 1950s, Starr started work at the Eagle County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. Eventually, the Dolls sold the ranch and moved to Eagle — to the log home on the west side of Eagle Town Park that they purchased for $9,600 in 1963. Later that year, the Doll family expanded. When both his parents died, Starr and Mort took in Bennie Quinton, a high school friend of Buddy and Kevin. He lived with the family until he graduated high school in 1965.
Starr worked at the clerk’s office until she retired in 1982. Mort worked for the gas company and then for the Colorado Department of Transportation. After they both retired, the Dolls enjoyed traveling in their motorhome. They also made trips overseas to Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland. Mort and Starr were married for 66 years before his death in 2012. When Mort became ill with dementia, Starr cared for him for many years, along with the help of her beloved daughter-in- law Claire and many friends.
Starr was a classical and Irish music enthusiast and a voracious reader.
“She would put away a couple of books every week,” Buddy said.
Buddy thinks his mother would have loved to have lived in or near a city, where she could have frequented the coffee shops, book shops, theaters and cinemas, but that wasn’t in the cards. One of her favorite pastimes after she retired was when she volunteered to read to elementary school children.
Neighborhood children would find their way over to Starr’s house, where she would give them Goldfish crackers and homemade cookies. Her chocolate date cake and apricot almond square recipes are the stuff of Eagle legend. Seven days before her death, she enjoyed a picnic at Broken Rib Springs on the Flat Tops, and was treated to a tire-changing exhibition by Buddy. She kept asking if she could help.
Starr was preceded in death by her husband Morton Doll Sr.; mother Meda Higdon; grandparents Dr. William Conway and Lillian Kerlee Conway; brother Connie Higdon, who was a World War II pilot who died in combat in Italy; her sister and aunt Beth Conway Byers; son Kevin Doll, a helicopter pilot who died in a helicopter accident in 1982; and four of her lifelong best friends — Charlotte Anderson Mayne, Lena Sansoti Yost, Joanne Phillips Clark and Myrnellis Bell Trump.
She is survived by son Morton (Buddy) Doll Jr; Buddy’s brother from another mother Bennie Quinton; daughters-in-law Claire L. Doll, April R. Nottingham and Connie Greve; four grandsons Kristopher Doll, Nathan Doll, Liam Doll and Jordan Doll; and three great-grandchildren Octavian, Ximena and Broden Gene Doll. She is also survived by nieces Sharon Doll, Kathy Doll, Patricia Doll and Sherry Crogan and nephew Charles Higdon.
A graveside service was at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Gypsum, followed by a potluck picnic at Eagle Town Park. Memorial contributions can be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital at http://www.stjude.org or 800-805-5856.
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