Ailing woman lights giant Glenwood cross
Glenwood Springs Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” For decades, June Robinson has enjoyed the glow of the cross overlooking Glenwood Springs every holiday season.
This week, the 75-year-old got her first up-close look at the illuminated cross. Better yet, she was given a special honor: flipping the switch that lights up the cross.
“It was an experience I’ll never forget, never,” Robinson said.
For giving her such a special memory, she can thank a good friend whom she considers to be like a son. Bruce Lewis, a Glenwood Springs engineer, is a member of the committee responsible for operating the cross, and invited her to participate after the leukemia she had battled seven years ago returned in September.
“I think Bruce felt badly about it. He probably thought this would be a cheering up, and it certainly was,” Robinson said.
Said Lewis, “I thought it would really be something special for her since she’d been having it pretty rough lately.”
The two got to know each other when Robinson and her husband, Ron, ran a bed and breakfast downtown.
“His office was right next door, and he would always smell the food, and he would come across and get some cookies or breakfast or whatever,” Robinson said.
Lewis said Robinson thought he was just teasing her with his offer to let her light the cross, until he convinced her otherwise. He said the experience left Robinson in tears.
“She was pretty excited about it. I wouldn’t say ‘pretty,’ I would say ‘very,'” he said.
The night began with Bruce and his wife, Ann, taking Robinson and her husband to dinner at White House Pizza in Carbondale. Afterward, they drove up Red Mountain to the cross. Lewis said he became involved with lighting the cross 15 to 20 years ago because he had snow machines and back then, there was no maintained road access.
Robinson said she has hiked and snowshoed up the road before, but never has seen the cross up close at night.
“It was absolutely starlit, a perfect evening,” she said. “Every star was out, and we could see them all.”
“Looking down on the town, you could see everything. It was wonderful,” she said.
When the moment came, Lewis told Robinson to flip a switch that she described as similar to what’s found in a fuse box.
“It lit up the whole mountain,” she said. “I can’t describe it. It was so gorgeous. It looked like the cross, except it was so big.”
Both Lewis and Robinson are Christians, so the cross has religious meaning for them. Robinson, a former teacher in Evergreen, moved here in 1989 and has come to treasure the tradition of seeing the cross on the hill.
“You know, I have been up toward Aspen, and as soon as you turn a corner you can see it for an awfully long way. It’s a beacon. And I think it’s kind of like the beginning of the holiday season” when it’s first lit, she said.
Lewis and the five other members of the Red Mountain Cross Association are responsible for the cross, but Lewis said it’s actually a community-supported endeavor.
“Board meetings only last two minutes, which is to review expenses, which is only one or two checks a year,” he said.
Monetary donations made to the committee cover insurance. Lewis has no idea how much electricity the cross requires because an anonymous donor pays the bills. General Electric and a local supplier have provided bulbs.
When vandals cut down the cross in 1998 and a bigger one was put up, everything but the cost of the towers was donated. Even the helicopter service required during installation was free.
“My goal is to keep it going, keep the light shining,” Lewis said.
As for Robinson, she plans to keep going, too. She’s undergoing chemotherapy and faces surgery, but she said her treatment is progressing well.
Her sojourn to the cross was one of her first outings since starting treatment. She also views it as an early gift as she and her husband look to their golden anniversary two days after Christmas.
“To me this is kind of like the beginning of our 50th anniversary celebration,” she said.