Pete and Shirley Nolan are well known throughout the lower Eagle Valley and part of knowing the Nolans also means you likely have a great story to share about the infamous pair.
Last weekend, the longtime Gypsum residents became the first inductees into the Eagle Valley High School Foundation’s Hall of Fame. The Foundation is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support programs at Eagle Valley High School. At the organization’s Fourth Annual Fire and Ice Extravaganza last Saturday, the Nolans were singled out for their extensive contributions to Eagle Valley High School.
Grand Valley High School’s athletic director/assistant principal and EVHS alumni David Walck credits the Nolans for his career choice.
“My students are benefitting from the fact that I have had them in my life,” he said of the couple. “I hope I can make half the difference in the lives of youth. They have made such an impact on so many.”
Shirley Nolan worked for Eagle schools from 1963 to 2011, at the district office for the first 18 years. In 1982, she transferred to Eagle Valley Elementary as the school’s head secretary. There, kids and staff members adored her and relied on her for close to 20 years.
Son Cory Nolan, who is currently the Tom Fazio Course superintendent at Red Sky Golf Course, said he constantly hears amazing things about both parents.
“I always hear people talk about how my mom is always willing to help and always has a smile on her face,” he said. “She loved working with kids and always wanted the very best for all of them.”
Teachers and other staff members from Eagle Valley Elementary agree that Shirley not only ran their school, but did so with a calm, happy demeanor. Teachers say that she was a wealth of information and always took care of everything, including them.
“She knew what we needed before we knew what we needed,” said teacher Anita Ortiz.
Pete Nolan worked at Eagle Valley High School 1967 to 2006. After graduating from Western State College in Gunnison and teaching for a year at Fountain Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, he made his way back to Gypsum, where he taught physical education and history. He was also the head boys basketball coach and coached middle school football. Soon after he arrived at EVHS, he became the assistant principal and athletic director. For the 1992-1993 school year, he was named the Colorado Athletic Director of the Year, and he was also honored with the state’s Bob Ottewill Award in 2010-2011. Everyone who knows Pete knows that, like Shirley, he was also all about the kids.
“Athletics was the priority and we had great hires with Randy Rohweder, Dave and Susan Scott, John Ramunno, and John and Mary Beaumont,” said Pete. “They made it a lot of fun.”
In the beginning…
Over 40 years ago, one of the valley’s longest-running romances began in a high school gym.
Both Pete and Shirley are life-long residents of the area. Pete graduated from EVHS in 1956 while Shirley was a 1963 grad of the school
“I had known the Eatons (Shirley’s family) all my life, and I called her up and asked for a date,” he said.
Shirley remembers what they actually did on that first date.
“We went to an Eagle Valley High School wrestling match … I should have known then,” she joked.
In 1982, the couple’s only child, Cory was born. Cory, 31, is an EVHS and Colorado State University graduate. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he beams with pride when talking about his parents.
“My dad always said, ‘If you just keep your mouth shut and work hard, people will notice.’”
Shirley was on that same page, emphasizing to her son to follow through on commitments.
“She was always saying, ‘Don’t be a quitter.’”
Cory spends a lot of time hunting with Pete and loves the outdoors. He thinks back to when he shot his first deer.
“My dad was yelling in my ear as I was getting ready to shoot, making sure I didn’t shoot it in the hind end or the guts,” he said.
“I ended up shooting the deer in both the hind end and the guts and then he made me go gut it out by myself so I would realize how awful it was when you made a bad shot,” he said. “It was a good life lesson that I will never forget, not that it helped my shooting at all.”
Retired EVHS teachers Janice and Ralph Starr remember the Nolans as being instrumental in the success of the entire school district. Both worked with Pete and are close friends with the couple, even though the Starrs now live in Tennessee.
“Their many years of service were spent assisting students, coaches, faculty, the schools and the community,” said Ralph Starr. He believes that Pete set the standard for athletic directors through his work with coaches, athletes, officials and anyone needing help.
“Shirley was a dedicated employee in many different capacities,” she said. “No matter what she was doing, you could always count on her friendliness, dedication and hard work. She knew all the students by name and was very well-respected.”
Dave and Susan Scott, also retired EVHS faculty members who now live in North Carolina, are very thankful for the Nolans’ presence in their lives. Dave worked under Pete as a coach and he said his support made coaching so much easier.
“Pete taught us to be fair and respect student-athletes,” he said. “He always had my back and always supported his coaches … kids respected Pete,” said Dave Scott.
Susan said that the Nolans showed new teachers and coaches that hard work and dedication are what makes education careers fulfilling.
“They are an amazing couple and Eagle Valley should be very thankful to have them as part of the community,” she said.
Past Eagle Valley Elementary students remember Shirley as welcoming, caring, loving and warm. High school students obviously need a little different approach. Although EVHS graduates have fond memories of Pete, they also remember him being a tough disciplinarian.
Lenny Roundtree, 1985 graduate who now lives out of the area, thinks of Pete often.
“Mr. Nolan is a man who taught me and so many others that diligence, discipline and respect for authority and others is vital to success,” said Roundtree.
He remembers often hearing Pete say, “screw around, screw around, soon you won’t be around.”
Roundtree recalled that Pete had a unique way of pointing out the obvious and sternly enforced the rules of his school but at the same time made students feel that he cared about them. Roundtree said Pete instilled diligence, discipline and respect for authority in so many of the young men who walked the halls of EVHS.
“Very few men ever get to touch the lives of every person they come in contact with in a memorable way. No one ever came through the doors of EVHS and wasn’t touched by his great heart for people,” said Roundtree.
As they were honored for their longtime dedication to the EVHS community, the Nolans were characteristically humbled by the honor.
“My mom and dad loved going to work every day regardless of what the day before had brought,” said Cory. “They both loved education and helping students. They also love high school athletics more than any two people I have ever met, even to this day.”