Eagle’s oldest resident tells all

Kathy Heicher
Dominique Taylor/Vail Daily Eagle's oldest resident, Melissa Trezise , 92, shows off one of the many bright quilts she still stitches on her 50-year-old sewing machine.

EAGLE – Eagle has officially been a town for 100 years.Melissa Trezise, 92, has been here for most of it. She’s Eagle’s oldest resident, and was slated to serve as Grand Marshal of Saturday’s Flight Days Parade. She was the one riding at the head of the parade that marks Eagle’s centennial year.Trezise has lived in Eagle long enough to remember when the property that her house is now located on was a cow pasture. But that’s not all she remembers about the good old days.Eagle’s main street, and all of its streets, were dirt. Grocery shopping was done at one of the general stores downtown, either the E.E. Glenn Store or the Lewis Store. The county fair and rodeo took place directly west of the county courthouse in downtown Eagle.There was a movie theater downtown. The community was close-knit. Dances were often held in the school houses on weekends. Everybody turned out to see the local baseball team play.Telephone calls were made through an operator. The various subdivisions around town – Upper and Lower Kaibab, the Terrace, the Bull Pasture, Eby Creek Mesa, and Eagle Ranch, were working ranches.For many years, when Trezise looked out the window of her house, she could see mountain vistas. Now she can see only tall trees and other houses.The changes that have occurred over the years don’t bother her, though.”The changes make a difference … but you learn to live with it,” she says.

Nine decades in EagleActually, Trezise is a native of Gypsum. She was born in 1913 to Hester and Hans Larsen. Her father, an immigrant from Denmark, spent his life working on ranches, raising hay, grains and some potatoes. The family moved to Eagle when Melissa was about 2 years old. Her dad worked ranches below Castle Peak, where the Kaibab subdivision is now located, and on Brush Creek.”It was a lot of work. It was all done by hand at the time,” recalls Trezise. Teams of horses drew hay mowers and rakes at harvest time.Growing up, Trezise helped her mother with household chores and with tending to her younger brother.She always loved school. “I wanted to be a teacher from the time I was a little girl,” she remembers.She completed her education at Eagle High School in just three years, combining her sophomore and junior classes into a single year at the request of the principal, who wanted to ensure there would be a graduating class. Trezise rose to the challenge, and graduated from high school in 1929 at the age of 16.”I was the baby of the outfit,” she says, with a smile.With her eye on the goal of becoming a teacher, Trezise headed off to the Colorado State College of Education in Greeley. In two years, she had a teaching certificate, and a job as teacher at the Catamount school, a one-room school serving the ranching families of the Burns Hole area in northern Eagle County. Her first class had eight students in grades kindergarten through eighth. The teaching contract paid her an annual salary of $720, and stipulated that she remain unmarried.After Catamount, she taught a year at Edwards, then went to the Brush Creek School south of Eagle (where the School House Ranch now stands).

“That was a modern facility. We had carbide lights, running water, toilets and a coal furnace,” Trezise says. She got paid an extra $10 a month for doing the janitorial work.In the spring of 1934, she married her husband, Robert Trezise, and left teaching to raise her family. She didn’t return to teaching until 1951 when her children, Mary Jo (Gerard) and Robert Jr., were old enough. After teaching stints at Edwards and Gypsum, she made the move to the Eagle elementary school. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree from Greeley in 1955.Lifelong teacherTrezise, who retired in 1976, touched hundreds of lives during the decades she’s lived in Eagle. She’s taught several generations of kids from local families. It was a career she loved.”I just couldn’t see a child not learn. I figured out a way for them ,” she says. Once, when a student was struggling with word math problems, she tried several teaching approaches. Finally, she suggested he pretend to be the teacher, and she pretended to be the student.The “teacher” was halfway through the problem when he suddenly stopped and declared proudly, “I get it!””I wanted them to learn. We did it in lots of ways,” says Trezise.She taught a total of 27 years before retiring. Daughter Mary Jo was worried about what her mother would do with all that spare time. On a whim, Mary Jo purchased a quilting magazine and gave it to her mother. Trezise immediately embarked on creating a quilt with a bear’s paw pattern.”She’s been quilting ever since,” Gerard says.Ever the teacher, Trezise offered quilting lessons through Colorado Mountain College. The students loved to be invited to her home to view the dozens of quilts she made. She has a room full of fabric scraps and quilts; and uses a sewing machine that is at least 50 years old.

She still likes to help others with their quilting projects.”Even yet, if they are having difficulties, they are welcome at my house,” she says.Attentive familyTrezise’s husband died in 1962; but her family has stayed nearby. That’s one of the reasons she is able to remain living in her own house, with four generations of the family within shouting distance.Mary Jo lives in Gypsum. Robert Trezise Jr. is a retired school teacher, living in Red Cliff. A granddaughter, Missy Ford, lives across the street. Trezise counts 19 people in her immediate family, including three grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.”They’re great guys, all of them,” she insists, “They all take good care of me.”She might need some help with the yard work and around the house these days, but her memories are clear and her mind is sharp.She’s enjoyed the more than 90 years she’s spent in the valley. Trezise was sitting front and center in the town’s official centennial photo, taken in March.”I really don’t have time to miss the old Eagle. My life is different now,” says Trezise, “I have to think of both then, and now, and work them together.”Vail, Colorado

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