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Frank Doll

Staff Reports

It’s not often you meet someone whose job title is “storyteller.” But printed on Frank Doll’s business card is exactly that title.Frank’s job for the last 15 years has been to tell visitors of the Hyatt Hotel in Beaver Creek about what life used to look like in these parts.Frank approached Steve Dwyer, then -manager at the Hyatt Regency in Beaver Creek, nearly 16 years ago. He was seeking donations to help build the historical park in Eagle. What he didn’t know is that Dwyer had been advertising in newspapers across the country for a resident storyteller for the hotel.”He said, ‘I think you’re just the guy,'” Frank says.And so in November of 1990, Frank joined the Hyatt team as the historian/storyteller. His job was to entertain hotel guests around the outside fire -pit at night, regaling them with stories of the Old West, and of the valley back when it was a ranching town, rather than a resort town.”People want to know, ‘How’d this all get here?’ And I was here before it all,” Frank says.Robert Dallain, former general manager of the Beaver Creek Park Hyatt, has known Frank for nearly 10 years.”First of all, he’s a great legend, he’s a third generation member of this valley,” Dallain says. “He knows the history of the valley inside and out. The guests loved him he’s our best ambassador.”Frank’s grandfather homesteaded a large portion of Gypsum with his brother Sam in 1887. Frank himself was born in Denver, at the urging of his grandmother, but was brought to the Doll Ranch in Gypsum when he was just a few days old. He and his younger brother attended school in a one-room schoolhouse in upper Gypsum and spent their childhoods riding horses and helping their father on the ranch.Frank graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in animal science. He was also a member of ROTC during his four years in Fort Collins.”I graduated from Colorado State on the 18th of April in 1943 and I went into the Army on the 19th,” Frank remembers.As far as WWII is concerned, Frank doesn’t like to talk about it too much, though he might mention some of the moments that stand out.”I was in Paris on the day it was liberated,” Frank says. “That was quite a shindig.”I was amongst the force that took Dachau; that didn’t last very long. At that time we were with the 42nd division. There were a lot of prisoners there a lot of live ones and a lot of dead ones, thousands and thousands.”Five years after graduating from college, Frank was back in the valley for a short time when he spotted a picture of an old high school friend, Imogene Nottingham.”I came back and (Imogene) was still around, working in Gilman,” Frank remembers. “I saw her picture on the dresser at my brother’s house and asked, ‘Who is that?’ I thought I’d better look into it, and I did, and we got married on April 10, 1948.”Frank’s time in the military lasted 25 years. During that time Frank and Imogene’s four girls were born Sharon, Kathy, Patricia and Carol. Carol was born with a heart defect during the three years the family spent living in Germany. She had surgery to fix the problem when she was 5 years old, but died a month later. Patricia now lives in Wyoming and both Sharon and Kathy live in the valley.At the age of 48, Frank retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel. He wasn’t entirely sure where to settle with his family, but he came back to the valley, “just like a homing pigeon” and has been here ever since.Frank and Imogene, who was known locally as the “cake lady,” were married for 53 years. Four years ago Frank lost Imogene to cervical cancer.”The day came when the doctor said, ‘Well, that’s all we can do. Go home and call hospice.”I was always the chief construction engineer for her cakes,” Frank says. “She was a very talented lady. We were a good team.”For nearly two years after Imogene died, Frank continued going to the Shaw Cancer Center every week, keeping the patients company, running errands for them, and helping them through some of their darker days.Frank’s jobs have been many, beginning with cowboy and continuing with the military. When he returned to Vail in ’68 he managed the Meadow Mountain ski area for a bit, and he’s been a weather buff for 30 years. But he cites storytelling as his favorite. That particular job, for Frank, fulfilled a deep desire he’d had ever since retiring from the military: his desire to teach. Though Frank never ended up in the front of the classroom full time, he’s stood in front of children up and down the valley during his 15-year stint as the local storyteller and historian, which ended in January. Even though Frank’s time as the local narrator of the valley’s history has come to an end, his generous spirit and strong work ethic are still directing his life.”He’s one of those people you can absolutely count on,” says longtime friend Cliff Thompson. “And he’s a nice man, too.”Retirement hasn’t slowed Frank down much. On his office desk lies the binder that he uses to keep track of the weather in the valley for the National Weather Service every day something he’s done for the past 30 years. Frank is also a lifetime member of Eagle County Historical Society, which he helped create, along with the historical buildings at the Visitor Center in Eagle. In 2002 Frank was honored with the Nimon-Walker Award, which is given to people who have worked to discover and preserve the history of Eagle County.And the phone is still ringing at Frank’s house, after all these years, with conversations that start out with “Can you, will you, could you?” People know if they need something to get done, Frank is the person to call.”Life is good,” Frank says. “My only thing in life, if I had a basic direction, always, since I was a little kid, has been to help other people. And that’s the way it still is now.” VTCaramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vailtrail.com.


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