Lois Ilene Walker Sept. 21, 1920 – Sept. 23, 2017
Lois Ilene Walker, lifelong Gypsum resident, left her earthly home for heaven on Saturday, Sept. 23, surrounded by her family. She was 97 years old and had lived a full and rewarding life. Lois spent the first 14 years of her life in a cozy two-room log cabin on Cottonwood Pass, along with her mother and father, Florence and Noble Stevenson, and her younger brother, Bobby.
When Lois was 14, the Stevenson family added to their ranch by purchasing some adjoining land with a much larger log home. Lois and her family moved into the larger home and continued raising sheep and cattle on their Cottonwood ranch.
Lois’ elementary school years were spent in a one-room school house known as the Upper Gypsum School at the corner of Dagget Lane and Valley Road south of Gypsum. She and Bobby often rode their horse, Shadrack, the seven miles to school. When the snow got deep, Florence and her two children would stay in a cabin nearer to the schoolhouse. Lois graduated from Gypsum High School in 1939 and spent her first year of college at Park College, in Missouri, living with her aunt and uncle, Rose and Dr. Russell Etzenhouser.
After one year at Park, Lois wanted to be back in the mountains and nearer to her home, so she spent the next four years at Western State College in Gunnison. After graduating with a teaching degree, Lois began her teaching career in a one-room schoolhouse near Olathe. It was there that she met her husband, Dean. They were married for 64 years before Dean passed away in 2010.
After their marriage, they moved to Grand Junction, where Lois taught school and Dean worked at Safeway as a meat cutter. After a few years in Grand Junction, they decided to try their hand at herding sheep on Cottonwood. A rainy summer in a leaky sheep-herding tent with bears gobbling up their sheep made them realize there were easier ways to make a living and they began working on the ranch with Lois’ folks while living on 80 acres located at the base of Hardscrabble Mountain.
In 1950, their first child, Karen, was born. Shortly thereafter, the family moved back to Grand Junction. In 1952, a son, Larry, was born. Shortly after Larry’s birth, Lois’s brother was killed in a car wreck. Two months later, Florence and Noble, along with Bobby’s two children, died in a fire when their home on Cottonwood Pass burned to the ground on a cold night in January of 1953. This was a difficult time for Lois as her entire immediate family was gone within a couple of months. Since no one was left except for Lois and Dean to run the ranch, the family moved back to the house near Hardscrabble Mountain, which was commonly referred to by them as “The Old Farm.”
When Karen started first grade, Lois took a job teaching sixth grade at Gypsum Elementary. The five-mile drive to school each day included driving down a dirt road with five wire gates that had to be opened and closed before getting to school. After a year of gate opening, as well as record snowfalls that required hours of plowing the dirt road leading to the Cooley Mesa road, Lois and Dean found a house to rent in the town of Gypsum.
Dean was able to lease some land owned by Kate Strohm, whose land was located behind the old Gypsum Elementary School on Eagle Street. The house they rented and later bought was on Second Street, close to both the ranch and farm land for Dean and the school for Lois and their two children. While living on Second Street, Lois formed a lifelong friendship with Juanita Eaton, who lived across the street. In the summer, their daily routine included a coffee break nearly every morning. During the school year, their coffee breaks were less frequent, but they would always find time to catch up on all the news of family and mutual friends.
Lois spent the next 30 years teaching school in Gypsum and Eagle. She taught fifth and sixth grade in Gypsum for several years, then in third grade at Eagle Elementary, retiring in 1984. Upon retirement, Lois spent her time gardening, sewing, cooking, caring for her family, helping Dean with the ranch, serving as an active member in Gypsum Methodist Church, volunteering with the historical society, visiting with her good friends, and serving as a board member for the Cedar Hill Cemetery in Gypsum.
Lois is survived by her two children, Karen Wood and Larry Walker, four grandchildren: Joe Wood, Jenny (Tony) Leonetti, Josh (Kasey) Wood, Jared Wood; and great-granddaughters Deana, Leah, Collie, Krisha and Landree; along with numerous other relatives. Lois was preceded in death by her husband, Dean, and one granddaughter, Dani Walker, her parents, Florence and Noble Stevenson, and brother, Bobby Stevenson, as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins.
Services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 30, beginning at 11 a.m. at Eagle Baptist Church.