Virgil Newquist, Gypsum-area resident, 1915-2008
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Longtime county resident Virgil Newquist passed away Feb. 2, at LaVilla Grande Nursing Home in Grand Junction, following a debilitating stroke. He was 94.
Virgil was a woodsman, set-up man, millwright and “jack of all trades” at the Western Slope Lumber and Kaibab Lumber Mill in Eagle. There wasn’t much Virgil couldn’t accomplish by taking his time and studying a problem, relatives recall.
Virgil loved nature, his property on Gypsum Creek, the clear mountain air and flowers. He was a skilled fisherman, hunter, machinist and a good teacher of these skills.
He particularly loved to fish at Sourdough Lakes and Lost Lake, off of Gypsum Creek, and Deep Creek.
“He was a true man of the mountains, living sparingly, loving greatly,” says his niece, Helen Fish.
Virgil’s life centered on his family and his church friends. He was well-known in the communities of Eagle and Gypsum, where he’d lived for the 44 years.
“I’d say he had a mountain heart. That’s why he lived so long. He was really a strong person,” says longtime friend and neighbor Corky Fitzsimmons.
Virgil was born in Centerville, Iowa, on Aug. 14, 1915, to Hilmer Gust Newquist and Bertha May Hopkins Newquist. The family moved to Colorado, and he spent his childhood on Bellyache Mountain and the Eagle area, leaving to live in California for 22 years. He returned to his home state in 1966.
He served in the Army during World War II from 1944-46.
His hobbies included fishing, hiking, hunting, photography and enjoying his friends and neighbors. During the past 10 years, he worked very hard writing his life story, which he completed this past winter. Many of his friends contributed to the completion of the project. Copies are available at both the Eagle and Gypsum libraries.
Virgil was self-sufficient, taking care of himself until at 92, when he moved to Heritage Homes in Palisade. He raised both of his sons, Charles Dell and Virgil Herman, living mostly in the woods. Both sons preceded him in death.
Fitzsimmons said Virgil’s self-sufficiency was one of the characteristics that most defined his life. He lived in a small home, which he heated with a wood stove. His water came from a spring, his electric power from solar panels. He had no television, preferring instead to read or work on his memoirs. His only bill was for phone service.
“He was a good boy,” Fitzsimmons recalls. “He used to stop by our house and eat dinner at least once a week.”
Virgil would walk to the Fitzsimmons’ house and then catch a ride home once dinner was over. Mealtimes were filled with good conversation.
“He had a story a minute, and I heard them all,” said Fitzsimmons. “In fact, I heard some of them twice.”
Virgil had a special, oft-repeated pet peeve. He objected to the term “Vail Valley,” noting that Eagle County residents live in the Eagle River Valley or the Gore Creek Valley
Fitzsimmons also recalls many fishing adventures with Virgil. “The last time we hiked up to Lost Lake, he was 87 years old.”
Virgil is survived by his daughter, Elsa W. Terry of Delta, 11 grandchildren, 27 great-grandchildren, niece Helen Lewise Newquist Fish (Frank), nephew Del Newquist and their families. He is also survived by many special friends, including Bill and Tracy Clark, Gary Zink, John Martin, Corky and Carol Fitzsimmons, and Ted and Nettie Reynolds. His wide circle of church acquaintances, Gypsum Creek neighbors, and ex-wife, Susie Singleton, will miss him.
He was preceded in death by his parents, two sons, a still-born baby, and his brother and sister-in-law, Herman and Helen Newquist; and by Merv Reed, a close friend.
Virgil donated his body to the Anatomical Board at the University of Colorado with the help of Snell-McLean Funeral Home of Palisade, Colo. Services will be held in June at the Christian Church of God on Victoria Way in Grand Junction.
Because both of his sons died of lymphoma, memorial contributions may be made to American Cancer Society, or to Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado, who helped make Virgil’s last days more comfortable.