Saying goodbye to Pam Schultz — a feisty, outspoken and huge-hearted Gypsum legend
Schultz would tell you what she thought and was always ready to get to work to make her community a better place
GYPSUM — Pam Schultz was a no-nonsense woman who got stuff done. The Eagle Valley is a richer place because of her forthright manner and big-hearted character.
She spent all of her 73 years in the communities of Eagle and Gypsum. Family and community were her passions, a value system that was instilled from the time she was in the cradle. Schultz passed away on April 7 after battling cancer with the same feistiness that characterized every aspect of her life.
A native daughter of Eagle, Schultz was born on Sept. 9, 1946, to Howard and Marilla McCain, the longtime publishers of the Eagle Valley Enterprise. It’s not hyperbole to say her family wrote the history of the valley. Her grandparents — Adrian and Rhoda Reynolds, purchased the weekly newspaper in 1918 and moved the publication form Red Cliff to Eagle. The McCain kids — Pam and her sisters Pat and Jere and her brother Richard — were part of the Enterprise production team.
“We lived from deadline to deadline. The whole world stopped on Thursdays and it took the whole day to get the newspaper out,” said Pat Cerise, Pam’s older sister.
Howard manned the press and Marilla ran the linotype. It was the kids’ job to make sure the newly printed newspapers didn’t hit the floor.
Aside from the bustle that dawned every Thursday, Cerise described growing up in Eagle during the late 1940s and 1950s as idyllic. The town only had about 500 residents and entertainment options were limited. For Pam, who was the youngest girl in the family, hanging out with her big sisters was a challenge.
“My sister Jere and I picked on Pam a lot because she was so much younger than we were,” Cerise said, with a laugh. “She always wanted to tag along after Jere and I, and we just were not going to bother with her.”
But because the town was so small, kids of all ages naturally congregated.
“In the summer, all the neighborhood kids played a lot of baseball, rode bikes and roller-skated around town,” Cerise said. “We used to go down and play along the Eagle River occasionally, but we would get in trouble for doing that.”
Schultz loved to go with her grandfather to get ice cream from “Joker” Roberts’s shop at the north end of Broadway.
“He had the most wonderful ice cream,” Cerise said. “It was one of the greatest treats to go in there and get a cone.”
David Knupp grew up next door to the McCain family. “I wouldn’t trade those days growing up in Eagle for anything,” Knupp said. “The camaraderie in the community was just incredible.”
Knupp was four years older than Schultz so they didn’t really hang out together as kids. However, they both definitely participated in the same community events. Santa arrived by private plane at the Eagle airport during the Christmas season and after he listened to present requests, the kids in town all gathered at the Eagle Theater (located where the Brush Creek Saloon now sits) for a free matinee. The 12th Night Christmas tree bonfire is a tradition from the 1950s that continues to this day.
“Pam was my date for my senior prom, at the insistence of my mother (Laurene Knupp), ” Knupp said. He noted he and Schultz never dated, except for that dance. “My mother felt that every senior in town should have a date at prom,” he explained. Schultz was a good sport to help make Laurene happy, Knupp said.
When she finished school, Schultz spent her young adulthood raising kids and working at various offices and businesses throughout the valley including the Eagle County Assessor’s Office, the Eagle County Treasurer’s Office, Collet Enterprises and Mayne Block. In 1999, she returned to the Eagle Valley Enterprise. Her parents had sold the newspaper back in the 1970s, but Schultz brought the McCain story full circle and continued to work at the Enterprise until shortly before her death.
Her brood eventually included four children and she was a very involved mom and a very devoted grandmother.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better mom, really,” said son Jeff Myers.
“She was really dedicated to her kids. There wasn’t a sports event or a conference or anything that required a parent to be there that she wasn’t there,” said daughter Tammy Conway.
“She was pretty persistent about everything she did in life,” offered son Timothy Myers. “There was a lot of energy in that little package.”
“Mom didn’t sit down too much. She was always off doing something,” said daughter Alison Rucker.
Raising kids and earning a living are both full-time gigs, but Schultz’s life included a third passion — community service. In 1984, Schultz moved from Eagle to Gypsum and she was primed to jump into local politics.
As Conway recalls, she and her mother were at one of her brother’s basketball games when former Gypsum Mayor Gary Hollingsworth told Schultz she should run for council. It was a fateful suggestion.
“Some of our family members suffer from a genetic flaw where they are called to community service,” Conway said. “My mom’s hobby, whether she knew it or not, was community service.”
In 1990, Schultz made her first run for Gypsum Town Council. She was elected for the first of what would eventually become eight terms. She served on the council for 32 years. Many of the town’s amenities such as Gypsum Town Hall, the Gypsum Recreation Center and the business development east of town feature her firm handprints. She was a fierce protector and promoter of Gypsum.
“She wanted to preserve the small-town character of Gypsum and make sure that the town decisions didn’t ruin that,” Conway said.
“She liked being involved and she liked going to her meetings,” offered Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver. “She was always right there to step up and do what she could for the town. She always had something going on and she always spoke her mind.”
Schultz’s outspoken nature is the stuff of legend. Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll spent more than 20 years working as the Gypsum Town Manager and he vividly recalled how Schultz was on the hiring committee that offered him that job when he was just 23 years old.
“You never walked away from a talk with Pam wondering where you stood. She would tell you,” Shroll said.
“She always treated me tremendously well,” he continued. “She grew up here and she kind of took me under her wing. She was one of my bosses and my other mother. At that age, stepping into my first professional opportunity, she was very instrumental in getting me grounded in Gypsum.”
While Schultz was quick to share an opinion, she was equally quick to share a laugh. “For all her feistiness and seriousness, she had a great sense of humor,” Shroll said.
“Pam was a good friend of mine for many years,” said Eagle resident Roxie Deane. “I enjoyed her sense of humor and her loyalty. But most of all, she would tell you exactly how she felt about things, and I really enjoyed that about her.”
“There was a lot of laughing with mom and a lot of laughing at stuff that was inappropriate,” Conway said.
One of the long-standing jokes revolved around her many re-election bids. “Every time she would come up for re-election, she said she wasn’t going to do it again. Then she would come around with a petition for me to sign a few days later,” Conway said. “She truly loved Gypsum. It was her home. It was where she was meant to be.”
In 2004, Schultz was honored as the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the year. The award reflected not only her service on the town council but also her volunteer hours as a member of the Gypsum Fire District Board, the Western Eagle County Ambulance District Board and the Gypsum Recreation Committee. Those were just the official jobs. Pam was also a ready volunteer.
“We used to spend days putting together Easter eggs for the town’s egg hunt,” recalled Rucker. “We were volun-told to do it. We were her workforce.”
But of all the volunteer work she did, one of Schultz’s favorite jobs was her effort on behalf of Gypsum Daze.
Those were the Daze
In 1984, together with Conway, Schultz accepted a challenge to revamp Gypsum Daze. In just a few short years the annual event grew into a very popular valley celebration, drawing an audience from all over Colorado. Schultz was in charge of booking entertainers and through the years, big-name musicians such as Rascal Flatts, Clay Walker, Pam Tillis, Charlie Daniels, the Oak Ridge Boys and Little Big Town have been featured Gypsum Daze performers.
“She always said she would be done when she got George Straight, but that never happened,” Conway said. “She always wanted the entertainers to appreciate that they came to Gypsum. Every entertainer we had said ‘We had no idea this great community was here. We drive by here all the time on I-70. What a beautiful place.’”
After 20 years of coordinating the event, Schultz relinquished her post but still kept an eye on the celebration that was “her baby.”
Schultz attended her last meeting of the Gypsum Town Council on March 24, remotely from her hospital bed in Denver. She was able to return home prior to her passing, spending her last days with her family and close friends.
“There is no question about how deeply she cared about this community,” Shroll said. “This town was her life. She gave everything she had to it.”
“Pam did an amazing amount of things for a small-town girl. She was a lot like our mother in that respect,” said Cerise. “Marilla and Pam both had a real intelligence about what should be done. In a different time and in a different place, I think Pam could have gone a long way. I think Gypsum was pretty lucky to get her.”
“She enjoyed being a part of the town’s future. She had a vision for the community and she enjoyed watching it grow,” Rucker said. “She thought she could make a difference, and she did.”
Schultz is survived by her children Tammy Conway, Alison (Rhett) Rucker, Jeff Myers, and Timothy (TC) Myers; grandchildren Angela and Raymond Conway, Wyleigh Myers, Jesse and Kellen Myers, Cameron, Izaac and Zoe Rucker; sister Pat Cerise; brother Richard McCain; son-in-law Ray “Bubby” Conway; several nieces and nephews and many friends. She was preceded in death by her parents; sister Jere Leonard; and daughter-in-law Tiffany Myers. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to the Eagle County Historical Society, P.O. Box 192, Eagle, CO 81631. In this time of COVID-19, the family will host a celebration of Pam’s life at a later date.