Sept. 19, 1905-March 23, 2014
MONTROSE – Retta Mae Vela, 108, of Montrose and formerly of Telluride died March 23, 2014.
Retta Mae (Horn) Vela was born September 19, 1905, to Levi and Maude (Blodgett) Horn in Ochiltree County, Texas. Her parents moved the family to Clayton, N. M., and then to Colorado, settling near Eckert. She graduated from Eckert High School in 1925.
She met Francis L. Vela during high school at Cedaredge, Colo. He asked if he could drive her home from school in his racer. Unfortunately, the Model T Racer didn’t have any fenders and it was raining that day. Francis hit a mud hole, and mud went all over Retta’s new winter coat. He thought that was the end of it, but it was only the beginning.
She married Francis on Nov. 11, 1925, in Delta, at the Methodist minister’s parsonage, and they were fortunate to celebrate 73 years of marriage. They enjoyed being together and shared many hard and good times. They lived in the Eckert area on his parents’ ranch (who were immigrants from Crodo, Italy) until the start of the Great Depression, and then moved to Telluride in 1933, because the mines were opening up with work. Vela spent over 70 years in Telluride, until moving with her daughter, longtime San Miguel County treasurer Sherry Rose, to Montrose in 2007.
Vela enjoyed living in Telluride, with her many friends and activities. She was active in the Lady Elks Organization, Commonweal Club and the Telluride Women’s Baseball Team. She managed and sold tickets for two theatres, the Sheridan Opera House and the Nugget Theatre, for many years, substituted at the Western Colorado Power Company Office and worked at the Telluride Mines as a metallurgical clerk. She enjoyed jeeping, hiking and especially dancing. For many years, she and Francis owned a cabin at Trout Lake, where the entire family spent most weekends working on the cabin, fishing and visiting with the other cabin owners.
The Velas purchased property in Telluride on the corner of Colorado Ave. and Fir St. in the 1950s. They opened a four-lane bowling alley at this site. They acquired the lanes from a bowling alley in Albuquerque. N.M., and installed them on the main floor of the building with semi-automatic pinsetters. A pinsetter loaded the pins into the device then tripped a switch to “spot the pins.”
The “Telluride Bowling Lanes” provided a very social place for the town citizens. Hamburgers, hot dogs, soda, a popcorn machine and a jukebox provided music, with a pool table for bowlers and non-bowlers alike. Teams from Rico, Ouray, Norwood and Telluride all came to compete at the Telluride Bowling Lanes.
Retta loved flowers and had a small flower shop underneath her home. She raised beautiful geraniums, and her “green thumb” worked magic in making any plant grow. She loved to watch baseball (father played semi-professional baseball in Texas), and the Colorado Rockies were her favorite professional team.
Vela made wonderful homemade cinnamon rolls and divinity candy; she was an excellent homemaker and dearly loved her family. She had a wonderful sense of humor and was quite witty with an especially sharp mind. Her favorite saying was that “she only had so many heartbeats in life, and she wasn’t going to waste any on exercise.” She really never had to exercise, as she was always busy being a homemaker or helping Francis with clearing rock and cutting firewood for their home in the Last Dollar Subdivision.
She will be greatly missed by her son, Jack Vela, of Golden; her daughter, Sherry Rose, of Montrose; and granddaughters Julie Nealon (Jack), of Grand Junction, Janet Childs of Golden; grandson Darren Rose of Boulder; three great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren, plus nieces and nephews.
Her parents Levi and Maude Horn, her brother and sister-in-law Moad and Eula Horn, her sister, Esther Coons and her grandson, Steven Vela, preceded her in death.
The family will hold private services. Donations in Retta’s memory may be made to Hope West, P. O. Box 1804, Montrose, Colorado 81402.