The headline read - The scoop on the real people: Ann Butler's début. The date was April 22, 2000, which means I
am coming up on a decade as our community's chronicler. Here's a look back over the last 900 columns or so, starting
with the introduction that April day:
I begin what I hope will be an illustrious career as the columnist for the people and events in our community. I
have to thank the two gracious women who have preceded me. Both Nancy Elliott, who originated this column, and
Sally Morrissey, who kept us informed about our friends and neighbors for almost 36 years, have been
incredibly gracious and helpful. The warm reception I have enjoyed since the announcement of my appointment from both
friends and people whom I don't know yet has been heartening."
Naming the column was the first task. We held a contest, and here's how we came up with Neighbors:
But what to call it? Ann Says just doesn't have the same ring as Sally Says (Sally Morrissey's title)
¼ I knew that The Durango Herald had a high
readership, but who knew how many or how creative you all are! The item in Talk About Town" had no sooner run
than the suggestions began to pour in. The phone started ringing at 7 a.m., and then came the e-mails and faxes.
The people who we
re sending me congratulatory cards added ideas on the backs of envelopes. I was handed slips of paper at the grocery
store and cornered at parties.
Some ideas were retro, as in 'Since you have a Spanish background, let's go back to Señora San Juan.' Then there were
many variations on the old Gal About Town, the most popular of which was Ann About Town (six entries!).
The gossip theme was strong, as in Busybody Butler (my personal candidate for worst entry - a tongue-in-cheek
suggestion from my friend Dr. Louise Edwards), Miss Ann's Front Porch, Old-Fashioned Gossip Column and The
Mystery lovers proposed The Butler Did It! and The Butler Said It! Not to be outdone, the punsters joined the fray -
Dur-Ann-Go and Annie Got Your Tale foremost among them. Some people liked a play on my first name - Ann's Musings, Annie Says, According to Ann and Ann's Anecdotes. Then there were those who thought my last name lent itself better
to a tile, as in The Butler Buzz, Silent Butler and The Butler Chronicles."
Neighbors as a title was the inspiration of HeraldEditor-in-Chief Morley Ballantine and Managing
Editor David Staats, with a mention made that if I were no longer writing the column, the name could stay the
same. (Now there's an encouraging kick off.) And Neighbors it has stayed, although old-time La Plata County residents
still call it Señora San Juan or Gal About Town.
Where to start? What kinds of stories to pick for this look in the rear view mirror?
There have been too many parties to count - way too many appetizer and dessert soirées - so many good causes -
more than 240 nonprofits, after all - and a ton of interesting individuals, from centenarians such as Arvo
Matis and Rosie Cataliotti to children enjoying life and fighting to keep it. La Plata County residents
have traveled to all seven continents and told me about their adventures, making me dream of taking my passport and
hitting the seven seas. (No one has gone into outer space yet, but the way Durangoans explore, it's only a matter of
There have been competitions - Knowledge Bowl, Bowl for Kids' Sake, chess, mah-jongg, Bunco and bridge, come to
mind. Although I am as far from a sports writer as it's possible to be, I have written about golf tournaments, bicycle motocross, aka BMX, baseball and skiing.
Then there are peoples' passion's,
ranging from Icelandic ponies and tulips to jewelry design and knitting. History, awards and accomplishments have
graced the Neighbors page, as have concerts, art exhibits and lectures.
Cattlemen and dancers, Native Americans and visitors from foreign lands, interviews in Spanish, French and
Portuguese, there's no doubt this column has helped me experience the wonderful diversity of people and landscape in
this spectacular and special place we call home. (I even had one column that mentioned Kazakhstan - in two different
items! Pre-'Borat', too.)
While I've been writing the column, the new Mercy Regional Medical Center, Durango Public Library and Center of
Southwest Studies at Fort Lewis College have all opened to great fanfare, and the Discovery Museum at the Powerhouse
is counting the days to its grand opening in the fall, starting with a groundbreaking at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Almost every story has brought new people and enough knowledge to make me dangerous on a variety of subjects.
As I've spent the last couple of weeks working on his, I have realized that I don't remember writing many of these
columns, so it's been refresher course. I hope you'll enjoy the tales that caught my fancy during my stroll down
Since the Reading Club of Durango was founded, it has been the mainstay of the town's social page. In another
synchronicity, since the early days of the club, Durango's newspaperwomen have belonged to the invitation-only group, including Durango Herald publishers Bessie McDevitt and Morley Ballantine, the Herald's
first female managing editor Nancy Elliott and my immediate predecessor, Sally Morrissey. In a
fortuitous turn of fate, I was invited to join Reading Club just a year before becoming the Neighbors columnist, so
the tradition has continued. Here is a story marking the club's 125th anniversary from May 2007:
Almost as soon as there was a Durango, there were women working to bring civilization and culture to a rowdy Western
It started with just 12 women, and membership is now capped at 24, but the women of the Reading Club of Durango have
had far more impact on the community than their size might indicate.
The club celebrated its 125th anniversary at the East Third Avenue home of Susan Davies. The house has hosted
the Reading Club for generations as Davies is a third-generation member and a fourth-generation Durangoan
Here's a bit about the history of the club. Members ran a private library of their own - gentlemen paid $5 a year to
read, and ladies read for free - until they formed the Ladies Library Association, which was the key player in the
founding of the Durango Public Library. They were active in the Ladies Aid Society and in the formation of the Mesa
Verde Cliff Dwellings Association, which worked to designate the ancestral Puebloan ruins as a national park.
In his book, Women to the Rescue, historian Duane Smith wrote, Durango's movers and shakers came
primarily from the Reading Club of Durango ¼ They
became the pillars of the preservation movement."
That commitment to giving has continued. In addition to more than $200,000 plus in donations to the library in the
last century (including more than $10,000 to the building fund of the new library) and thousands of dollars to other
good causes in the community, members continue to donate their time and talents to Durango. One favorite club
activity in the early years was reading books and plays together.
The ladies went through a Shakespeare phase in the mid-1890s, but took a vote to reconsider the Bard after
reading 'The Tempest,' which they 'didn't much care for.' Luckily, the Bard survived the vote."
The club has said farewell to a number of beloved longtime members while I've been writing Neighbors, including
Lorraine Gardenswartz, Kay Haukeness, Kaki Bauer-Crue, Margaret Dunn and Janet Watson.
Here's a salute to them and to all the members in the Reading Club of Durango's 128 years for working to improve our
Out of the hundreds, or perhaps thousands (who kept track?) of fundraisers over 3,650 days, the ones that were
based on a theme associated with the mission of the nonprofit stand out. The Circa 1939 Durango World Exposition at
the Discovery Museum at the Powerhouse, the Women's Resource Center's Girls' Night Out and Music in the Mountains'
Pops Night, all shared their nonprofit's purpose in an entertaining way.
No organization has more fun or more creative parties than the Durango Friends of the Arts. Goddess night, Diva
Night, the annual fashion show, the YaYa Sisterhood, Second-hand Rose and other parties are thought through to every
detail. This was the first DFA event I covered in the June 17, 2000, Neighbors column:
Barbara Fletcher and Leslie LaVerghetta guided members of the Durango Friends of the Arts to a rousing
success at its third annual Nostalgia Night. In spite of all the controversy surrounding the gas and oil industry
here in La Plata County, one of the country's high-profile oil barons and his family, along with his West Coast
banker, stopped by the Durango Arts Center to help raise money for local arts programs. Of course, it was the Jed
Clampett clan, Jed, Granny, Elly May and Jethro Bodine, accompanied by Mr. Drysdale and Miss Jane Hathaway, also
known as the 'Beverly Hillbillies.'
DFA members pulled out all the stops to turn the DAC into a sophisticated Beverly Hills setting, with down home
touches like an old 1920s Ford flatbed truck on stage and 'laundry' strung up around the venue. Mayday catering
provided the vittles - grilled chicken quarters basted with Granny's moonshine sauce, grits, succotash, coleslaw and
biscuits, with appetizers and fruit cobblers, pies and brown Betties prepared by DFA members.
The costume contest was very popular,
with partygoers really 'dressing down' for it. Costumes were judged by Brian Wagner, executive director of the
DAC, and his wife, Nan. LaVerghetta was selected as the best Elly May and won Mane 'n Tale Shampoo and a
special horse comb for her lovely locks. Best Jud was Franklyn 'Bud' Beebe, who received a
well-deserved bottle of Absorbine 'Senior' Veterinary Liniment for his weary bones. The pick for Granny was Marian
Pierce, who won a 'washin' contraption (also known as a washboard), some potent soap and Bag Balm. Jethro winner
Daryl Kuntz won a money tie to be worn 'in good wealth,' and the 'Best of the Beverly Hillbillies' went to
Peeb Lupia - a perfect Miss Jane."
Before I began writing Neighbors, service clubs in the community had received virtually no coverage. As a
third-generation Rotarian (Durango Daybreak Rotary Club charter member) in a county with four Rotary Clubs, I wanted
to change that. There have been innumerable Rotary and Kiwanis stories ranging from exchange students to pancake
dinners. I am starting to pick up a few Lions Club stories. And just last month, I scored my first Civitans
Here's an excerpt from the story about the diamond-jubilee celebration of the Rotary Club of Durango, which ran on
April 17, 2004.
In April of 1929, the Rotary Club of Durango was chartered by Paul Harris himself (the founder of Rotary
International) and since then, its members have spent 75 years giving to the community.
The club celebrated the landmark event Tuesday night in the Diamond Circle Theatre at the Strater Hotel. It was
perfectly appropriate, as the club has met at the hotel for all those years.
Many came dressed in 1920s apparel, including boas and flapper dresses decorated with fringe and beads
¼ President Shawn Osthoff shared some highlights
from the club's seven-plus decades of service. The club treated 1,500 local children to movies and gifts for
Christmas in 1934 and raised $3,500 for an iron lung for Mercy Hospital in 1937.
In 1955, the club raised $862.75 to help defray the cost of a rope tow at Chapman Hill, and the next year spearheaded
the movement for a city swimming pool.
Also in 1956, the club hit the baseball diamond in a game against the Southern Ute Indian Ball Club, which the Utes
won 43 to 2. The game was mercifully called after four innings. Other gifts to the community include lights at the
Durango High School tennis courts, completion of the trail from town up to Fort Lewis College, Rotary Park (the one
with the gazebo), and beautification of the entrance to town across from the DoubleTree Hotel.
The service club has sponsored Rotary Clubs in Silverton, Cortez, Pagosa Springs, Durango (High Noon and Durango
Daybreak) and is the grandfather sponsor to the Rotary Club in Ouray."
In the movie 'The Wizard of Oz,' I would have been like Toto, pulling on the curtain to see what was behind it.
Writing this column is a bit like that, getting to see behind the scenes, meet the movers and shakers and learn how
things work. One of the great joys of the last 10 years has
been getting to know the wonderful folks of Music in the Mountains, Durango's summer classical music festival.
This story ran on June 13, 2007.
It started in a rather haphazard fashion.
Florence 'Foxie' Mason heard a conversation from the office next to hers at Southern Methodist University in
Dallas about a couple who wasn't having any luck getting a summer music festival started in Colorado. Mason, who had
just purchased a home in Durango, recommended Southwest Colorado. And thus was born Music in the Mountains.
The couple in the other office was Mischa Semanitzky and his wife, Jenny St. John.
Their vision, passion and hard work were directly responsible for the success of the festival, which began with 11
musicians and eight concerts, and has grown to a three-week-plus festival season, complete with a chamber-music
series, summer conservatory and school programs. On Thursday, they were treated to a surprise retirement party at the
Glacier Club ¼
The highlight was a DVD that the board and staff of Music in the Mountains had spent several months compiling. Set to
music from the 'Mozart 1-2-3 Concerto' CD featuring Aviram Reichert, it included reminiscences about the early
days of the festival. Chuck and Lorna Waddington recalled cooking a lot, as parties were usually
potlucks provided by board members. A particular favorite was Fred Henn's (Mason's father) roast beef. Other
people appearing on the DVD were past board presidents Mary Jane Clark, Jim Foster, Jack Silton, Ann Flatten and Diane Becket.
The Herald's own Charlie Langdon, whom Flatten credits with coming up with the name Music in the
Mountains Goes to School, and Herald Editor-in-Chief Morley Ballantine also played a part. Ballantine
was co-chair of the original capital campaign with Steve Parker and has been a staunch supporter of the
festival in every one of its 21 years.
Particularly touching were the comments from festival soloists and audience favorites Reichert and Vadim
Gluzman. They both talked about how they had enjoyed the collaboration with Semanitzky, who had created an
environment where musicians, as well as audiences, want to return year after year.
On the ninth anniversary of the column, April 16, 2009, I wrote a close that still holds true (with a few minor
It was just after Tax Day 2000 when my first column ran, and more than 800 columns later, I am grateful for the
trust you have given me to tell your stories. To all of you who greet me at City Market or the bank or when I'm
walking down Main Avenue or drop me an e-mail or stop me at an event to tell me how much you enjoy the column - it
never gets old!
Durango and La Plata County are not the same places I knew in my youth, but in many ways, they're better. Building
community was easier when were an isolated little town and a rural county and had to take care of each other. Now, after more than two decades of growth, we have to work at staying connected as a community. I hope that's one place
Neighbors has made a difference.
When I began this journey, my predecessor, Sally Morrissey, told me that in five years, I would know everyone
in La Plata County, and in 10 years, I'd know where all the bodies are buried. I mostly only know where the bodies
are buried because I write the obituaries, and I'm blessed by continuing to meet new and interesting people all the
There are a bunch of stories yet to
be told, so keep 'em coming!"