A dapper gentleman frequently seen about town in a top hat and sporting a smile, Arvo Matis has given centenarians a good name. A Durango resident since 1930, he hit the 102 mark on July 20 with a whole lot of celebrating.The festivities began July 19 with a reception for family and friends at St. Mark's Episcopal Church's Parish Hall. Matis' grandson John Erik Aaby, who is a chef in Geilo, Norway, made a delicious spread of appetizers, and his brother Christopher Aaby planned the beautiful decorations of balloons and white lights wrapped in tulle draped overhead.
Dale Elliott played the piano, adding to the party atmosphere. Matis enjoyed visiting with old friends, astounding everyone with his recall of names and details most of us (including yours truly) who are decades younger can't remember.
The next day, his actual birthday, more than 110 family and friends ate lunch at the Durango/La Plata Senior Center. The birthday boy entered doing a jig to more piano tunes from Elliott. Matis loved to dance in his younger years, and the man still has rhythm.
Every year, Elliott writes a song for Matis' birthday, and this year, it was an echo song. The whole Matis clan sported baseball shirts with "Telluride" across the front and "Arvo 102" on the back. Birthday shirts have become an annual tradition created by Matis' granddaughter Krista Levine and her husband, Joel, of Chandler, Ariz.
Matis grew up in Telluride, and in the early 1920s he was a bat boy for the Telluride Baseball Team. Matis said the town hired four baseball players from Texas to work in the mines, but their most important job was to help the team beat its rivals.
That night, Matis' nephew Mel Matis and his wife, Cindy Schroeder, treated the family to a barbecue at their newly built, energy-efficient home at Cottonwood Farm. Matis marveled at the solar panels, concrete floors and delicious vegetables growing in the garden and greenhouse.
But wait - the celebration wasn't over. On July 21, giant birthday balloons and the Ore House staff greeted Matis and his family for another annual tradition, a birthday dinner at the restaurant. Matis was surprised to be given $2 because the bill was paid by the Ore House according to his age. It's an ongoing tradition started by Ore House owner Beetle Abshagen. With a big grin, Matis said he can't wait to get his $3 next year.
A lot of family attended the festivities, including daughter Suzanne Matis of Durango and her daughter and son-in-law, the aforementioned Levines of Chandler; daughter Mary Jane Matis Aaby of Monument and her sons John Erik Aaby of Norway and Christopher Aaby of Monument (who both helped put on the reception at St. Mark's), third son Thomas Aaby and his wife, Anna, of Silvethorne; grandson Eric Matis of New York City, the son of Matis' son, Clark Matis, and his wife, Leslie, who live here but were unable to attend. Also joining the fun were nephews Lew Matis of Mancos and Mel Matis and his wife, Cindy Schroeder, of Durango. Lew and Mel are the sons of Arvo Matis' late twin brother Wilho and his late wife, Emma.
This family gave your intrepid Neighbors columnist a run for her money when it comes to a social calendar. And after a long nap, they'll all be back to running to keep up with their 102-year-old patriarch.
Happy birthday greetings go out to Leos Jeff Eisele, Danielle Kirkpatrick, Merlene Goff, Kelly Somsen, Robin Harms, Parker Norvell, Hal Emrich, Scott Atchison, Willow Schulz, Betty Carroll, Wanda Greve, Janey Silver, Sheena Oyler, Elizabeth Golub and Lea Douesnard.
USA Today may have called Durango the "least fashion-conscious town in America," but one man has won us bragging rights for his cowboy style.Durangoan Nick Jeansonne was named the Best Dressed Cowboy at the Red Lodge, Mont., Fourth of July parade.
Kendall Johansen, the president of the Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo and Parade, said that in 2009, during the 80th year of the event, the most votes were cast. More than 2,000 people picked their favorites out of more than 120 participants.
I personally like his leather chaps, which feature silver eyelets and fringe.
"The originality of your outfit was envied by all of the judges," Johansen wrote in a congratulatory letter, "and other competitors as well. Your horsemanship skills were second to none. The State of Montana, the City of Red Lodge as well as our Home of Champions Rodeo and Parade Committee want to thank you for your participation."
The award was a beautiful silver buckle, which can only add to his outfit in the next competition. Jeansonne's brother, Kenny Jeansonne, lives just down the road from Red Lodge in Roberts, Mont.
On Saturday, I wrote about the Bill and Tina Downey family and their beloved dog, Rosco, who had a run-in with a bear, resulting in a $3,000 veterinary bill for surgery. A group of friends, including staff from Riverview Animal Hospital, who treated Rosco, donated enough items for a mega-ginormous yard sale.By the end of the sale, the cast of thousands had raised about $1,800 to help pay the bill, with some items left over for the La Plata County Humane Society Thrift Store to benefit other critters that need a hand.
A couple of people thanked me for the mention in the column as being a great help and attracting a lot more people. But I don't deserve the credit. As always, it's the generous Neighbors readers who made the difference.
And for those of you who are wondering, Rosco is healing nicely and even trying to put some weight on the injured leg now and then. The bear has been back more than once, but the hope is that Rosco has learned that he is out of his weight class with a 400-pound bear.
While I'm in a canine kind of mood, Bonnie Lewis stopped by the Herald on Monday to tell me a story about dogs and rattlesnakes - nearly as bad a combination as dogs and bears.She has lived in Durango for only 14 months, but in that time has reunited more than 10 lost dogs with their owners. She had a great story about a Labrador retriever and a Pomeranian, and let's just say that the Pomeranian enjoyed the freedom of the open road.
Lewis said that in the last week, at least one dog has been bitten by a rattler at the Durango Dog Park, where the snakes enjoy hanging out in the rocks along the Animas River, and the dogs make a beeline across the rocks to go swimming in the river. A sign now has been posted there to keep a lookout for the snakes.
Worried about her own two dogs, Lewis did some research and found out Dr. Donald Schwartz, a vet in Mancos, gives a rattlesnake-venom kind of vaccine, which doesn't ward off the toxins, but slows them down so dog owners can get their companions to a vet and generally makes a bite have less serious consequences. It takes one shot a year at $17 a shot, and might be worth investigating.
Lewis was such a vocal advocate for dogs, I said I'd share the story. It's up to those of you whose dogs are most likely to run into a rattlesnake to figure out what you want to do.
These anniversary celebrants are enjoying Olathe corn and cherry tarts for their big day - Mark and Barb Ugai, Ed and Sonya Willmett, Bill Ballas and Karena Broman-Ballas and Bob and Betsy Morris.
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