It has been a hard year for several families who have students at Florida Mesa Elementary School. Tragic car
accidents, deaths and serious illnesses have made it a difficult year both emotionally and financially.
So the staff at the school decided to do something about it. They threw a spaghetti dinner called From the Heart."
Martha Crowley and Jeannine Romero prepared the delicious sauce, and Daniel Lucero and
Crystal Gonzales made the rest of the food.
All kinds of businesses donated to the cause, including DJ Trucking, Guido's Favorite Foods, Sunnyside Meats, Jean-Pierre Bakery, Serious Texas BBQ and Banes Custom Packing, as well as parents, teachers and community member.
About 425 people came to eat and give from their hearts, helping to raise $2,800. Students at the school had made
table centerpieces, which were sold via silent auction. They had a chance to get" their teachers with plates of
whipped cream at a buck per plate.
Students also provided a lot of labor to help their classmates and their families. They put on the tablecloths, decorated the hallway and helped carry plates and bus tables. It was truly an all-school effort.
There are four families who will benefit from all this caring. The Hotchkiss family is still dealing with the
consequences of a fatal car accident outside Oxford right before Thanksgiving. Mother Cassandra Bennie
Yazzie-Hotchkiss died, and three of her children were seriously injured.
Fourth-grader Teddy Rodd, who was featured in a John Peel column a couple of weeks ago, has had surgery
on a slow-growing cancerous tumor on his brain stem and spine. He is now facing 14 weeks of chemotherapy.
The Salazar family lost their father over the summer. Three of four children have serious medical expenses.
The final family, who prefers to remain unnamed, suffered the loss of a mother along with the birth of a brand new
baby this year.
This is the true meaning of community, people coming together to take care of each other. I commend you all.
My thanks go to Misty Zellitti for serving as my correspondent for this story.
Digging out yet again as they celebrate their birthdays are Ethan Reimers, Liana Bygel, Connie
Trautmann, Susan Stuber, Ed Wilmett, John Serwe, Don Briscoe, Allen Washburn, Dan Howell, Pat Mahan, Rose Reiter, Fred Reiter, Trudy Parsons, Ayden
Martinez, Ellen Patterson, Stan Crapo, Betsy Petersen, Herb Folsom, Odette
Capistrano, Gene Bradley, Sam Stites and Downtown" Steve Brown.
Just as there was love and caring at Florida Mesa Elementary School, love filled the home of Annie Simonson on
Feb. 13. The occasion was a wedding shower for Sheri Rochford Figgs, who married Dan Figgs
on New Year's Eve in a romantic wedding at the Fort Lewis College Chapel. She didn't give
her friends enough notice to put one together before the big day!
Five co-hostesses welcomed about 30 guests. They were Glenda Langfels, Debra Parmenter, Karen
Langhart, Simonson and Shanan Campbell Wells.
They honored their dear friend in a memorable way, by creating a party fit for a magazine spread. Four of them
brought china, crystal, silver and other decorations to create a table honoring Figgs and Valentine's Day, which took
place the next day. Wells did her share as the bartender.
They were, in a word, gorgeous, and each was as distinctive as the hostess who created it. Every table deserves its
own description, but here are just a few of the details.
Parmenter's table had an antique look, with cut-glass goblets and old-fashioned champagne coupes. She is a talented
photographer, particularly of flowers. Stephanie Chambers of Wildflower brought a tremendous design talent to
the base for Parmenter's centerpiece, a large gilded mirror. She cut out individual flowers from Parmenter's photos
and scanned and cut out Victorian Valentine images and carefully placed them around the mirror and mounted them on
the base. She framed the mirror with blue from one of Parmenter's shots of the sky, and also printed out tiny sayings
about love to circle the mirror.
Simonson's table, where I had the honor of sitting, was a vision in red, white, silver and black. Heart-shaped plates
and a magnificent centerpiece of wrought iron decorated with red roses and red votive candles set her table's mood.
Langfels had created a gracious table in raspberry pink, with stylish cream, gold and blue china.
And Langhart's table was full of red satin bows, feathers and a modern twist of black-and-white-striped tea cups and
While guests oohed and ahhed over the decorations and how beautiful everyone looked, they enjoyed champagne, mimosas
and hot tea.
Morgan Gurney, who is starting a new business as Sweet Treats by Morgan, catered the affair with food that was
as lovely as it was delicious. Durango has needed a caterer for elegant affairs since Cathy Alf André of Road
Runner Catering retired, and Gurney may well be it.
She provided savories of egg salad on rye bread, rotisserie chicken salad on whole grain bread and English cucumber
with alfalfa sprouts on white bread. (Trust me, none of these were traditional. Gurney added her own touch to
The sweets were currant scones with blood-orange curd and Chantilly cream, a fruit tarts filled with crème Brule, a
chocolate tart with salted caramel, a mango-key-lime tart and the best chocolate-dipped strawberries I have had in my
life. One of Gurney's secrets is that she adds caramelized cocoa nibs to the chocolate.
If birds of a feather flock together, the guest list shows just how beloved and respected the bride is. Among them
were some of the most prominent and distinguished women of the community - and as they would insist I say, they're
some of the most fun as well.
To name just a few members of the guest list - Susan Lander, executive director of Music in the Mountains;
Assistant La Plata County Manager Joanne Spinal; former La Plata Electric Association board chairwoman Pam
Patton, Morley Ballantine Award winner Laurel Waller; philanthropic leaders Patti Zink and
Bette Serzen; women's health advocate B.J. Boucher; Mercy Regional Breast Care Center capital-campaign
chairwoman Linda Campbell; creator of Music in the Mountains Goes to School Ann Flatten; Dean of the
Fort Lewis College School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Linda Schott; former congressional staffer
Katie Aggeler; president of the Durango Independent Film Festival Board of Directors Julie Cooley;
Moni Ruskin, a vice president at First National Bank of Durango, who ably represents the bank at many of the
events it supports; former public information officer for both FLC and Durango School District 9-R and current fund
development and marketing director for the Women's Resource Center Deborah Uroda; La Plata County Commissioner
Kellie Hotter; and Music Director of the Durango Chorale Society Linda Mack.
Among them were numerous Barbara Conrad Community Leadership Award, Morley Ballantine Award, Bill
Mashaw Volunteer of the Year Award and Citizen of the Year Award winners. Well, only the bride is a Citizen of
the Year Award winner so far.
This is the last Neighbors column that will be edited by Dale Houston. A veteran of 11 years in the newsroom, he has been the guy who made me look good for nine and a half years of the almost 10 years I've been chronicling the
human-interest doings in La Plata County.
In the early days, he edited by reading it out loud in the person of Walter Cronkite or other sonorously voiced
celebrities, much to the newsroom's dismay. (He used to be in radio.)
In later days, there have been innumerable Butler, get over heres," and Did you means "font-family: Symbol;">¼?"
Believe it or not, I will miss Butler, where's that column?" How's it coming?" and It's done?" always said with
great surprise, which reinforces my feeling that every single column is a miracle.
He won't miss reading the menus from gourmet events, the descriptions of party decorations or my tendency to get a
little mushy sometimes. But I hope he will miss the personal touch of La Plata County and the laughs. And that he'll
stay in touch, as we are both fans of the mystery/thriller genre and have shared numerous books over the last decade.
Godspeed, dear Dale.
Enjoying the snow as a reason to celebrate a cozy anniversary this week are Richard and Dorothy
Vaccaro, Tim and Marian Townsend and Don and Katie Simonsen.
For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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