The Lyons Redstone Museum honored the two graduates of the class of 2017 during the Good Old Days celebration for being from pioneer families who have lived in the area at least fifty years. They were Ever Johan Ortiz-Valdez and Aaron Abraham Vasquez.
By Kathleen Spring
There have been several women who have made their mark in the town of Lyons. Two of them touch on the quarry business in town, and worked along side their husbands. The Lyons History Video Project interviewed them more than a decade ago. Their video-taped interviews have been converted to DVDs and are available for viewing at the Lyons Redstone Museum. This is a sample of some of the information and stories that you will see in their almost two hour long interviews.
After retiring from the Ball Corp. in Boulder in 1989, after 23 years, Frances Brackett became president of the Lyons Cemetery. She helped find names for unmarked burial stones in the cemetery, and put together a directory of all burials and markers. She also volunteered for years at the Visitor Center. She planted perennial flowers around the center, and the path, which remain today. After her death, a portrait of her was put in the Center, which was christened with her name.
In many states, the number of women mayors doubled from the 1970s to the 1990s. In Lyons, in 1994, Frances Brackett became the first female mayor of Lyons at the age of 67. Her husband, Bill, was a council member and then mayor for 14 years. He encouraged her to run against the current mayor, saying “You could do a much better job.”
Fran and Bill were devoted to public service. She would say, “There’s a lot of things I’ve done in my life, but to just chose one I’m proudest of...serving the public. Also, gathering the history you know.” She felt everyone who is born here gathers up decades of information that they need to save. Her family’s history goes back to the early days when quarrying was just starting. Mary and Thomas Brodie were her parents. Her grandfather was John C. Brodie. He started as manager of the Hugh Murphy quarries; and a year later in 1893, he bought it. It became known as the Brodie Quarries, or St. Vrain Quarries. On the interview tape, Fran pulls out old family photos, including the quarries.
“You have to keep doing something,” said Fran. “I think I’m not going to do this or that and then I end up doing it.”
Cora Fitts is another woman who just couldn’t sit still. While her husband, Bill “W”, worked in the quarry, she would lift heavy stacks of stone to put on the truck. Most men and women today would flinch in fear if they were asked to lift such heavy pieces. In 1964, it was her brilliant idea to buy the piece of property that Western Stone sits on today. The busy Lyons stone yard on Ute Highway (highway 36) is now owned by Paul Frysig, who praises the couple for taking him under their wing and teaching him about the quarry business.
The video interview is mainly of Bill, and his amazing sandstone-related inventions, but Cora shines as she describes her contributions to the business. One fun story is how Bill traded in an old non-working saw for some new equipment, and he turned it into a diamond sandstone polishing machine. Stop by Western Stone yard to see it in use. They were married for 37 years, and 20 of them were spent working the quarry they owned.
Other women in the quarry business who were interviewed include Letha Tribble, Tribble Stone Co. (est. 1947), and Cindy and Cathy Loukonen, Loukonen Bros. Stone Yard (est. 1890), with both family quarry businesses going strong today. Maxine Harkalis’ grandfather, Olaf Ohline, started a ranch and then a large quarry in 1907. The Video Project is hoping to interview the final pioneer families this year, including Frances Phillips of (Robert) Phillips Stone Co., which recently closed down.
Both Cora and Fran, and their husbands, are now deceased. It is urgent to complete the project, in order to save the stories of Lyons’ pioneer families. This cannot be done without donations for expenses, which can be sent to Lyons History Video Project, P. O. Box 274, Lyons 80540. The next step is transcribing the interviews into a book format.
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