Big Red earns golden hubcap for service

After more than 130,000 miles of carrying excited skiers, campers and kayakers, Big Red is retiring as the handicapped-accessible transportation for the Durango Adaptive Sports Association. Here, he’s loaded up to take a group of campers to Haviland Lake. The campers enjoyed painting him with slogans. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Tim Kroes

After more than 130,000 miles of carrying excited skiers, campers and kayakers, Big Red is retiring as the handicapped-accessible transportation for the Durango Adaptive Sports Association. Here, he’s loaded up to take a group of campers to Haviland Lake. The campers enjoyed painting him with slogans.

Big Red, who has carried hundreds of skiers, campers and other outdoors enthusiasts to 15 years of adventures is ready to slow down and kick back. It’s a well-deserved retirement as he reaches his 130,000-mile mark, but before he rattles and rolls into the sunset, he’s spending one last summer on the road.

The handicapped-accessible van that has served the Durango Adaptive Sports Association so valiantly deserved more than a discreet disappearance, and staff members at ASA wanted to have some fun with the fundraising campaign to purchase his successor. (I almost wrote “his replacement,” but no shiny new van can fill Big Red’s tires.)

So they wrote a charming retirement letter in Big Red’s voice.

Here are a couple of paragraphs:

“I’m the accessible van. The van that has been packed full of school kids squealing with delight as I bring them back soaking wet from their latest splash down the Animas River. The van that has transported hundreds of people with physical disabilities to Durango Mountain Resort to learn that the mountain doesn’t care whether you ski sitting or standing. The van that takes groups of veterans far off the beaten path, pulling a heavy trailer full of gear necessary to explore the rivers on a multi-day float trip. I’ve driven more than 130,000 miles, packed full of people excited to discover what the next adventure will bring ...

“I’ve spent the last 15 years working at a nonprofit. Although the rewards have been great, the 401(k) plans simply don’t exist. We aren’t cheap to replace, especially when you factor in the unique needs of a program dedicated to providing outdoor recreational experiences to people with disabilities.”

ASA estimates the successor will cost about $50,000, and the capital campaign is on – with a goal of having the new transportation on the road before ASA’s winter-sports season.

On Friday, Patric Flinn, director of golf at the Glacier Club, created the first ever Birdie Fest in the Four Corners. He and Chad Gurney, head pro, Lucas Butler (no relation, as far as I know), Shea Sena and Cory Titsenser played a grueling 54 holes of golf in one day. (That’s three rounds of 18 holes for those who need help with the arithmetic.)

People made pledges of how much they would pay per birdie, which is one stroke under par on a hole. So if you pledged $5 per birdie, and they made 20 birdies, you would contribute at least $100 toward the new van.

The golfers hit 41 birdies between them, and pledges from Glacier Club members and ASA supporters have reached $8,500.

Glacier Club was a great sponsor. The club not only gave its pros the day and course to play, the club also donated carts for the second half of the event so donors could cheer them on. They essentially had their own gallery. The day ended with a reception at the clubhouse.

Tim Kroes, executive director of ASA, estimates the tally for the campaign at $11,000. There is a second fundraising event for the “New Big Red” fund, a dance party at Edgemont Picnic Grounds on Aug. 12, and of course, contributions are also needed.

To reserve for the dance party, which will feature Ralph Dinosaur, or to learn more about the campaign, visit www.asadurango.org or call 259-0374. Mail contributions to ASA, P.O. Box 1884, Durango, CO 81302.

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Here’s asking these people to wish for rain as they blow out their birthday candles – Julie McCallister, Roger Cole, Kendra Moffett, Susan Hermesman, Janine Crossno, DorthyWilson, Vivian Emrich, Pat LaRose, Art Gesh, Sue Griffith, William Knight, Amanda Blalock, AlexaHowell, Taylor Zick, Anna Folk and Erin Hamlin.

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From the moment I started writing Neighbors more than 12 years ago, Rosemary Krass was one of my greatest supporters. Before she even met me, she was sending notes about columns she had particularly enjoyed, and she continues to do so from her new home on the Front Range. (That’s a dedicated reader.)

So it’s my honor and privilege to wish her and her husband, Ed, many good wishes as they celebrate their 60th anniversary Thursday.

The two of them have a shared love of education – she has a master’s degree in education and taught at the elementary school level for 36 years; he earned a doctorate in education and had an illustrious career in the Marines, reaching the rank of colonel, before his retirement. He went on to become the superintendent of the Santa Ana School District in California before his second retirement.

Many locals know Rosemary Krass from her beautiful piano playing. She often served as the accompanist to Gemma Kavanagh.

The couple lived in Durango from 1990 to 2011, when they moved to the Front Range to be closer to their son-in-law, the Rev. John Knutson’s, church in Greeley and their grandson, Patrick, who lives in Denver. In fact, the Krasses are getting ready to move to Greeley, just 3.5 miles from the church.

The Krasses have two daughters, Diane Knutson of Durango and Michelle Tanaka of Burley, Idaho.

Many happy returns of the day to you both.

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For 10 years, Rick Lorenz has decided to thank his clients with a free movie screening, and he asks them, if they’re so inclined, to bring donations of nonperishable food items for the Durango Food Bank.

To date, that simple plea has brought in more than 15,000 pounds of food. This year’s group brought in 561 pounds of food and $250 in cash. (Cash is always good.)

The Wells Group real estate broker also gives prizes for the folks who guess how many nails are in the jar. Getting “clever” this year, he advised them to count the number of heads and the number of pointy parts and divide by two.

Sarah Smith, executive director of the food bank, says this is one of the most fun food drives of the year – lots of laughter and doing good is a surefire combination.

And it’s something our community does particularly well.

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If there are a lot of anniversaries, it must be June. Here’s wishing a happy day marking another year of connubial bliss to Frank and Katherine Campana, Ken and Sue Marshall, Bill and Cindy Donelan, Bill and Peggy Hoffman, Alan and Brenda TeBrink, John and Eliane Viner, Hamilton and JaneWright, John and Katie Benner, Fred and Lois Anderegg, Danand KimHarms, Mike and Dianne Milner, Tom and Geri Campbell and Cyril and Laura Bohachevsky.

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items.

I am happy to consider photos for Neighbors, but they must be high quality, high resolution photos (at least 1 MB of memory), include no more than three to five people, and the people must be identified. The other piece of necessary information is who gets the credit for getting the shot. Candid photos are better than posed.