May your pockets be heavy, your hearts light

K Redford, front, Kathy Tonnessen, center, and Audrey Werner peruse the mysterious white elephant offerings to be auctioned off at the Tuesday Literary Club’s St. Patrick’s Day Party at the Durango Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 507. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

K Redford, front, Kathy Tonnessen, center, and Audrey Werner peruse the mysterious white elephant offerings to be auctioned off at the Tuesday Literary Club’s St. Patrick’s Day Party at the Durango Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 507.


Call it “Fifty Shades of Green,” and you’d have a pretty good description of Tuesday Literary Club’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party Tuesday (of course).

The 24 guests wore every shade of hues hailing from the Emerald Isle, from kelly to mint, teal green to olive, chartreuse to asparagus. And everybody was in the spirit for a bit of fun. Hostesses Sue Griffith and K Redford had decorated the tables with an array of Irish-themed centerpieces, including pillar candles with shamrock garlands, green hats, and lots of bright green beads perfect for the big day.

As I watch Americans go all out for the holiday, I always wonder what the Irish in Ireland would think of the Chicago River dyed green, green beer and any excuse to imbibe, not to mention the ubiquitous corned beef and cabbage. I understand it’s a much bigger occasion in the U.S., perhaps because those with Irish heritage, either for real or for the day, are a bit homesick for the old sod.

In any case, Tuesday Lit members provided a menu that represents how we eat today. Corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, yes, but also including asparagus vinaigrette, several salads and dilled carrots. For dessert? Suzanne Zerbe’s bundt cake made with Jameson’s instead of rum and Elvira England’s green velvet cupcakes decorated with shamrocks – and one four-leaf clover for luck. (Based on all the four-leaf clovers at this party, we should all have a very lucky year indeed.)

Club members are revisiting some old traditions as they enter their 75th year, and Griffith and Redford resuscitated the mysterious white elephant auction at this party. Attendees were asked to wrap a quality white elephant item and write a cryptic clue about what the package contained. It was a two-part auction, starting with silent bidding, then advancing to live bidding with auctioneer Betsy Clark in a dapper green hat.

A small box said, “Wish you were here, Julia,” and ended up being a box full of fancy cooking gadgets in homage to Julia Child. An enticing “It can be light or heavy, it’s worth a great deal of money,” was attached to a box that contained a gift card to Maria’s Bookshop. Everyone in the room would have liked that one, but Barb Colbert’s the one getting something she’s been dying to read.

An enticingly light bag promised to “add some sparkle to your day,” and England, the winning bidder, was sporting serious bling on her finger as she left.

Pat Emmett bid enthusiastically for the “Mexican frog for your blog,” and was glad she did, going home with a really cool yellow Mexican pitcher with a frog on the front. I can’t do it justice, but take my word, it was way cool.

Lucy Olson, who has always vied with Sheila Casey to wear the most green outfit at the party had the field all to herself this year. Olson, the second of three generations of her family to be a club member – mom Nancy Elliott came first, and daughter, Joan Olson Rhoades followed her – got the biggest steal of the night, an R.C. Gorman print from the Santa Fe Art Museum, framed. England was the generous donor.

The best clue of the night goes to Emmett: “Jim Morrison sang about me, y José Feliciano también.” Ponder that for a moment. The white elephant gift was one of those logs that make building fires so easy, I can do it. “Light My Fire.” Get it?

As always, while there was plenty of fun and frivolity, the dollars raised went to the Durango High School School-based Health Center. I have heard story after story about how the center has provided care to students whose families don’t have insurance and has caught serious illnesses before they became grave. But more than that, the clinic has kept numerous students from missing too much class when they had a health problem because they could just go down the hall rather than having to drive to and from a doctor’s appointment. (And their parents stayed at work, which is an important economic benefit.)

Happy St. Paddy’s Day to all my readers. Please don’t drink and drive.

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May the luck of the Irish be with these birthday celebrants – Meredith Rolfe, Mary Shaw, Pat Boots, Missy Rodey, Kelly McCrea, Maria Root, Dennis Rolfe, Julia Gallagher, Vi Kessell, Ardis Ellingson, Shaun Stanley, Sophia Ottman, Mia Whistler, Cherie Cobb, Aidan Araujo, Ethan Craig, Mindi Kondrat, Joshua Mietz, Gregory Rambo and Lynn Mitzlaff.

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Writing about Tuesday Lit’s donation to the Durango High School School-based Health Center reminded me of a story I meant to get in a few weeks ago. (Everything always seems to come around – funny how that works.)

About 12 years ago, I was a Bighorn fellow, chosen with a group of folks from across Southwest Colorado to learn how campaigning works, how public policy is created and how to get a bill through the Colorado General Assembly. One weekend a month, we heard from elected officials, public policy wonks and assorted folks interested in civil, thoughtful public discourse.

We were the first class of the Bighorn Leadership Development Program, and my fellow alumni include Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, and former La Plata County Commissioner Sheryl Ayers, (before either was elected to office) as well as a number of candidates for office and elected officials in surrounding counties.

Bighorn, which has offered similar classes in other parts of the state since our graduation, has gone through some transformations since then, but it has continued its work in Colorado. At the end of January, the second class from Southwest Colorado graduated, and their class format was a little different. Instead of learning to propose legislation, they crafted a community project and implemented it. Do you see where I’m going?

Yep, it was the school-based health center, with an emphasis on getting Durango-area residents informed about just how important this center is. Members of the class were Terra Anderson, Sherrod Beall, Patsy Ford, Missy Rodey, John Snyder, Joe Theine, Scott Wallace and Karen Zink.

They graduated at a party celebrating a federal grant of $485,000 to build the center. But the money isn’t for operating costs – that’s our job as a community.

Anderson also did an interesting side project working on educating young people about advanced medical directives.

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Celebrating their anniversaries with some fine Irish whiskey are Paul and Jigger Staby, Roger and Rena Cole and Matt and Ivey Patton.