** PROFILES IN RANCH HISTORY - Sue Downs **

This delightful, charming, and adventurous lady has been part of the ranch history since July 4th, 1992. She came across a small ad for an unfinished cabin on 35 acres near Trinidad, Colorado. She had driven by the town once on the way from Littleton to a conference south, in Albuquerque. Husband Gene had never been near Trinidad. They had been considering their options for retirement years. At first Gene thought it was too soon to go looking, but curiosity soon overcame him. Off they went 4th of July weekend to view the shell of a log cabin. The timing for the cabin wasn’t right, however they did view a lot on Elk Ridge Trail. Like many of us, they didn’t intend to buy and started the journey back to Littleton, Colorado. Well, by the time they reached Colorado Springs their hearts were set and they called the realtor about that 35 acre lot. The realtor came to their Littleton home with the contract on July 4th-and the lot was theirs.

The building adventure began in 1995. It turned into a story of faith in God. The contractor cheated the Downs and five other families. Sue & Gene lost 35K to this scoundrel. The county judge issued an arrest warrant and the highway patrol caught up to him attempting to leave the state near Branson. He went to prison and in the end, the families were able to recover two payments of 30 dollars each from his prison earnings! The logs had indeed been ordered by the contractor, and how would they be paid for? It was a challenging time, yet their faith community rallied and prayed hard. Sue admits, she questioned her faith during this time. Friends were saying you should visualize the results. When Sue did, the Lord responded. The Downs met with a Littleton Realtor and learned that their home could sell for the needed amount to build. In the end, it sold for exactly 35k more than they anticipated! Gene & Sue began spending every weekend in Trinidad working to finish the home, staying in a camper. During the work week, they lived with daughter Marilyn and continued in their careers. January 3, 1996 was Sue’s retirement date. She and Gene each left their former business’ in separate vehicles. It turned out the two merged together onto highway 25 south at the same moment, heading to Trinidad. This memory still makes Sue laugh.

Now Sue & Gene began to immerse their skills and talents into this growing community. They were joined by a small but mighty group of ranch residents. Gene was soon on the POA Board of directors. The community had concerns regarding fire protection. Gene and other early residents joined the Fisher’s Peak Fire District Volunteer Department {FPFD}. Eventually, Gene, earned the distinction of Firefighter of the Year 2002. Sue and other ranch women joined the fundraising arm, the FPFD auxiliary. These efforts, including Grant writing, led to the building of the Fire Station on Fishers Peak.

Sue recalls attending an Easter Chorale in 1997. At the conclusion, neighbors were milling around and one female neighbor said she was feeling lonely and isolated. Sue and Joyce Wolff became inspired. Sue hosted a gathering in the Elk Ridge Trail home and the Women’s Group was born. Joyce began writing the newsletter. The original group had 7-8 members. Compare that to current in which there are 90 plus members! It was indeed a wilderness! Sue states, “We city gals, ready to tackle anything.”

Many activities followed. Sue & Gene, avid skiers, enjoyed many ski trips to Monarch Mountain with fellow ranch residents. Joker Marble games were a hit and continue to be to this day. Harriet & Fred Vaugeois were inspired fundraisers. “A Christmas Carole” was produced using ranch residents as actors. It was such a memorable time. And the highly successful Southern Colorado Repertory Theater grew from these efforts. Another Fundraising success came as the famous group “Sons of San Joaquin” were recruited to perform in Trinidad. It turned into a full weekend party with barbecue and great camaraderie. Resident Realtor Francie Purswell Montoya shared her beautiful home with the band.

One memorable bear story of the period was on a holiday weekend when all three daughters were home. The family Shih Tzu dog, Barney, was in attendance. Sue awoke from a nap because of noises emanating from the back porch. Investigation revealed a Mama Bear with three cubs. Gene shooed them away but Barney wanted to participate. The dog and cubs scattered. One was out-of-site of Mama Bear and began crying out. Sue says it sounded just like a human baby. Daughter Marilyn darted out to retrieve Barney, just as Mama Bear was becoming agitated. Marilyn scooped up Barney and Gene latched onto Marilyn just in time to pull her to safety!

In 2003, Gene & Sue, departed the ranch to a Lake area in Texas, to be near daughter Marilyn and her husband Michael. Gene passed away suddenly, and Sue began to feel a pull back to SFTR. Daughter Deb had a lot and the two conspired to have a modular home placed there. They each had their separate space. Deb Roberts still owns this home on Mountain View. Sue was spending half the year in her other happy place Hilo, Hawaii during this time. This arrangement worked well until God came knocking at the door. Lanae Rossi shared that there was a new listing on the ranch that might interest Sue….would she care to look?….low and behold, it was the original cabin that first caught Sue’s imagination in 1992. July 24, 2017, Sue’s 80th birthday, she became the owner of that first ranch cabin.

Sue remains active in the Women’s Group and has started a new generation of ranch residents playing Joker Marbles. Sue’s enthusiasm for this lovely place is palpable. She is a joy to converse with and a wealth of knowledge. She seldom misses a party or Monday Game Nights. July 24, 2022, will mark her 85th year. Please join me in celebrating her.

-- by Maureen Latham, July, 2022