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Vera Diemoz looks back on Thompson years

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By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The year was 1911, and:

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• Ishi, considered the last Native American to make contact with European Americans, emerges from the wilderness in northeast California;

• The U.S. sends 20,000 troops to the Mexico border as that country’s revolution gains momentum;

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• The U.S. Supreme Court dissolves Standard Oil;

• The Brooklyn Dodgers buy land for what will become Ebbets Field.

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• Closer to Colorado in 1911:

• The settlement of Gypsum, east of Glenwood Springs, is incorporated as a town;

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 • The largest piece of marble taken from the Colorado-Yule quarry to date is 28 feet long and weighs 55 tons;

• And … Vera (Montover) Diemoz is born at old Snowmass Creek, where St. Benedict’s Monastery is now located.

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From 1911 to 1930, Vera moved with her family to farms at several Roaring Fork Valley locations — including the St. John’s place up Prince Creek, which was part of what is now Two Shoes Ranch — until she married Fred Diemoz in 1930 and settled on his farm on Silt Mesa.

This reporter met with Vera, her grand-nephew Vern Arbaney and his wife LeAnn (Thompson) earlier this week on a shady patio at Heritage Park Care Center on the west side of Carbondale.

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“There was a farm right here … this was Ben Gianinetti’s (place),” she said with a smile.

Bright, engaging and with a soft sense of humor, it’s hard to tell that Vera will turn 104 years old on Sept. 1. One of her nephews, from San Francisco, is hosting a birthday party for her at the Pan & Fork restaurant at River Valley Ranch. “He’s been doing that since I turned 100.”

Vera, her mother and father, and five brothers and seven sisters, leased all or part of the old Thompson ranch (now River Valley Ranch) in the mid-1920s. They lived in a small house about 200 yards, as Vern figures, southeast of the Pan & Fork restaurant, which would put it east of what is now the River Valley Ranch driving range and in the general vicinity RVR’s Old Town section.

At 15 years old, Vera did most of the chores and jobs that the men and boys did. They raked and stacked hay, planted and picked potatoes, fed the chickens, turkeys and livestock, milked 26 cows two times a day and more.

“They let us out of school (in the fall) to pick potatoes.”

When asked about her least favorite job, she said “Herding cows … they never stayed where I wanted them to stay.”

On two occasions, Vera’s father-in-law, Felix Diemoz won prizes at Potato Days for his spuds. Where was Vera’s father while Felix was in town at Potato Days? “Working … he (dad) didn’t have time for that.”

Vera and her brothers walked about a mile into town to attend school not far from where the Bridges Center is now located. The family headed further into town once a week, where one of their regular stops was Guido Badgett’s grocery store in the brick building at 55 N. Fourth Street that has been remodeled and is home to Equus Private Wealth Management. Mostly, the family just bought sugar, flour “and things like that” from the store. “He (Badgett) was our backbone … we paid him once a month.”

If the work was hard, so was the play. It was easy to find a country dance on a Saturday night. “One fella … he played the accordion … polkas … “. It wasn’t uncommon to arrive at a dance at about 9 p.m., head for home at 2 a.m., and get up to milk the cows at 4 a.m. “Those were good days.”

A simple pleasure for Vera and her siblings was to sit by the tracks and wait for the train to Marble to pass by. “It would slow down … we’d wave to it and they’d wave back … we looked forward to it.”

Vera’s mother (Aline), father (Joe) and three brothers emigrated from Italy to the United States in 1908. Her grandfather, grandmother and great-aunt also came from Italy. “There was about 22 of them.” Their records are still on file at Ellis Island.

Although life for the Montover family was mostly good during their Thompson ranch years, there was also tragedy. In 1926, Vera’s 4-year-old sister, Emma, and 6-year-old sister, Estelle, died of diphtheria and scarlet fever. She helped her mother prepare the girls for burial.

“There was an epidemic and they closed the school … They (Emma and Estelle) died three days apart … that was hard … they are buried on White Hill.”

After the Thompson ranch, the Montover family leased a farm west of Carbondale near Spring Gulch, then moved to Dry Park on part of what is now Crystal River Ranch.

On June 28, 1930, Vera married Fred Diemoz at the Garfield County Courthouse in Glenwood Springs.

Switching back to memories of her Thompson ranch years, Vera said “ … people were really nice.”

Although Carbondale is almost unrecognizable from what it was in the 1920s, Vera said the town is still “a nice place.” She also likes Heritage Park. “I love it here … I feel right at home.”

Published in The Sopris Sun on August 27, 2015.

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