Margo Hamilton, a Fort Collins native, moved to Evergreen in 1985 because of Willie Nelson. She explained, “A distant relative moved to Evergreen to ‘be closer to Willie.’ Her husband was obviously a saint. She tasked me to drive with her to Willie’s house numerous times daily. Never did we see him. I was satisfied seeing his horses.” At the time, Willie Nelson had property on Upper Bear Creek Road.
Margo moved into a quaint cabin with horse property on Willa Lane off North Turkey Creek, but felt landlocked while riding her horse. “I rode up and down the shoulder of North Turkey Creek until a spry and somewhat feisty little old lady, who lived on idyllic ranchland bordering my subdivision, stopped me. ‘What are you doing riding up and down the road? Cars whiz past faster than they should. You’re putting yourself and your horse in danger. Why don’t you ride on my land where it’s safer?’ That woman was 80-year-old Anna Erickson, who was living alone and raising her cattle on land that had been in her family since 1877. Anna was my first introduction to original pioneer stock. Never would I have guessed I would soon be blessed to not only meet but call pioneer families from the Evergreen, Conifer and Bailey communities my friends,” Margo said.
While working as the program coordinator at the Seniors’ Resource Center’s Yellow House, Margo met many other pioneers during the Friday Café lunches, including Arleta Alderfer, whose ranch became Alderfer/Three Sisters Open Space Park; sisters Louise Hendrix and Lucille Councilman, whose father started the Stranzky Ranch and founded the Evergreen Rodeo Parade; Marie Hanzlik, whose father managed the Flowers Ranch that is now the Broce Ranch, and many more.
The job came with a column on senior health in the Canyon Courier. “I was tasked to write on topics like the importance of keeping your toenails clipped and ridding your house of throw rugs. I begged Bob McDonald, then director of the Yellow House, to allow me to rename the column The Senior Spotlight and feature interviews with local pioneers. Meeting and writing about the history and heritage of our mountain communities availed opportunities to ride horses with the likes of Dan and Beth Lincoln on trails Dan created as a teenager, and others he and Ted Mann built, as well as with Jeff and Suzie DeDisse on a ranch Jeff’s dad, Brud, managed before him. Never do I tire of hearing stories about the history of our mountain communities, regardless if they would go to print or not.”
One of Margo’s favorite Yellow House tasks was creating floats for the Evergreen Rodeo Parades. “One year, we had a flatbed I filled with seniors dressed to represent their hobbies. There were tennis players, fishermen, and a small square dancing group. Estelle, age 88, loved to swim and threatened to wear her two-piece swimsuit. ‘Estelle, I can’t allow it.’ She just smirked at me. The morning of the parade, she came attired in her bathrobe and waited until the very last minute to reveal her one-piece swimsuit once we were underway.”
Prior to the Yellow House, Margo worked with at-risk youth because of a life-changing encounter at college. “My first day on campus, I heard about [a student named] Lullaby and her overindulgence in drugs and alcohol. Our paths crossed a couple of months later when she was barely conscious as two students dragged her into her dorm room. It broke my heart. Minutes later, she stepped into the hallway, white as a ghost, barely able to walk, with car keys in hand. No one made a move to help her. Our college sat atop a small mountain. I knew Lullaby would kill herself or someone else if she got behind the wheel. I followed her into the parking lot and just as she was about to unlock her car, I grabbed her keys and threw them into the darkness. I then stayed with her for hours as we walked and talked; she said, ‘Lullaby’s my nickname because I sing lullabies to get to sleep. My parents are divorced. I never see my dad. Never.’”
Margo explained that Lullaby had a broken heart and was using liquor and drugs to numb it. “It infuriated me that she was labeled. The next morning, we passed one another. I asked her if she was okay. I doubt she knew who I was. She said nothing; just grinned back. That grin haunts me to this day. That night, while students slept, Lullaby took her own life. We found her the next morning. Never did the school offer us counseling, much less put an arm around our shoulders. I skipped school and went to Mt. Sopris. It was there I promised myself something positive would come out of this and Lullaby’s story would never be forgotten.”
Several years later, Margo was invited to speak to middle and high school kids throughout Canada and the U.S. She also spoke in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, and a variety of conventions on the topic of hurt and how easily it transitions into hate. “That’s when I started writing. I was blessed to be tutored by a retired Time/Life book editor for the seven years I was speaking.”
When Margaret and David Hennessey moved to Conifer in the early ’90s, Margaret, who retired from her New York PR firm, wanted to start a community newspaper for Conifer. She enjoyed Margo’s stories in Canyon Courier’s Senior Spotlight and asked Margo to partner with her. “Margaret wanted to focus on human interest stories and showcase local nonprofits. Conifer Connection’s four-page black and white newspaper blossomed into the Mountain Connection and has certainly evolved the past 27 years. Much thanks goes to Jacque Scott, who purchased the paper when David and Margaret moved to California. Jacque retired in 2017 and the paper is now in the devoted hands of Jeff Smith,” Margo said.
Margo’s passion for writing about Colorado notables blossomed when Cat Stone founded Evergreen Living in 2003, no longer in print. Both the Gates family (Gates Rubber Company) and the Coors family granted her interviews. “It was miraculous. I was granted 45 minutes to interview Charla “Sparkie” Gates Cannon at her family’s Kittredge Chateau, and another 45 minutes with her brother Charlie at his downtown office. I quickly bonded with both because they were horse enthusiasts, and each waived the 45-minute limitation. I remained close to Sparkie until her death.”
Four years ago, Bill Coors asked Margo to collaborate with him. “Bill and I had kindred hearts for kids who were hurting. Our book morphed into an inspirational biographical workbook for middle schoolers to centenarians. We also created a 30-minute documentary that aligns with the book which we dubbed, “The Will to Live Program.” Bill and I completed the book on October 12, 2018. Ten hours later, he died at age 102. I believe Bill maintained his own will to live to ensure his vision and message would live on through our Will to Live project. Something tells me Bill and Lullaby are looking over my shoulder to ensure it does.”