Fun-loving, charismatic and empathic are but a few character traits possessed by Marilyn Sandifer. During Halloween, she dresses like a pumpkin and delivers flowers to her doctor’s and dentist’s offices, friends, and other service providers. Upon meeting her, she might serenade you with a song and reveal that her forever love awaits her in heaven.
Born and raised in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, Marilyn and bestie since eighth grade, Priscilla, became teachers. Armed with degrees, ambition and Marilyn’s then-boyfriend’s Gulf gas card, they headed toward Phoenix, AZ. “We were told with a good recommendation we could land a teaching job anywhere. Priscilla drove her ’62 Buick Electra convertible. I followed behind the wheel of my ’65 red Mustang Fastback. My then-boyfriend, who didn’t want me to go, gave me his Gulf card and cited, ‘Use this to drive to and back from Phoenix.’”
Two days after their arrival, Marilyn accepted a sixth grade teaching position and Priscilla a post as a P.E. teacher. With eight weeks of time on their hands, the girls decided it would be fun to work at a Colorado dude ranch before school started. Marilyn’s future presented itself through an ad placed by Greystone Guest Ranch in Evergreen. Marilyn explains, “They needed kitchen help and a Girl Friday. Pris and I immediately called and were granted a 2 pm interview that same day. The scenery through Morrison Canyon was incredibly gorgeous, and driving into Evergreen took our breath away, but nothing prepared us for the grandeur of Greystone’s English Tudor Main Lodge.
“Directed to sit on the terrace, we awaited the Lodge’s owner, Mrs. Sandifer, who was running late. We didn’t mind. Our view of Mount Evans was absolutely breathtaking as were Greystone’s quaint cottages, fantastic barn, and a good looking cowboy who walked toward us. He wore a brown plaid shirt, small-brimmed Stetson, and belt buckle inscribed with Evergreen Fire Department. When he turned around to yell something toward the barn, I gasped, ‘Pris, look at those buns!’ He then walked onto the terrace and asked, ‘Are you waiting for Mrs. Sandifer?’ We nodded in silence. ‘She’s running late.’ Saying no more, he left. Mrs. Sandifer finally arrived at 7 pm, apologized for the long wait and added, ‘I’d like to interview you tomorrow. You can spend the night in the Lodge, and if we hire you, the room is free. If not, you pay $1 each. Agreed?’ We agreed.
“Mrs. Sandifer interviewed us the following morning with two other girls. She immediately hired the two girls as maids and Pris for the kitchen job. Silently, she looked at everyone and then proclaimed, ‘I don’t need a social director, but I do need an entertainer. Does anyone play the piano?’ I held my breath. I didn’t and apparently no one else did, so I blurted out, ‘I’m a folk singer and play the baritone ukulele.’ Proving that point, I sang ‘Michael Row the Boat Ashore,’ ‘This Is My Land, This Is Your Land,’ and ‘7 Old Ladies Locked in the Lavatory.’”
Marilyn’s upbeat personality and singing talent landed her both the job and the cowboy with the great buns, who turned out to be Mrs. Sandifer’s son, Bill. They married January 1, 1966. Needless to say, Marilyn returned her ex-boyfriend’s Gulf credit card and she also put her teaching degree to work, accepting a position at Parmalee Elementary School in 1966. When her in-laws retired, she helped Bill with the overall operation of running Greystone and became a widely renowned community advocate.
Marilyn recalls, “In 1975, I became the first woman elected to sit on the board of the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, which occurred when I overheard nine men talking about creating a governing body. Breaking into their conversation, I asserted, ‘This is the 1970s, men. You can’t create anything without women.’ I became a member with this stipulation: ‘You can attend board meetings, but you can’t vote; however, we promise not to vote until we hear your input.’ The next year I became the first woman voted to the board.”
Deeply concerned about the increased use of drugs and alcohol throughout our mountain communities, Marilyn was one of the founding members of MAFIA (Mountain Area Families In Action). “We founded MAFIA to show kids they could have fun without alcohol and drugs. We invited David Toma, a Newark, NJ narcotics cop, to talk to kids and parents regarding prevention of drug and alcohol abuse. More than 2,000 students and their parents attended the event. Learning high school students were involved in dangerous accidents on prom night more than any other time, Linda Brian and I, through MAFIA, organized the All Night Party for kids. The party followed prom and continued until dawn. Parents donated approximately $10K, which sounds like a lot, but not when nearly every parent contributed. Parents also decorated the school, brought in entertainers, provided food, and stayed to chaperone,” Marilyn explains. Marilyn also volunteered for both the Colorado Philharmonic Orchestra
(when they were based in Marshdale) and Evergreen’s Forest Heights Lodge, a private, nonprofit, therapeutic residential program for troubled boys 8 to 15 years old. Because of Marilyn’s devotion, Chamber member Eugene Sternberg nominated her as 1988’s Evergreen Chamber of Commerce’s Person of the Year.
Bill and Marilyn managed Greystone Guest Ranch until 1981, then sold the Lodge with 55 acres. They then built their family home on 100 acres of Greystone’s original ranch property. Of the thousands of acres that once comprised Greystone Ranch, Bill and Marilyn spent many hours surveying and creating Greystone Lazy Acres in Clear Creek County, Greystone Estates in Jefferson County, and Golden Gate Park Estates in Gilpin County. “Bill had an innate sense of where each lot should be and loved operating his D8 Caterpillar bulldozer, building roads, and moving dirt,” Marilyn lovingly recalls.
As she did upon her arrival in Evergreen, Marilyn continues to sing in the choir and be a proactive member at Church of the Hills, holding the longest member status. It was there, she and Bill married. Marilyn’s enriched life centers on the foundation of love, dedication, hard work, and compassion for others.