Mary Esther Field passed peacefully at home on Aug. 14 at the age of 86.
Born on Aug. 19, 1932 in Gunnison to John and Rosellen McIlwee; she was raised in her early years on the campus of Western State College where her parents were employed to manage residence hall and cafeteria operations. She attended public schools and graduated from Gunnison High School before attending Colorado A&M for one year where she majored in Home Economics.
In 1952 she married her high school sweetheart Fred Field. After his enlistment in the U.S. Army they were stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. They returned to Gunnison and purchased the family ranch, Field Land & Cattle Company, which continues in operation today. Mary and Fred raised their three sons on the ranch near Parlin.
Mary Esther was an active member of the Gunnison County Cattlewomen, PEO, the Chamber of Commerce, worked at the Gunnison Food Bank and was a strong supporter of 4-H and other youth organizations.
In 1985, she and Mary Ellen Ferchau founded Circus Train, a children’s store; she would later partner with Nancy Treadway and was ultimately sole proprietor. Circus Train was recognized as the 1999 Business of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce and in 2002 the Colorado BPW Business of the Year. Sustaining a business that served children and families for 27 years was one of her fondest and most fulfilling accomplishments. She was proud to have helped employ a number of people over the years and was committed to providing quality service and care to her customers. Mary Esther found great satisfaction in giving back to her community and sought opportunities to make visitors, newcomers and longtime residents feel valued and welcomed.
Preceded in death by her parents, husband Fred and brother Johnny Pat McIlwee; she is survived by her son Tom and his wife Laura and five grandchildren Justin, Sean, Trae, Kate and Colemen; son Pat and his wife Thea and granddaughter Willa, son Mike and his wife Cathy. Mary Field valued most being a mother and grandmother. She was a Gunnison gal — born and raised in the valley. She never wavered in her love, commitment and belief in the community and its people. While she traveled extensively with friends and family — she always came home to Gunnison where she found joy in making sure that kids and youth organizations had the resources to help them attain their goals.
Mary Esther cared for community, family and every creature under her stewardship — her life and family touched ranching, education, recreation and the early days of the ski industry — she had a wonderful set of friends and acquaintances that reached across the full spectrum of the community. Family, friends and neighbors were the cornerstones of her experience and she never wavered in her belief that kindness, hope and love are the keys to a life well lived.
If you would like to honor her — write a thank you note, support those on the margin, read a good book, hold the family pet close, have a good glass of wine or an ice cream, smile, gather at the dinner table, take your family to a movie, and tell someone you love them.
The community celebration of her life will be at 1 p.m. on Oct. 12 at the Multi-Purpose Building of the Fred Field Western Heritage Center. Donations in her honor to Wounded Warriors, the Gunnison Food Bank or youth activities would be greatly appreciated.