Dr. Curtis C. Starkebaum, DVM, passed away peacefully, at home, with family, on Feb. 1, 2021, at the age of 97.
Curtis was born on the family farm, near Haxtun, Colo., on April 10, 1923 to Ernest and Vera Starkebaum. Growing up, he worked on the farm, raising turkeys, chicken, cows, hogs, horses and the growing of corn. He attended a one-room school through eighth grade, riding his horse “Bill” to and from school. He was a good student and multi-sport athlete at Haxtun High School.
Curtis graduated from Colorado A&M, (now Colorado State University), in 1945. It was there he met Alice Mae McNeer, who also played clarinet in the university symphony, and sat next to Curtis in the woodwind section. Alice also graduated from A&M that year and the two were married on May 19, 1946. Upon graduation, they both served in the U.S. Army, including two years in the veterinary corps in Germany.
After returning from service, and exploring veterinary opportunities in Alliance, Neb., and Cortez, Colo., they moved to Gunnison, Colo., in 1950, establishing Curtis’ veterinary practice and building a vet clinic west of town. For the next 43 years, they called the Gunnison Valley home, raising their four sons there.
For over two decades, “Doc” was the only animal doctor in town. Fall was especially busy with cattle vaccinations and pregnancy testing, and in the spring, with “calving season.” The life of a country vet meant many a night going out into frigid below zero weather to deliver a calf or sew up someone’s horse that had gotten into barbed wire. As if family life and running a vet practice did not keep Curtis busy enough, he also taught biology classes part time at Western State College (now Western Colorado University) for 22 years, was a 20-year member of the Gunnison volunteer fire department and served as a board member for the Fire Protection District for 10 more. He was chair of the Gunnison County Planning Commission when it adopted its first landuse regulations, and for 41 years served in the Lions Club, a community service organization. He was a lifetime supporter and active member in the American Veterinary Medical Association. He was also very involved with the Gunnison Community Church, serving on the church board, and both he and Alice sang in the church choir. The Starkebaum house served as base camp for the multitude of related family who loved coming to Gunnison to visit, particularly for their summer vacations.
Curtis loved the outdoors, and enjoyed hunting, fishing, jeep and camping trips. Many fall hunting trips ended with elk and venison in the freezer. The family farm in Haxtun provided great pheasant hunting. Family fishing forays were conducted on Blue Mesa Reservoir for kokanee salmon and lake trout. Many long family hikes into high mountain lakes were rewarded with fresh trout.
Upon retirement, Curtis and Alice moved to Littleton, Colo., to be closer to their sons and grandchildren. They enjoyed traveling and visiting family, friends and classmates, traveling in a GMC van Curtis converted for camping, for many long road trips, including memorable trips to Alaska, above the Arctic Circle, and once across Canada to Nova Scotia. They also enjoyed international travel, taking excursions to Europe, South America, and the South Pacific. Curtis sadly lost Alice in 2007, after 60 years of marriage, to Alzheimer’s.
Curtis is preceded in death by his parents, Ernest and Vera, younger brother Clark, wife Alice, and son Greg. He is survived by his children, Mark (Nancy), Neal (Lisa) and Brent; and seven grandchildren.
Graveside service and burial will be at the Haxtun Cemetery, Haxtun, Colo. Due to COVID-19, a memorial service will be scheduled at a later date.
Curtis was deeply loved and will be missed by his family and many friends. Remembrances or stories, in celebration of his life, may be shared on the Horan & McConaty website; www.horancares.com/testimonials.
Causes that were important to Curtis include local Habitat for Humanity, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Western Colorado University Foundation, and the American Alzheimer’s Association. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to one of these organizations.