Janet Miller McDonald

Gunnison native Janet Miller McDonald, 77, died as the result of a massive stroke last Sunday afternoon, Oct. 21, 2017. A multi-generation Gunnison resident, Doris Janet Miller was born May 17, 1940, to Ray and Doris (Hanson) Miller. She was born in the Grand Apartments, the old Smith Opera House on Boulevard Street, which was owned and operated by her maternal grandmother, Minnie Hanson. Janet often recounted that as her birth neared, a friend of her mother’s dropped in at the family’s upstairs apartment to inquire if there was work to be done. “No, no work today,” Mrs. Miller casually responded, “I think we’ll have a baby.” Janet graduated as Valedictorian from her 1958 graduating class at Gunnison High School. During her senior year, Janet made the acquaintance of Grand Junction native Walter “Bud” McDonald, a Veteran of the Korean Conflict who was ranching at Powderhorn. Bud had joined Dick Wilson socializing in Gunnison and chanced to meet Janet among an informal gathering of students at the old high school building which later became Ruland Junior High School. Circumspect, Bud describes Janet as “quiet and bashful” and says they waited to formally date until after Janet graduated from high school. After high school she married McDonald, spent her entire married life — over 58 years in Lake City. She and Bud raised a family of three sons and a daughter while Janet also successfully juggled commuting to Western State College to obtain degrees in teaching and accounting, and held down a succession of three careers in clerical and accounting work with the U.S. Forest Service, Town of Lake City, and First National Bank of Lake City. Following marriage at Good Samaritan Church in Gunnison on Sept. 20, 1959, Bud and Janet made their home at the old Croft Ranch, now part of the Gorsuch property, on the Lake Fork above Red Bridge. While Bud did ranch work, Janet obtained an emergency teaching certificate which allowed her to teach the entire student body — three students, Roberta Cadwell and the Hutchinson brothers, Glen and Bruce — at Powderhorn School. The McDonalds’ married life in the Lake City area dates to the early 1960s when Bud began working at the Pelican and Pride of America mines on Henson Creek while leasing Redcloud Ranch above Lake San Cristobal. Bud and Janet’s family expanded to consist of their three sons, eldest Harry, who was born in 1960, followed by George, born in 1962, and John, 1963, and the couple’s sole daughter, Christine, who was born in 1966. When Christine was still an infant and Bud and the boys old enough to fend for themselves, Janet decided to return to school to obtain her teaching certificate. Prior to marriage, she had attended University of Colorado for one year. She commuted from Lake City to attend classes at Western State College beginning in 1969 and concluding with graduation in December, 1972, when she received a major in elementary education and minor in accounting and office procedures. Simultaneous with family life and her college courses, Janet worked several years in the office of Hinsdale County Clerk & Recorder, and assisted the county as accountant following the retirement of Hugh McKee. Between 1973 and retirement in 2005, Janet worked as clerk and typist at the Lake City office of the U.S. Forest Service (1973-1983), and was Town Clerk and then Town Treasurer/Deputy Clerk for Town of Lake City for a record 23 years spanning 1973 to 1996. She was among the first and longest-serving local residents working at First National Bank of Lake City when it was first established in May, 1983. She initially worked as loan secretary for the local bank, continuing as assistant cashier and operations loan manager at First National’s successor, Miners & Merchants Bank, through retirement on November 18, 2005. At retirement after 22 years with the local bank, Janet was the last of a group of original bank employees which included Bruce Birr, Martha Nelson, and Joanie Anastasion. Looking back on her years at the Town of Lake City, Janet noted that financial accounting for the town became significantly more demanding after the town absorbed the old Lake City Water & Sanitation District. Another milestone in her work with the town was the advent of computers in the town offices in 1989, prior to which, she said, “I did everything by hand.” In her rare spare moments away from family and work, Janet was among the charter members of Lake City Community Choir when it was begun by Claire Jessee in 1986. She was also a member of Deborah Rebekah Lodge No. 18, serving at different times as Noble Grand and Chaplain. Homes for the McDonalds in Lake City started at the upvalley Redcloud Ranch until 1965 when a fire burned their home. They later lived briefly in a cabin at Ox-Yoke Riverside Resort and the old residence at Chick’s Trailer Park on Bluff Street. They made their home in a mobile home on lower Henson Street at 7th Street for many years, and for the past 32 years have lived in an upstairs apartment on the Grappe property at the old Rocking K in Wade’s Addition. Following official retirement, Janet said she relished the thought of spending more time with her husband, children, and their families. It was a novel thought, she said, “simply spending time at home with my family and just doing something for myself.” George McDonald recalls that his parents rarely missed an opportunity to be in the stands at sports events, cheering as their children — and then grandchildren — took part in a wide variety of sports, including wrestling, football, basketball, volleyball and track & field. Janet was deeply religious and believed in service to the Lord and her fellow man, according to family. She and Bud had traveled widely, visiting every state west of the Mississippi River. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at a gala dinner and dance at Lake City Arts’ Anthony Gallery in August, 2009. And then there were the hunting seasons when the family hosted hunters as part of their decades-old guiding and outfitting business. An integral part of that operation was Janet who despite 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. office hours at her downtown job, would be in the kitchen at 2:30 a.m. preparing a full breakfast of biscuits and gravy or perhaps pancakes with a side of eggs or sausage to send the hunters off on a full stomach. After preparing and serving the early morning breakfast, she would prepare each of the hunters a sack lunch for their impending adventure. And then it was time to get ready for work. Janet was in the kitchen in pre-daylight hours, a bowl of pancake batter on the counter, this past Sunday, Oct. 21, when she collapsed after suffering a major brain aneurysm. Hinsdale sheriff ’s office personnel and EMTs promptly responded, and, after CPR, she was airlifted to Montrose Memorial Hospital by helicopter. She died in the hospital at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Janet McDonald is survived by her husband of 58 years, Bud McDonald, Lake City; and her four children and their families, Harry and Barbara McDonald of Montrose; George and Tina McDonald of Cheyenne Wells, Colo.; John and Catherine McDonald of Montrose; and Christine McDonald Mergleman of Limon, Colo. She is additionally survived by seven grandchildren: Brittney McGee of Montrose; Brandon McDonald of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Jessica McVey and her husband, David of Buena Vista, Colo.; Tawna McDonald of Loveland, Colo.; Dustyn Mergleman of Guymon, Okla.; Tiana Mergleman of Panhandle, Texas; and Johanna Mergleman of Limon, Colo.; and two great grandchildren, Leeann and Lylah. Other survivors are Janet’s sisters and brothers, Patricia Williams of Gunnison; Roger Miller of Montana; Loren Miller of Las Vegas, N.V.; and Diana Thurmond of Westminster, Colo. Janet was predeceased by her parents, John Roy Miller and Doris Hanson Miller, who died respectively in 1969 and 1991; a brother, Lyndal Miller; and grandson, Austyn C. Mergleman, who died in 2003. A memorial service will be held in Lake City at 1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 3, at the Community Presbyterian Church. Pastor Paul Gifford of Florence, Colo., will officiate. Memorial donations are suggested to the American Cancer Society or, locally, Lake City Community Choir, care of Community Presbyterian Church.

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