Perfecting the business of living

Walt Cisar's can-do attitude sees him through personal triumphs and family tragedy

Gas was about 30 cents a gallon when Walt Cisar first went into business in Craig, taking over a service station on Victory Way at the current site of Chapman's Automotive. In the early 1950s, 22 other gas stations were in town so, naturally, people thought Cisar was crazy to try to make a go of it. But the hard-working South Dakota native, who had been in the automotive field most of his life, already knew a thing or two about business.

"They were so many (service stations) and some were going to make it and some weren't," Cisar said he remembered thinking. "I'm going to be one of the ones that make it."

And Cisar did just that, he said, by assertively advertising his business and mingling with the public. A few years later, he used the profits from that endeavor to start an automotive service parts store, Valley Service and Supply, near downtown Craig. Cisar's business was the only one that serviced speedometers in the region. The business had employees traveling from Meeker to Steamboat Springs on various days of the week. Cisar sold the store in 1979.

At 80, Cisar -- a Craig resident since 1952 -- still gets excited about trying new things. In the past few years, he said, he has had success with an investment club that he started with some local residents. He's not afraid to use a computer, and he enjoys fishing and getting together with friends to play pinochle.

Although Cisar easily rattles off rich tales about his life, he may be most credited locally with the Cathy Cisar sledding hill on the north side of the Sandrocks.

In 1964, Cisar and his wife, Betty, who died in 1977, lost one of their daughters, 9-year-old Cathy, to a sledding accident on Pershing Street. The community's outpouring of financial support allowed the Cisars to purchase property for a permanent sledding hill that was safer. Money also was put toward a rope tow, but it has been abandoned. Walt said he liked to visit the hill and watch the sledders for the first two decades after Cathy died, but said that he hasn't visited in 15 years.

"It's going to take somebody really dedicated to keep that going," he said.

Walt said according to the agreement, Moffat County was charged with grooming the snow and keeping up the restroom at the site.

"They can never get rid of that hill. Anybody can sled on it," he said.

Walt said he's enjoyed 52 years with the Elks Club and almost as long with the Knights of Columbus, for which he has served in "every officer position there is."

Although Walt never made it past his freshman year in high school, the Veterans of Foreign War Post 2462 recently awarded him with an honorary diploma. The World War II veteran worked as a machinist from 1943 to 1946. Although Walt didn't know it at the time, he was deployed to war on the same ship as Craig's Paul McGilton. McGilton received his honorary diploma alongside Walt.

"It was nice that they gave that to us," he said.

After his wife, Betty, died, Walt married "Marty" Margaret. The couple share a Green Street home.

During their retirement, they've traveled to several countries in Europe and made a month-long trip to Spain to absorb the culture.

Although Walt said he has been successful at several businesses over the years, he laments that making money at cattle ranching never has been profitable. He experimented at raising cattle on land west of Shadow Mountain Village before the subdivision existed, but now leases out the land.

After paring down the business considerably, he sold about 15 head of cattle last year.

"Everything that you do is a gamble," he said.

"If I wanted to make money at raising cattle, I would have gotten rid of it a long time ago."

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