A long goodbye

Community prepares to bid longtime volunteer farewell

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In 1970, a 23-year-old woman from Long Island, N.Y., packed up her Volkswagen Bug and headed west. She landed in Craig, a small mining town in Northwest Colorado, and didn't know a soul.

She filled her nights working as a nurse at The Memorial Hospital and her days on the ski slopes of Steamboat Springs.

As time passed, she engulfed herself in community works. She met people, including the man she would marry, John. Their union produced two sons, Scott and Todd, and is going on 35-plus years.

Years later, long after she'd settled in town, a peculiar thought snuck up on this woman -- Craig, the destination chosen on gut reaction, had become home.

Funny how impulses work sometimes.

"I came here pretty much on a whim," Marilyn Bouldin said. "But, it's worked out wonderfully. ... I met John here, got married here, the kids grew up here. It's been beautiful."

Here comes the catch: "And yet it just seems right to be moving on," she said.

The next challenge

Nearly four decades later, Marilyn is following a whim similar to the one she followed 37 years ago.

Marilyn, 60, president of Moffat County Habitat for Humanity, recently named 2007 Citizen of the Year and a long-time community volunteer and activist, is leaving home.

She accepted a position as the director of public health nursing for Chaffee County, which covers a population of about 17,000 and the towns of Salida, Buena Vista and Poncha Springs.

Her new job begins March 19.

The move allows Marilyn and John to be closer to Scott, who lives in Salida, and Todd, who lives in nearby Gunnison, as well as their two grandchildren.

"I wanted to be more a part of their lives," Marilyn said.

It also presents Bouldin with another challenge. She's made a habit during the years of tackling new endeavors.

During her time in Craig, Bouldin worked for the hospital, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, and helped found the nursing program at Colorado Northwestern Community College and a nursery for working mothers near Breeze Street Park.

Her dedication to public health has also taken her to Vietnam to teach public health nursing in Hanoi and Saigon and to Honduras, where she helped build housing for abused and battered women.

"This is just something that jumped out at me," said Bouldin, who stumbled across a newspaper advertisement regarding the Chaffee County position, of her new job. "One thing just kind of led to another. ... Public health nursing, that really has been my first love."

'Can't replace

someone like her'

Audrey Danner, Yampa Valley Partners executive director, and her husband Ron have known Marilyn since they moved here in 1974. The Danner and Bouldin families made a habit of participating in activities together.

Marilyn and Danner's lives have also intersected through various professional activities. Marilyn helped acquire the grant money that eventually led to the formation of Yampa Valley Partners.

"Marilyn is so creative and looks at all possibilities," Danner said. "That's what's so wonderful about her in our personal relationship and all the work connections we've had."

Randy Looper, owner of the Elk Run Inn, has known Marilyn for three years. He has worked with her as part of the Rotary Club, Habitat for Humanity and joined her in fellowship at First Congregational Church.

"She's quite an asset to the community and will be thoroughly missed," Looper said. "You can't replace someone like her. ... But, she's going on to do something important. I never thought retirement suited her."

Looper is planning a community going away party for Bouldin before she and John leave. He said the party is tentatively scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday at the American Legion post headquarters.

Anne Benhart, a nursing instructor who stays with the Bouldins periodically throughout the year, said Marilyn and John have been wonderful hosts. Benhart, like others, said the local community can't replace a volunteer like Marilyn.

"This has been the nicest of homes, and it's not the house," she said. "It's the people."

Danner may have summed up how many feel about Bouldin's departure.

"Personally, I will miss her," Danner said. "I can't get my head around (her leaving). Her heart is still here in Craig. ... I guarantee you she will be back.

"She's been a dear friend, remains a dear friend."

Goodbye, for now

Marilyn and John have helped spearhead Habitat's efforts to rebuild the group's first project home at 745 Yampa Ave. She's worked the administrative and financial side, while he's served as project foreman, seeing to the hammer and nails.

Marilyn said she believes their departure will not effect the home's completion.

"Nobody is indispensable," Marilyn said. "We've got some very strong people on the board now, and there are lots of capable, wonderful people in this community who will step up. ... I'm totally confident things will continue on just fine without us."

Habitat for Humanity vice president Pat Jones will serve as Habitat's temporary president. The group will meet this Thursday at the Bouldin home to discuss transition efforts.

Marilyn vowed to remain a part of the Craig community. She said she and John leaving the community is more "see you later" than "goodbye".

They plan to return to Craig for the dedication of the Habitat house, graduation ceremonies for CNCC nursing students and other community events.

"We'll be back," she said. "People who know me know I mean that."

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