Full of life and love, Joe and Suzette Brumleve formed a dynamic team driven in recent years by their love of family and their passion for flying and living the Western lifestyle.
The Brumleves, both 67, died Monday afternoon when their 1986 Piper PA-46 Malibu single-engine plane crashed in a field in rural Moffat County, just 10 miles from the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.
The cause of the crash is unknown. National Transportation Safety Board investigators are expected to begin their work at the crash site later this week.
The Brumleves were born and raised in Effingham, Ill., a city of about 12,000 residents in the south-central part of the state. Joe was an accountant and entrepreneur, and Suzette was an elementary educator until the birth of the couple's first child, Corrin Stine. Two other daughters followed, Heidi Brumleve and Holly James. All three women now live in Steamboat Springs.
After a successful business career, Joe and Suzette retired to Steamboat Springs full time a few years ago. They had owned property here for about 15 years. Their most recent home was a ranch in the south valley where they kept horses.
Joe, a restless sort, never fully retired, son-in-law Mark Stine said Tuesday. Instead, he managed the family's portfolio, headed up a charitable organization and spent much of his free time with their two grandchildren, Makenzie Stine and Ben James, both 8.
Suzette similarly was driven, and she also was the adventurous one. Mark Stine spoke about a trip to New Zealand the couple took after they retired. It was Suzette who talked Joe into bungee jumping.
She also loved skiing - particularly with her granddaughter - and gardening, and she was a collector of friendships, Stine said.
"She was the type of friend that everybody hoped and prayed they had one Suzette," he said. "Whatever you needed, she was the first to be there."
Together, the couple made an incredible team, Stine and family friend Patti MacArthur agreed.
"They did everything together," said MacArthur, whose lengthy friendship with the Brumleves began the day they walked into her Steamboat Springs real estate office to look for property.
One of their passions was flying, and both were licensed pilots. They owned their own plane for at least the past 25 years, Mark Stine said, and had the Piper Malibu for the last six or seven years. They were entrenched in the Malibu flying community, often jetting off to rendezvous with fellow Malibu owners. They also were frequent attendees of the famous EAA AirVenture Oshkosh air show in Oshkosh, Wis. They preferred camping under the wing of their plane to staying in an area hotel.
MacArthur and Stine said the Brumleves were meticulous in everything they did, including flying. Their planes always were well-maintained, and they took mountain flight training courses and other flight lessons to hone their skills, MacArthur said.
"They were not chance-takers," she said. "If they couldn't get through that storm, nobody could."
Joe and Suzette were flying their plane back from Hutchinson, Kan., where it recently underwent its routine annual maintenance inspection, Stine said. It is unclear who was piloting the plane at the time of the crash. An FAA spokesman said Tuesday that all in-flight communications between the plane and air traffic control have been turned over to the NTSB. The spokesman wouldn't comment about what those communications revealed, or who was piloting the plane.
Regardless, Stine said the nature of their deaths provided a certain level of comfort for family and friends.
"It's fitting, in some respects, that they left this world together," Stine said. "They both had a passion and a love of flying, and they died doing something they really enjoyed."
Stine said the family similarly was comforted by the outpouring of support from the Routt County community - a community the Brumleves had fallen in love with years ago.
"It is so incredible how this community has risen with love for this family," Stine said. "We're astonished and humbled by the love we've received."
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Joe and Suzette Brumleve Memorial Fund at Mountain Valley Bank, P.O. Box 774766, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. Proceeds will be split evenly between the Yampa Valley Autism Program and Christian Heritage School. Memorial services are pending.