In addition to raising prime livestock and produce, Moffat County also has produced some wonderful people. Loyd DeuPree certainly was one of the best.
Born on May 29, 1927, in a home just north of The Memorial Hospital's current location, DeuPree grew up in Craig, swimming in the river, exploring the surrounding area on his bike and learning the value of community involvement and service from his parents. When he was 11, during one of those explorations, he was hit in the eye with a rock and blinded in one eye.
He graduated from Craig High School in 1945 and headed to Mesa State College to study business. The plan looked good on paper, but DeuPree soon found that college wasn't what he wanted, and a year later, he headed out into the workforce to learn about life by living it. He worked construction, the oil fields and at gas stations. He tried his hand at running his own station, but quickly found out that the town of 2,000 couldn't support 28 service stations.
"It was a hard time making a living," DeuPree told a reporter years later. "I was young and stupid and single. I couldn't have supported a family working 16 hours a day." (Craig Daily Press, Dec. 24, 2002)
When his station closed after two years, he was left with debt, but instead of walking away from that debt, he went to work in the oil fields to pay what he owed. He worked in Rangely and Sidney, Neb., during those years but never felt a desire to live anywhere else but Craig.
DeuPree married Charlene Jones in 1954 and worked two jobs to support his growing family. He worked at Greeley Gas Co. as a salesman for 21 years before becoming a real estate agent for Western United Realty. He worked in real estate until his retirement in 2001. Charlene DeuPree died in 1981.
Even though he worked long hours, DeuPree found time to serve his home town. He played in a local jazz band, entertaining at many community dances as a member of "The Swingcopators." He played for 25 years until failing health forced him to give up the saxophone that he loved.
He married Elaine Wilson in 1983, and their families blended well. She also was a talented musician and an active community member. They both felt that their family came first, and the time spent with their children and grandchildren was the best. They shared a love of traveling but always came home to Craig, where their hearts and roots were.
In 1973, Bob Sweeney convinced DeuPree to join the Craig Lions Club, and he knew that he had found an organization where he could serve with good people. He sold raffle tickets, set up booths and did whatever needed to be done. He also served 20 years on the Moffat County Housing Authority and several years on the Chamber of Commerce board. Both DeuPrees volunteered at the Congregational Church, where Elaine played the organ.
Even after his retirement, Loyd DeuPree could be seen selling Christmas trees or taking part in other community service activities. He also was well known for walking around town and picking up trash and aluminum cans - the latter recycled to help fund a clinic in Belize.
He still found time to read, fish and celebrate life with his family. When he died on March 20, 2006, the town of Craig lost a great friend with a true servant's heart.
One of his lasting legacies is the large carved bear that stands next to the family home on Sixth Street, with its large paw raised in greeting and dressed by Elaine for holidays and special events, the bear is a reminder of the fellowship of a small town - and a man with a big heart and smile.
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Shannan Koucherik may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org