Pictured are Ersel and Betty Deakins. After they married, the Deakins lived the rest of their lives in Craig.

Museum of Northwest Colorado/Courtesy

Pictured are Ersel and Betty Deakins. After they married, the Deakins lived the rest of their lives in Craig.

Ersel Deakins devoted his life to Craig



Museum of Northwest Colorado/Courtesy

Pictured is the Deakins family. Back row, from left, are: Bill, Ersel and Irene. Front row, from left, are John, Elva, John W., Myrtle and Maxine.

If the adage, "20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work," is true, Ersel Deakins was certainly one of the former during his long life of service to Craig and its people.

Born in Gridley, Coffee County, Kan., on Feb. 16, 1908, to John W. and Myrtle Deakins, Ersel and his family moved to Colorado in 1911 and took up a ranch on the Williams Fork. He and his siblings rode an old white horse the four miles to the Pagoda School until 1916 when his parents took the family out of Colorado for a short time. Within a year of leaving, they came back to Craig and built a home on West Victory Way.

Ersel's father purchased the Johnny Hicks Dairy six miles southwest of town and sold milk and other dairy products door-to-door for six years. Later he carried the U.S. Mail from Craig to Pyramid for 16 years. The children attended school in town and Ersel went to work at the age of 16.

Ersel began hauling gravel for E.E. Jones and helped to lay the sidewalks on Taylor Street, as well as Sixth and Yampa Streets. On June 23, 1923, he went to work for Otto Fey, who was the agent of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad. Ersel began as a station helper, checking the rail yards and unloading freight. He soon learned how to switch and make up trains and switched oil racks for the Texas Refinery with Howard Jones.

Otto Fey was a strong mentor for the young Deakins and taught him telegraphy as well as other aspects of the railroad business. Deakins began work as a telegrapher from May 25, 1925, until May 1, 1957, when telegraphy was dropped. During those years, Ersel became able to step in for Otto Fey when needed and when his telegraphy job was cut, he became the District Freight and passenger Agent.

Ersel Deakins married Craig native Elizabeth "Betty" Fedinec on June 14, 1936, in Craig and the couple made their home here for the rest of their lives. They had two children, Robert and Myrtle, who became as involved in the community as their parents were.

In addition to his work with the railroad, Ersel Deakins managed to buy a ranch on Breeze Basin where they raised Hereford cattle, wheat and hay. They spent their "free time" fencing and cross fencing their operation. He also carried the Star Route Mail along Breeze Basin for 20 years and for Harry Hansen, of City Transfer and Storage, for which he delivered ice and hauled freight.

Most people today are satisfied with one or possibly two jobs, but Ersel Deakins managed to take on many more than that and was still an active member of the community.

He belonged to and held offices in many civic organizations and sat on boards that developed the growth of Moffat County. He served on the board of directors of Yampa Valley Electric Association as president from 1965-66, and he later served as treasurer. He was also a member of the Moffat County Cattlemen's Association and the Colorado Cattlemen's Association. He served as director and secretary of the board of directors to collect funds to build the Craig swimming pool and was vice president of Northwestern Colorado Finance in Steamboat Springs from 1957 until April 1968. He also served as president of First Federal Building and Loan Association.

Ersel didn't limit his interests to the financial sector but was also a member and officer of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, the Anita Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, El Jebel Shriners, Western Colorado Shrine Club, Meeker Commandery No. 33 Knights Templar, Meeker Royal Arch Masons and the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows in Craig.

He was Exalted Ruler of the Craig Lodge No. 1577 BPO Elks from 1933 to 1935 - the youngest man, at 25, to be Exalted Ruler. He was a District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler of the Colorado Mountain District servicing in 1958-59 and was a life member from March 1948.

In 1958, he served as the General Chairman of the Moffat County Golden Jubilee, overseeing the celebrations and the burial of the 50 year time capsule opened July 4, 2008. He was also an active member of the Congregational Church.

He was chosen as Craig's Man of the Year in 1959 and 1971 and was also awarded the "Boss of the Year" award by the Craig Jaycees in 1968. He also received the Mark L. Shepherd Community Service Award.

When he retired from the railroad in 1973, he was honored with a dinner attended by railroad executives from around the United States. Mayor Bob Sweeney served as master of ceremonies for the group of more than 100 who gathered at the Cosgriff Hotel to honor the man who had devoted his life to Craig. He was given the clock that had kept time in his depot for many years. The clock was later donated by his son Robert Deakins to the Museum of Northwest Colorado where it continues to keep accurate time.

Ersel Deakins died on June 19, 1988, after a life filled with service and commitment to Craig and the Yampa Valley. He was buried in the Craig Cemetery.

Betty chose to worship in St. Michael Catholic Church as well as taking active roles in Does, Cowbelles and the Craig Educational Group. When she died Aug. 13, 1992, in the town where she was born, her obituary said she enjoyed cooking, ranching and doing for others. She was buried next to her husband. Ersel Deakins wasn't a man to talk about what needed to be done - he just did it.


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