Museum of Northwest Colorado: A Chevy Vega full of hope
Forty years ago, Fort Collins was beginning to feel a little too crowded to a young optometrist and his wife. Dr. Ron Danner and his wife, Audrey, were looking for a rural, nurturing place to raise a family and a town that could support Ron’s vision of serving a community with his optometric practice. In February, of all times of the year to visit Craig, they drove into the small, snow-blanketed town. Audrey recalled being amused by the high ridges of snow plowed into the center of the streets, which was Craig’s mode of snow removal at that time.
The Danners stayed with local optometrist Dr. Lynn Booren and his wife, Virginia, during their visit. The Boreens took time to show the young couple around the town and talk with them about the possibility of establishing a new business.
Pleased with what they had seen, the Danners packed their scant belongings in June for the trek over the mountains. They loaded their little Chevy Vega and a small moving trailer and headed up the steep mountain passes to their chosen new home. Ron rented the small building at 453 Yampa Ave., and Audrey’s father came to help with the remodel. When ready for business, the young couple went across the street to the newspaper office, thinking they should place an ad about their new practice. Bob Sweeney, the newspaper publisher, urged Audrey to hire on to sell newspaper ads, and staff writer Sylvia Beeler hauled the bemused young couple out onto the street to take their photograph for the newspaper.
The Danners’ first residence in Craig was at a house owned by Ernestine Duncan at Eighth and Yampa, where they rented just a portion of the house. In the heart of downtown, Ron was able to walk the four short blocks to work every morning. Audrey found employment at Moffat County State Bank, where she worked with Virginia Biskup as secretary for Bob Montgomery. The young couple quickly settled into the daily routines of small-town life.
Avid outdoors people, Ron and Audrey set about on weekends exploring all that the area had to offer. With mountains encircling the town on three sides and canyon and desert lands to the west, there was no shortage of places to go. Sunday afternoons frequently found them leaving town armed with a picnic lunch and fishing poles.
Audrey recalled one trip up to the Baggs, Wyoming, area, where they spied a delightful stream that seemed to promise good fishing. Climbing over a fence, they settled down with their poles when they were approached by a man on horseback. He wryly informed them that they were trespassing on private property. The embarrassed young couple hastily retreated over the fence line, leaving the horseman shaking his head at their naivete.
Ron’s practice quickly grew, and after several years, he moved to the Metro Building at 555 Breeze St. In the mid-1980s, he moved his practice to the Centennial Mall, where it remains today. During the past 40 years, Ron and Audrey have been involved in many aspects of community service. Audrey spent time as county commissioner, and she has been with Yampa Valley Data Partners from its inception in the 1990s. When Ron served as chairman of the Lions Club, he initiated Moffat County United Way with a group of business leaders. He also served on The Memorial Hospital board for 9 1/2 years, resigning when Audrey became a county commissioner.
They have given unstintingly of their time and efforts to benefit the community they chose for their home. They have been a significant part of their hometown and have received much in the way of friendships and support. With retirement beckoning them in the near future, the Danners are adamant that Craig will continue to be their hometown of choice — a great place to do business in and a wonderful place to enjoy retirement.
Mary Pat Dunn is the registrar for the Museum of Northwest Colorado.