Justin Deal (4/6/2006)
Durango resident Justin Deal, 16, was killed in a car accident on Sunday, April 2, 2006.
A Durango High School student, he was born to Marilyn Blackie and Melvin Deal on Oct. 8, 1989.
Mr. Deal is survived by his mother, Marilyn Blackie, of Durango; father Melvin Deal of Albuquerque; brothers Brandon and Neil Pettigrew and Melvin Deal Jr., all of Durango; sisters Melvina Deal of Durango and Marlene Washburn of Shiprock, N.M.; grandmothers Rosie Ann Begay of Red Valley, Ariz., and Bessie Deal of Upper Fruitland, N.M., a niece and a nephew; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
A celebration of his life will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, April 7, 2006, at Bethel Christian Reform Church in Shiprock.
The Rev. Laura Washburn will officiate. Burial will follow at the Shiprock Community Cemetery.
Alberta Lucille Beeler Davis Graham (4/6/2006)
Alberta Lucille Beeler Davis Graham, 91, died on Wednesday, April 5, 2006.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 8, 2006, at New Life Chapel in Durango. The Rev. Scott Kujath and the Rev. Robert Kujath will officiate. A complete obituary for Mrs. Graham will run Friday.
Marshall Puckett (4/6/2006)
Durango resident and businessman Marshall Puckett, 91, died at his home on Monday, April 3, 2006. The cause of death was not disclosed.
He moved to Durango in 1957 and worked for Reid Electric until 1963. He started Puckett Electric at that time and worked there until his death.
Mr. Puckett was a member of the Church of Christ and served as an elder from 1963 to 1988.
He was born to Joe and Pearl Puckett in Augusta, Ark., on Sept. 11, 1914. His family moved to southern New Mexico in 1916, and Mr. Puckett graduated from Hope High School there in 1932. He attended the University of New Mexico in the summer of 1932, Abilene Christian College in 1934-35 and Altus Junior College in 1935-36.
Mr. Puckett worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps Camps in Guadalupe Mountain, N.M., and in Wyoming in 1933. He worked in the potash mines in Carlsbad, N.M., from 1936 and 1941 and again from 1945 to 1956. Mr. Puckett served in the U.S. Navy Seabees from 1941 to 1945 during World War II.
He married Tennie Bernice Puckett on Dec. 18, 1945, in Roswell, N.M. His family said Mr. Puckett enjoyed hunting, fishing and work.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Bernice Puckett, in 2003; and his grandson, Jason Puckett.
Mr. Puckett is survived by his daughter Marsha Beaver of Cortez; sons Jerry Puckett and Joe Puckett, both of Durango; brother Charles Puckett of Moriarty, N.M.; four granddaughters; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, April 7, 2006 at Hood Mortuary. A funeral will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 8, 2006, at the Church of Christ, 2100 West Third Ave., in Durango. Burial will follow at Greenmount Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Four Corners Youth Encampment, P.O. Box 145, Cortez, CO 81321.
Curtis Robert Christiansen (4/2/2006)
A Bayfield pastor, Curtis Robert Christiansen, died Thursday, March 30, 2006, at Mercy Medical Center. He was 54.
Mr. Christiansen was born April 12, 1951, in Buffalo, Minn., to Don and Joan (Gilbert) Christiansen. He grew up in Buffalo and graduated from high school there.
He married Margaret Pawlenty in August 1986. They had three children, Jesse, Lucas and Aubrie. In 1997, the family moved to Durango from Golden Valley, Minn.
Mr. Christiansen had been associate pastor of Pine Valley Church in Bayfield, where he touched many lives.
His family said, "Curt loved people. He was bold in his faith, and his life's purpose was sharing Jesus - so others would know there is hope in this life and beyond. Curt will be greatly missed but we rest in the assurance that when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be."
He is survived by his wife, Margaret, and three children, Jesse, Lucas and Aubrie, all of Bayfield. He also is survived by his grandmother, Martha Dixon Gilbert of Buffalo, Minn.; his mother, Joan Gilbert Christiansen of Buffalo; sister Jody (Tom) Peterson of Apple Valley, Calif.; and two nephews.
A memorial service will be held at noon Monday, April 3, 2006, at Pine Valley Church in Bayfield. Pastor Scott Kujath and Pastor Tilt James will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests those funds be designated toward a Pine Valley Church scholarship fund for the children.
Orel R. Miller (5/31/2006)
Former Durango resident Orel R. Miller died in Truth or Consequences, N.M., on Saturday, May 27, 2006. He was 95.
He was the oldest of three children born to Marion and Mary Alma Miller in Conway, Mo., on Aug. 20, 1910. His father died when he was 6 or 7 years old and his mother died a year later, leaving the three children orphans.
His brother and sister were raised by foster families, and Mr. Miller went to live with his Uncle Olas Miller. When he was 10, he came to Durango to live with his aunt. They lived in Colorado and New Mexico during his school years.
In 1933, Mr. Miller met and married Ila May Hansen.
He worked for the Colorado State Highway Department and later for the New Mexico State Highway Department as a foreman. After his retirement, Mr. Miller moved to Durango for a few years before moving to Truth or Consequences for the warmer climate.
He was a lifetime member of the Durango Elks Lodge No. 507 and participated in activities with the Elks Lodge in Truth or Consequences.
Mr. Miller was preceded in death by his wife, Ila May Miller, and a granddaughter.
He is survived by his children Jack L. Miller of Durango, Florence Porter of Renton, Wash., and Orleen Robertson of Eagle Pass, Texas; 13 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.
A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 1, 2006, at Hood Mortuary Chapel. The Rev. David W. Robertson will officiate. Burial will take place at Pine River Cemetery in Bayfield.
Ralph James Leader (5/28/2006)
Ralph James ‘Jim’ Leader died of cancer at his home near Durango on Friday, May 26, 2006.
He was 79. Mr. Leader was born on Aug. 15, 1926, in Bellingham, Wash.
Mr. Leader spent his childhood in Bellingham and Orcas Island, Wash., and Tucson, Ariz.
As a teenager, he worked on fishing boats and ferries out of Puget Sound, Wash.
During World War II, he joined the Navy.
Mr. Leader served aboard the heavy cruiser USS Wichita in some of the major campaigns in the Pacific: the Solomon Islands, Saipan, Guam and Leyte Gulf.
In September 1945, he assisted in the repatriation of American prisoners of war at Nagasaki, Japan.
An expert marksman, Mr. Leader was assigned as a bodyguard to Gen. Douglas MacArthur on his arrival to Japan at the end of the war.
Upon returning from the war, Mr. Leader used the GI Bill to continue his education. He attended the University of Arizona, receiving a bachelor’s degree in range ecology.
While a student at the university, he met and married a fellow student and hiking club member, Charlotte Sewell.
They moved to Missoula, Mont., where Mr. Leader attended the University of Montana and received a master’s degree in forestry.
He also worked as a brakeman with the Northern Pacific Railroad. Returning to Arizona, Mr. Leader established a landscape architecture business.
He later worked as a planner for Maricopa County.
He built a house in the desert foothills outside Phoenix.
Mr. Leader then became a teacher. He taught fifth through eighth grades in Phoenix and at New River Elementary School for 18 years.
He was a generous giver to his students, often donating when they needed help with further education and other matters, his family said.
During school vacations, Mr. Leader would take his family for summer-long camping trips to Southwest Colorado.
Upon retiring, he moved to Durango, bought farmland on Florida Mesa and settled into life as a hay and cattle farmer.
Mr. Leader continued his interest in education, volunteering at Sunnyside Elementary School, where he would present a lesson on the Revolutionary War and help students create a fife and drum corps, which then marched through the halls of the school.
Mr. Leader was an elder at Paradise Valley Christian Church in Phoenix and an active member of Bayfield Christian Church.
An avid hiker and amateur prospector, Mr. Leader built a summer cabin at a mining patent near Silverton and spent many days there.
He loved the sea and visited lighthouses on both coasts of the United States, as well as in Alaska, Canada, New Zealand and Norway.
Survivors are his wife of 57 years, Charlotte Leader; son Lars Leader of Valdosta, Ga.; son Eric Leader of Phoenix; daughter Tilly Marlman, an accountant with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad; and seven grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 30, at the Bayfield Christian Church, 4995 County Road 509, off the old Bayfield business route.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Bayfield Christian Church missionary fund or the Hospice of Mercy in Durango.
Herbert Gale Lechner (5/26/2006)
Herbert Gale Lechner, 60, died Monday, May 22, 2006, after a single-car accident on Missionary Ridge near Henderson Lake.
Mr. Lechner enjoyed the mountains, and he was an avid hunter and fisherman.
He was born on April 7, 1946, in Durango, the son of Joseph Herbert and Opal Dorce Barnes Lechner.
At the age of 14, he was a dynamite setter for water wells. He served in the Army from 1968 to 1970.
His family will remember him as someone who always lent a helping hand to anyone in need.
He is survived by his father and mother of Orange Park, Fla.; his daughter Brenna Gale Urfer of Orange Park, Fla.; two grandchildren; numerous aunts and uncles, and several cousins.
Service arrangements are pending, and dates will be announced later.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Florida Cemetery, c/o Joan McCaw, 290 County Road 514, Ignacio, CO 81137.
Helen Marie Willis (5/23/2006)
Former Durango resident Helen Marie "Rocky" Willis, 84, died in Aztec on Thursday, May 18, 2006. The cause of death was complications from congestive heart failure and pneumonia.
Mrs. Willis was born in Mead to Sam and Ivy Marlow on April 17, 1922. She moved to the Durango area in 1974.
Mrs. Willis graduated in 1940 from Longmont High School.
She married Vic Slavic in 1940 in Longmont. The marriage later ended in divorce. She married Allen Reginald Willis in Las Vegas. Mr. Willis died in 1978.
Mrs. Willis was the food-service director of Eventide Nursing Home (now Four Corners Health Care Center) during the late 1970s and early 1980s. She then moved to Mercy Medical Center where she held the same position. Mrs. Willis retired from Mercy in 1984 for health reasons.
Her family said she was a talented artist, who painted in oils and created many canvases featuring desert scenes and American Indians. She painted a picture of a nun that was exhibited in Washington, D.C.
"She had the most incredible sense of humor," her daughter Joan Richardson said. "I'm certain she is the reason I became a cartoonist."
Her daughter Denise Elzey considered her mother her closest friend.
"You could go to her with any problem, and she'd make you a cup of coffee and listen," she said. "By the time you left, you always felt better."
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Willis was preceded in death by her sons Jack Slavic and George Robert Michael Marlow.
She is survived by her daughters Joan Richardson of Bayfield, Vicki Starkey of Longmont and Denise Elzey of Flagstaff, Ariz.; nine grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.
Cremation has occurred. A celebration of her life was held on Sunday, May 21, 2006, in the chapel at Four Corners Good Samaritan Nursing Home in Aztec, where she had lived for the past eight years.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Four Corners Good Samaritan Nursing Home, 500 Care Lane, Aztec, NM 87410-1599.
Marilyn Jean Chalmers (5/23/2006)
Durango resident Marilyn Jean Chalmers, 45, died at Mercy Medical Center on Sunday, May 14, 2006. The cause of death was cancer.
She was born to Earl and Edith Henson in Ash Fork, Ariz., on Aug. 7, 1960. After moving from Arizona to Kirtland, N.M., she eventually lived in Aztec.
She married Gene Gruette. The marriage later ended in divorce.
On Feb. 29, 2004, she married Larry Chalmers in Monticello, Utah.
Mrs. Chalmers earned her Graduate Equivalency Degree and took classes from Pueblo Community College.
She attended St. Mark's Episcopal Church and was known for the little clay figurines she made for sale at the church's annual bazaar.
Her husband said she was "an extraordinary, compassionate wife and mother, who will be sorely missed by her husband and son and daughter."
Mrs. Chalmers is survived by her husband, Larry Chalmers, of Durango; son Michael Gruette, recently of Aztec; daughter Karen Frieary of Scottsdale, Ariz.; sisters Gail Start of California and Judy Henson of Bloomfield, N.M.; and one granddaughter.
Cremation has occurred and no services are planned at this time.
Mike A. Valdez (5/21/2006)
Former Durango resident Mike A. Valdez died in Anaheim, Calif., on Thursday, July 28, 2005. He was 83.
Mr. Valdez was born in Monticello, Utah, on Aug. 21, 1921.
When Mr. Valdez got out of the U.S. Navy, he moved to Durango, where his family was living. He lived here for 30 years, working as a painter and carpenter, as well as at the sawmill.
A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 27, 2006, at Greenmount Cemetery, where his ashes will be buried in the family plot.