Heartbreak and Hope in Leadville Today
Solid As a Rock: A Leadville Life
On a personal note . . . from Publisher Kathy Bedell
When you cover the news in a small town like Leadville Today, chances are pretty good you are going to know the people you are writing about. I consider that an honor and try to get it right every time I sit down at the keyboard. Other times, the news can hit a bit closer to home; it’s personal.
This post about heartbreak and hope, is one of them. That’s because I’m writing about two friends. These are people I have known for my nearly three decades of living in this crazy mountain town. Over the years, as lives ebb and flow, and people come and go, it’s always nice to see the familiar faces of old friends. One I’m going to miss, and the other I hope to see shining on for many years to come!
For those who may not have heard, Jim Witmer, the owner of The Rock Hut passed away early Saturday morning April 6 in his sleep. He fought some tough battles in his final years with his family by his side. And while it’s comforting to know he is at peace, it’s tough to lose a strong, knowledgeable community leader. I served on the Parkville Water Board with Witmer for 8 years and learned a lot from this no-nonsense, numbers man who managed a staff of more than 100 engineers during his years at the Climax Mine. He was a smart guy, with an incredible working knowledge of the Lake County community.
One of Witmer’s best buds was Jim Martin, former Leadville Mayor and Lake County Commissioner. Readers can check out the picture above of the “James Gang,” as they pose for a picture on the Mineral Belt Trail’s Martin Bridge, aptly named after the politician. I had hounded the two for weeks to coordinate taking this picture; I’m glad I did. It’s good to know the two friends have been reunited.
But for the heartbreak of those left behind, condolences to Jim’s wife Irene, who met her husband at the boarding house for working miners which her family ran when she was a young lady in Leadville. One of those workers took a fancy to her all those years ago and a mountain marriage and family were born. In 2014, the Witmers’ adult children, daughter Beth and son Danny along with his wife Sue, took over the day-to-day operations of the popular gift store, The Rock Hut. So, yes the family tradition will carry on for the Leadville business that celebrates its mining heritage. In honor of Jim Witmer Leadville Today is re-posting this story from 2014 which celebrated The Rock Hut’s 40th Anniversary. This month it’s 45 years for everyone’s favorite rock shop; stop in and buy something!
The Rock Hut: Celebrating 40 Years in Business
“These forty years have been great!” said The Rock Hut’s owner Irene Witmer as the popular shop prepares to celebrate 40 years this month. Located at 706 Harrison Avenue, Irene and her husband Jim have been bringing specimens, jewelry, and unique specimens to the local community during boom or bust.
“We have a good location and our presence at the store has made The Rock Hut successful,” Irene stated, regarding the success of four decades in business.
The Rock Hut was founded in 1974 by the late Gus Seppi and Jim Witmer. Seppi worked with his father as a gold and silver miner. He later worked at The Climax Molybdenum Mine, where he met Witmer. Witmer was chief of engineers at Climax and headed a department of more than 100 mining engineers. When Seppi retired from Climax in 1974, The Rock Hut got its start.
Their interest in mining and minerals gave the two men the idea to open a rock shop. Seppi learned to collect minerals from the 1930 high graders and Witmer has had his share of collecting as well. Gus Seppi passed away in 1988 and that’s when Jim and his wife Irene took over ownership of the popular gift shop.
The Rock Hut displays minerals from all over the world! However, Jim and Irene still place emphasis on Colorado minerals. There are thousands of specimen on display in the turn-of-the-century building. Most customers who visit the store say it is like going to a museum.
The 706 Harrison Avenue location was a strong history on its own. Originally built as Blosfeld Hardware & Tin shop, the store sold stoves for heating and cooking. In fact, old pictures show a coffee pot on the roof advertising stoves (remember, coffee was brewed on stoves back then).
The building also housed Cass General Store and Office Supply for over forty years. The Rock Hut has kept that tradition of business success alive. As their sign says they carry fossils, minerals, and of course, rocks. They also have a selection of educational toys and beautiful precious gem jewelry.
Beyond that, it’s a family tradition!
“The daily operation will eventually be taken over by our son Dan and daughter Beth,” said Irene. “Hopefully they will have another forty years to look forward to.” So congratulations to The Rock Hut, celebrating 40 years of rocks, fossils and crystals that are sure to amaze!
Hope Floats in America’s Highest City
Angie Welsh was among the first group of people that I met when I first came to Leadville. She was a young, vivacious Colorado Mountain College student, from a tight-knit student class which went on to build lives and businesses in Leadville during its more recent, leaner years.
Angie was also my sidekick during my hitchhiking-housekeeper-from-hell days, where we thumbed rides from Leadville to Copper Mountain to clean condos for a living. Angie and I share some interesting rides from that six-month work stint. But those are stories for another time, because today, Angie faces a much tougher ride, a much bigger challenge: cancer.
You can read her story below which was taken from the GoFundMe page recently set up for her benefit. I know that many Leadville Today readers may know Angie and may want to help in some way. I encourage you to do what you can, whether it’s a donation, prayer or some helpful information as she hitches a ride to healing.
I hope for a swift and full recovery, my friend.
Angie’s GOFUNDME Campaign!
Thank you for considering donating, with the deepest gratitude, from Angie’s Friends and Family.
On December 14, 2018, Angie was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She was given a 50% chance of dying if she followed the oncologist recommended standard of care treatment. This did not feel like an option for Angie especially considering the life-altering toxicity and poor statistical prognosis. She was also misdiagnosed by the cancer industry 3 years ago when she first knew something was going on.
Angie immediately began to diligently research and educate herself about alternative treatments and began a natural health regimen giving herself 3 months to stop the spread of cancer or reverse the disease before considering more invasive treatments. These alternative treatments are extensive and include a detox regimen, supplements, exercise plan, working with a Chinese herbalist, spiritual practices and a drastic nutrition change. She has taken charge of her healing process and has been dedicated to healing herself using her strong intuition as well as other renowned providers in the field of more natural treatments for this disease as her guide.
Although she remains strong, her most recent bloodwork indicates that the cancer is still at an extreme level. The next step in her plan of treatment is to attend an inpatient treatment center which is costly.
Angie is approaching this process with trust, gratitude, self-knowledge, intuition, and love. Angie is a young, vivacious, dedicated, big hearted, passionate and kind person. She is most definitely keeping her spirits up, yet she will need continued encouragement and support.
Angie is a lover of nature, life, travel, and people as well as her many fur babies. Her love and dedication to her many animals is astounding. Her creativity is extraordinary and is evidenced in her very presence as well as in her incredibly talented works of art. She is one of the most authentic, beautiful, humble, gracious, and STRONG women that many of us are so grateful to know. She is truly an inspiration in so many ways.
Angie will need financial assistance to pay for this inpatient treatment center which by itself is $35,000. She is also under the care of several health professionals and recommended treatments, which insurance does not cover due to their scope of practices being outside the “standard of care”.
Finally, it is important for Angie to be able to let go of worry and stress about finances and be able to more fully focus her time and energy on healing. The funds you contribute to Angie’s healing process will be of great benefit and will allow her to return to her beautiful life path prior to this life-changing detour.
You can help in many ways… contributing financially, sharing this GOFUNDME campaign with everyone that you know, as well as reaching out to support and encourage Angie as she continues down this path of healing and recovery. Your time, donations, and re-posts are deeply appreciated.