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Philippines RPCV Louise Mooney keeps busy, but it’s never ‘work’
Philippines RPCV Louise Mooney keeps busy, but it’s never ‘work’
Louise Mooney keeps busy, but it’s never ‘work’
By Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs , Colorado - Louise Mooney of Glenwood Springs is not one to draw attention to herself, but she is more than happy to volunteer hours of her time every day, giving attention to others.
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox
GLENWOOD SPRINGS - The first thing Louise Mooney wants you to know is that she’s not one to go on about herself.
In fact, just about the farthest thing from Mooney’s mind is having an article about her in the paper.
"I know many women my age - and older - who volunteer longer hours than I do," she said.
Last year, Mooney, 83, was awarded a Garfield County Humanitarian Service Award for her years of voluntary service. But then, as now, Mooney is remiss to accept any acknowledgment of her achievements.
Mooney did agree, although somewhat reluctantly, to sit down and have a chat last week. It’s not that she’s not friendly or social. She’s that and more. It’s just that thing about dwelling on herself that she typically steers away from.
"I don’t know what you’ve got in your notebook," she said with a little nervous smile at the end of her interview. For Mooney, what she’s done in her life is nothing special. Her actions beg to differ.
The way Mooney sees it, she’s had three lives: her childhood, her married life raising a large family, and her life after marriage.
Born Louise Whitchurch in Missouri, Mooney and her family moved to western Kansas when she was a baby. When she was 2, the Whitchurches packed up the car and the covered wagon - yes, the covered wagon - and headed west to the Hotchkiss area.
"My mother drove the wagon and my father drove the car," she said.
Once in Colorado, the Whitchurches homesteaded up West Muddy Creek near Hotchkiss.
"We were poor," she said, "but my father was ambitious. He came from a family of eight kids and went to business school but not college. He insisted all his kids go to college."
Mooney’s older sister went to the university in Albuquerque, N.M., and when it came time for Mooney and her siblings to attend college, Mooney’s father sold the Hotchkiss homestead and moved the family to Fort Collins so his daughters could attend Colorado State University.
When Mooney talks of her children and her grandchildren, her eyes get a little misty.
"I have six children and four grandchildren," she said. "Talking about them makes me well up. I’m the luckiest mother in the world."
Her children have settled across the country, and some have returned home, including her daughters Annie McIntosh and April Paine.
Mooney’s parents left Fort Collins and moved to Glenwood Springs in the 1940s. Mooney married in 1942, and lived in Las Vegas and Yuma, Ariz., during World War II, settling in Glenwood Springs in 1948. Her husband and father built the Terra Vista Motel in West Glenwood, and the Mooneys lived in the log house next door to the motel, that now houses The Bayou restaurant. Mooney helped run the motel and raised her big family, but in her way, she doesn’t consider that "work."
"Oh, I didn’t work at all," she said of the 11 years of running the motel and raising the kids.
Paine remembers her mother’s community spirit when she was growing up. In a letter describing Mooney’s humanitarian actions to Garfield County, Paine remembered how her mother made sure that the "hobos" who came in and out of Glenwood on the train were fed.
"Mother never sent anyone away without something to eat," Paine wrote.
Paine also told of her mom answering a crisis hotline in the basement of Valley View Hospital, as well as volunteering at the region’s first hospice.
"Louise Mooney is a woman who has consistently ‘walked the talk,’ Paine wrote.
‘Whole new life’
In 1978, with the children grown, Mooney divorced her husband.
"It was a whole new life for me," she said.
Mooney took an apartment in town and worked for Mountain Valley Development, which then was known as the Happy Times School, a school for the mentally challenged.
"It was scary," she said of being on her own. "I didn’t know if I could support myself."
Once Mooney realized she could indeed hold down a job and pay her rent, she began thinking of new possibilities.
"At that time, all my children were living out of town," she said.
With nothing really holding Mooney in the area, she decided to move to Eugene, Ore., where one of her kids was living. She got a job working with the disabled at the University of Oregon.
Mooney was wanting more challenges, however. One of her sons had just completed a two-year Peace Corps stint with his wife in Africa, which got Mooney thinking. After seeing a television commercial for the Peace Corps featuring a 70-year-old volunteer, she decided to sign up.
"I thought, ‘I’m not that old,’" she said, and promptly applied to serve. She received a two-year assignment in the Philippines, from 1983-85.
Mooney was involved in many projects, from providing corrective surgery to children with harelips, to growing mushrooms.
"I wouldn’t have missed the experience," said Mooney of the Peace Corps.
After she’d completed her assignment, Mooney traveled with family members to Hong Kong, China, Bali ("which is great," she said) and Thailand, and continued traveling in the United States when she bought a one-year, fly-anywhere ticket from Delta Airlines.
"I went everywhere," she said, "from my daughter in New Hampshire to my sister in New Mexico."
A family reunion in Glenwood Springs in the late 1980s brought Mooney back to the area, and with some of her children settling back here, she decided to move back, too.
But lying back in an easy chair wasn’t for Mooney.
"I like to do things," she said. "I don’t like to be stuck."
So, Mooney began volunteering - none of which, of course, she considers "work" or a burden.
She’s a tutor for Literacy Outreach, working with adults on reading, pronunciation and comprehension.
"I don’t consider that work. That’s just fun," she said of working with Eugenia, her latest English language learner.
"I talk with her, and I correct her grammar. Her vocabulary has really increased since we started meeting together."
Weekly, Mooney drives a friend who can no longer drive because of failing eyesight, to the market to go grocery shopping. Naturally, she scoffs at the idea that this is anything special.
Fridays, Mooney volunteers at the Frontier Historical Museum.
"I enjoy meeting people there," she said. "Plus, it’s a great place to go and read."
And during the school year, Mooney works with Laurie Strong’s Sopris Elementary School class. She reads to the kids and helps them improve their reading and writing skills.
"I really miss school when it lets out for the summer," she said. "I really look forward to the beginning of the school year."
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518