Basalt natives Wy and Judy Kittle celebrate 60 years of marriage
Judy Kittle remembers playing catch with a softball on Highway 82 when she was growing up on a ranch outside of Basalt. She said she and her cousin didn’t have to worry much about dodging traffic on the dirt road in the 1940s.
“It was peaceful,” she said.
Wyland “Wy” Kittle recalls growing up on his grandma’s ranch in the spectacular Fryingpan Valley during the same time. The site later went underwater, literally, at the inlet to Ruedi Reservoir in the 1960s.
The Kittles, both 78 years old and natives of the Basalt area, have seen lots of changes to their hometown over the decades. They have been the rock for one another.
They started school together, began dating as sophomores, got married soon after graduating in the Basalt High School class of 1956 and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary Friday.
“We’ve had our share of ups and downs, but we try to keep em up,” Wy said.
It was a wedding that almost didn’t happen. Wy said he had to fight off a few other suitors to gain Judy’s hand. Fortunately, there were only 12 people in their graduating class, so the number of potential foes was limited, he quipped.
Wy proposed to Judy after high school and presented her with an engagement ring. A short time later he enlisted in the Navy and talked a friend into going. His friend’s father, a practical old rancher, gave his son permission to enlist — only after the potato crop was harvested. Wy and his friend’s adventure was delayed by 10 days.
About the same time he was shipping out, Judy was preparing to attend Mesa State College in Grand Junction. Wy broke off the engagement because of their different paths and uncertain future. He repossessed his ring and gave it to his grandma to hold onto.
“After about three weeks into boot camp I changed my mind again,” he said. “I called Judy and told her, ‘Go on up to Grandma William’s and get your ring.’”
Judy Arbaney gladly made the trip. She was confident of her future with Wy Kittle.
“It was just the way he treated me,” she said of the attraction. “We got along great.”
“She couldn’t resist me,” Wy chimed in.
They were married at the old Methodist Church in Basalt on July 21, 1957, while Wy was on leave. They had a big wedding reception, Italian-style, at Judy’s parent’s ranch.
Both her dad’s side of the family, the Arbaneys, and her mom’s side, the Bogues, moved to the Basalt area in the 1890s. They were part of the Italian immigration that brought scores of ranchers to the Roaring Fork Valley from D’Aosta. At one time there were more than 100 members of her extended family living in Basalt or ranches surrounding the town. Her Grandmother Bogue lived in the brick building that became Saxy’s coffee shop.
It was a great place to grow up, Judy said. She would help with haying and picking potatoes. She would hack off the vines above ground ahead of the folks coming behind to dig up the spuds.
Most of the Arbaney ranchland was sold over the decades. Many members of the family moved away.
Wy’s grandparents also were entrenched in the valley, though his own family’s stay was briefly interrupted. When Wy was in third grade his dad took a job as a heavy equipment operator in Los Alamos, New Mexico, during construction of nuclear production facilities.
“We came back to hunt every fall. We moved back here when I was in eighth grade,” he said.
Both Wy and Judy have been quite content in Basalt, even when it was a one-horse town. Wy didn’t make his first trip to Denver until senior sneak day in high school. Strawberry Days in Glenwood Springs was the big deal in the valley. They hardly knew Aspen existed. Basalt and Carbondale had a heated rivalry.
After Wy was discharged from the Navy, he and Judy initially settled in Grand Junction.
“It was far enough from relations that we wouldn’t fight but close enough so I could come up and fish,” he said.
Their son and only child, Mark, was born in 1958.
Wy eventually went to work as an apprentice electrician for Judy’s uncle in Grand Junction. The firm landed a job wiring Paepcke Auditorium at the Aspen Meadows campus of the Aspen Institute in the early 1960s. Wy liked working in the Roaring Fork Valley enough that the family returned to their roots in Basalt.
It was a good move, Judy said. You could go to the old post office on Midland Avenue and spend 45 minutes catching up with friends.
Wy started his own electrical firm in 1966 and operated it for 37 years until selling in 2003. Judy did the books the entire time.
They built their home on part of the old Arbaney Ranch in 1966, sandwiched between the Roaring Fork River and Highway 82. The log cabin where Judy grew up is next door. The highway is a bit busier now than when she was a child, but the site remains serene.
When asked what’s the secret to staying married for 60 years, they agreed the best advice is “stay busy.” They hunted together for years, spending time in an idyllic setting in their hunting cabin above Lenado. They also traveled extensively in an RV.
It’s clear that humor also has been an essential part of their formula. When asked what advice he has for young people considering marriage, Wy responded, “Wait until you’re 40.”
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