Valley loses another link to its ranching roots
December 24, 2009
BASALT – Another ranching woman who lived in the Roaring Fork Valley when the economy relied more on cows than condos and spuds rather than skiing has passed away.
Almeda Duroux died Dec. 19 in Carbondale. She spent nearly all of her 85 years in the Roaring Fork Valley, according to her son, Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux. She lived on farms and ranches for nearly 60 years after she was born in 1924. When she wasn’t caring for her family, raising livestock or growing vegetables, she was volunteering at Basalt schools, helping at the Catholic church and organizing activities for midvalley seniors.
“I’ll always remember my mom being a very giving and caring person,” Leroy Duroux said. “She never thought about herself. She always thought about others.”
Duroux was born in a house that still stands today on Hooks Spur Lane in the midvalley. She was delivered by the grandmother of Janice Duroux, Leroy’s wife, reflecting the close-knit community of immigrants who came from the Aosta Valley in Italy and congregated in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Duroux was the second longtime ranching woman from the Emma area to die in less than a month. Freda Glassier recently passed away in the house where she lived for 61 years – the same house where Duroux was born, according to Leroy Duroux.
Almeda Duroux was born to Rosina and John Letey, who worked on various ranches and were sharecroppers in the Roaring Fork Valley while Almeda was growing up. Almeda attended grades one through eight at the one-room Emma school house.
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“She always thought it was great being with the older kids,” Leroy said.
She attended and graduated from high school in Basalt, just as her children would do.
She helped on the family farms throughout her youth, then maintained that way of life after getting married to Rene Duroux shortly after she graduated in 1941. Leroy said his grandparents bought a ranch in the Woody Creek area in the mid-1940s, so his parents moved there shortly after they got married to help run the operation. They grew potatoes, grain, hay and alfalfa and raised cattle and sheep on nearly 200 acres of what is now known as the W/J Ranch.
“She always had a huge garden, so she canned everything,” including meat, chicken and vegetables, Leroy said. “That got us through the whole winter.”
Almeda even made cheese, following an Old Country recipe.
“Basically, the only thing they bought at the grocery store was flour and sugar,” Leroy said.
Leroy recalled his mom doing heavy lifting, like hay baling, until he was old enough to help out. In addition to the ranch work and the house work, she provided continuous care for a good number of years for her oldest child, Betty Rose Duroux, who was born with cerebral palsy.
Leroy commended his mom for all the hard work throughout her life.
“The times I went through [on the farm and ranch] were the easy times,” he said, noting they always had tractors. “When she was growing up it was all done by horses. It was not an easy time.”
Farmers in the valley relied on potatoes for a big part of their income, into the 1940s and ’50s. They would be sorted into different classes to make them more attractive to buyers.
“They would be in the cellar sorting spuds for days in the winter,” Leroy said.
His grandparents sold their Woody Creek ranch in 1959. Rene and Almeda purchased a small farm in the Fruita area, but moved back to the Roaring Fork Valley a short time later. They lived on the family’s land along Willits Lane, long before it was developed. Rene and Almeda built a house where the Willits Bend project is now located. The family holdings included vacant land that is now home of the WIN Institute as well as the Basalt Industrial Center. Duroux Lane in the area is named after them.
Rene died in 1981. Almeda came to the difficult conclusion that she couldn’t care for Betty alone, so her daughter was moved into a group home in Glenwood Springs. Almeda was able to spend some of her later years traveling. One special journey was back to Aosta, where she met relatives for the first time. Leroy said his mom’s first language had been a special dialect of Italian that is still spoken in the Aosta area. Maintaining her language skills paid off on the trip back to Italy.
As she aged, Almeda organized activities for midvalley seniors in the 1980s, such as a weekly lunch gathering called Seniors’ Chat and Chew. She remained in the Basalt area until she moved to Carbondale Senior Housing in 2003. Leroy said Almeda moved to the Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale in recent months and was appreciative of the high quality of care there. She remained relatively healthy until shortly before her passing.
In addition to Betty and Leroy, Almeda is survived by her children Marlyn Williams of Klamath Falls, Ore.; Gerald of Palisade; Roger of Woodland Park; and Daniel of Columbia, S.C.
A Mass will be held for Almeda at St. Vincent Catholic Church in Basalt at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 29, with burial at Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs at 3 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be given to Mountain Valley Development Services in Glenwood Springs or Mid Valley Senior Program.