Laureen Myers: “Mother of Kremmling”

photo courtesy John Underwood | Laureen Jesmer with cousin Jim Conklin. Laureen, Jim, and “Jack” Conklin were raised as siblings after May Jesmer Conklin passed away.
photo courtesy John Underwood | Laureen Jesmer with cousin Jim Conklin. Laureen, Jim, and “Jack” Conklin were raised as siblings after May Jesmer Conklin passed away.

Women’s History Month

by Marissa Lorenz
‘Mother’ is a word granted, sometimes, limited definitions, describing a single role that has been expected of women and by which women have been judged throughout history. But Laureen Frances Jesmer Myers knew that ‘motherhood’ was, in fact, about much more than one predefined role. Throughout her life, she would stretch any definitions and expectations until she had embraced not only individuals, family and friends, but entire causes, the whole Kremmling community, Middle Park, and beyond.

Laureen was born March 14, 1926 to Francis and Laura May Osborne Jesmer on the family homestead, located between Copper Creek and Bull Run Creek on the Williams Fork. Francis, a native of New York, had met and married Laura in Alma, Colorado, where their first three children were born. But Francis had long loved Middle Park and, in July 1904, the small family left for his carefully selected homestead with a “lumber wagon, a team, and two milk cows.”

Laureen was the youngest of 11 and the only child to be born in the family’s newly finished house. Eight children would live into adulthood and she would grow up surrounded by family, both in and around her home. An aunt, an uncle, and a cousin would prove up on neighboring homesteads. Her oldest sister, May, would marry and homestead close by. May’s two sons were the same age as Laureen and would be raised by the Jesmer’s after May’s death in 1927. Jim and Jack Conklin “were treated the same as the Jesmer children,” Laureen’s nephew, John Underwood recalls. “Although they were cousins, they were more like siblings.”

This experience of family and of “created” family would influence Laureen for the rest of her life.
Laureen attended Kremmling Union High School where she would early be identified as an emerging civic leader. She told a story of when Mr. Price, the high school superintendent, “got me from typing class and said he wanted to talk to me. [The Kremmling Women’s Club] was looking for someone to be a librarian on Saturdays, so in the winter of 1940, I was the librarian.” She was a long supporter of the library and would volunteer again and again.

In 1943, Laureen graduated then moved to Denver to obtain a degree from Commercial Business School of Denver. She returned home to Kremmling and married Joseph Earl Myers, another Williams Fork native and World War II veteran, in 1950. She and Joe would make their home in town and live here, building family and community for the rest of their lives.

Laureen would continue to serve Kremmling in any ways she could. For decades, she was an active member of the Rebekahs and the American Legion Auxiliary, holding local and district offices for both
of these organizations. She was a registered practical nurse and helped organize the Kremmling Hospital Auxiliary, which would grow into today’s Middle Park Medical Foundation. She told about how the hospital auxiliary founded the Last Time ‘Round thrift store, conducted other fundraising activities, visited with patients, delivered flowers and cultivated volunteers for the Hospital District. “We want to increase community awareness of hospital services through local events and personal communications with friends and neighbors,” she explained in 2008, still campaigning decades later.

Laureen was a strong advocate and volunteer for mental health care, working with Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center. She volunteered regularly at Cliffview Assisted Living and Silver Spruce Senior Housing. She was awarded the Channel 9 “Nine Who Care” award in 1979 and was recognized as Pioneer-of-the-Year by the Middle Park Fair Board in 2000.

Laureen and Joe would not have children of their own, but in the spirit of her childhood, the pair would open their home to foster children, both related and not related by blood, thus growing their family. Niece Linda Underwood Shubert spent several summers in the Myers’ warm household. Nephew John remembers visiting regularly from Granby, contacting “Aunt Laureen” by phone when she was a switchboard operator, and being in awe of her speed when she worked as a cashier at the grocery store.

“She could work the cash register faster than some cashiers today can scan the products,” he recalls.
At one point, Laureen and Joe would foster siblings Georgia and Clint Darling. “A wild child,” Clint would finish his schooling in Pueblo, but would eventually return to Kremmling, where he would have a daughter, Sheena Darland, “the precious granddaughter in whom [Laureen] rejoiced.”

Sheena remembers Laureen’s dedication to St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where she sang and played the piano. “She had a beautiful voice.” Sheena recalls the many family holidays shared with “Grandma Gigi,” and how she loved to take pleasure drives, telling stories combining area geology and mythology. She would point out the “indian on the cliffs, watch the sunset, show me the indian head behind Heeney, and would take me every weekend to visit a horse and its colt in Heeney.”

Laureen had a great interest in and respect for the native culture and could always be seen wearing beautifully hand-beaded brooches and necklaces. “She always let me play with all her costume jewelry,” Sheena tells, “and was never upset when I would just get it all sticky.”

“She was very loving, doing anything for anyone, almost to a fault.”

But in case one might imagine Laureen to have been a docile woman, as many women and mothers were expected to be, Sheena would correct that notion. “She was ornery too.” She recounts how “Grandma Gigi” gifted her a bottle of homemade moonshine one year, popped her hand when she was reaching for the communion wine, and “was never afraid to call you out.” “She always spoke the truth, whether you wanted to hear it or not.”

In 1968, perhaps feeling that the Town of Kremmling could use some of that “ornery,” Laureen would join the Town Board, becoming the Town’s first female trustee. Town minutes seem to indicate that she served
two terms, also being appointed to the Police Committee, Finance Committee, Town Planning and Zoning, and acted as the Resource Conservation and Development Representative. Tales tell that she joined the Board specifically to have fun with and shake up the “good old boys” network that had prevailed in Kremmling politics up to that point.

Joe passed away in May 2000, but Laureen would remain active in her community and among her town-sized family for a dozen more years. She spent her final days in the hospital in Denver, where she died quietly on November 13, 2013. She was buried next to Joe at Fort Logan National Military Cemetery, and was sent off by a huge crowd of family, extended family, and created family.

“Laureen was and is my family, as she is yours” John Underwood would state in her eulogy. “She didn’t merely tolerate people, she embraced people, engaged them. (…) She shaped our lives, enriched our lives. Please know in your heart, she is content in you.”

[Sources: Family interviews; Grand County Historical Association Journals- “What’s up on the William’s Fork River” and “Where the Rivers Meet”; Eagle Valley Tribune and Steamboat Pilot via; Sky Hi News, February 2008; and … Special thanks
to Joanna Eaton, of the Town of Kremmling, and Don Dailey.]