NEW CASTLE, Colorado - Dave and Jo Lee, a popular local couple who have lived here since 1980, are moving back to the Midwest soon to be closer to family.
But they are not able to go quietly, despite the fact that they are in their 80s and might be forgiven if they preferred to depart without a fuss.
There already has been one farewell party, held Wednesday night at the Lee home with friends from their church.
A big community bash is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the New Castle Family Fitness Center, 201 Castle Valley Blvd., near City Market.
"The people of New Castle are losing two icons of our community," wrote Mayor Frank Breslin in an email to the Post Independent.
"We've got a lot of friends here, but we haven't any family here," noted Dave Lee.
The couple's son, Barry Lee, lives in western Indiana, and is pastor of a Baptist church in eastern Illinois, Lee said. The couple plans to move to Deer Creek, Ind.
In an interview this week, Dave Lee revealed his age to a reporter.
"I'm still only 87," he said with a chuckle. "I'll be 88 next month."
He and Jo, who is 84, have been married for 65 years, he said.
"I keep reminding her I'm the best husband she's ever had," he remarked, and the chuckle grew to a laugh, echoed by Jo.
Dave Lee is a retired office worker from Chicago, Ill, where he worked for 38 years for various corporate entities that grew out of an original firm known as the Standard Oil Co. of Ohio.
Jo, also retired, worked for the Neil-Garing Insurance company after the couple moved to Colorado.
Dave said he and Jo moved to western Colorado after several visits to the area.
"When we lived near Chicago, we used to head out this way every now and then for vacations, and we liked it," he explained.
The Lees lived in a two-story home in the Oak Meadows subdivision south of Glenwood Springs when they first came to Colorado. They later moved to New Castle, he said, so they could shift to one-story living.
A veteran of World War II, David Lee signed up with the U.S. Army Air Corps on his 18th birthday and ended up training to be a bomber pilot in Fort Worth, Texas, a base in Kansas, and finally at Pampa, Texas, in the panhandle.
"It was so flat there, we used to joke that you could be AWOL (absent without leave) for three days and they could still see you," Lee recalled.
As the pilot of a North American Aviation B-25 bomber, he said, "I was blessed. Everybody just fell in love with that airplane. And you wouldn't believe how easy it was to fly."
Arriving at his base in the Philippines in April of 1945, Lee flew 23 missions over the Pacific, he said.
"Once in a while, it was bombings at altitude. Most of the time, though, it was strafings," he said. He remembers the excitement of dropping down on enemy lines with the plane's multiple .50 cal. machine guns blazing.
After the war, with no flying positions open, he went back to his office job in Chicago, then moved to Colorado some 30 years later.
"I think we're going to kind of miss the weather we've had out here," he said, recalling the blustery, bone-chilling winters of Chicago, where he would walk to his office from the commuter train every day.
On one of those mornings, he said, the wind off Lake Michigan dropped the wind-chill factor to 42 degrees below zero, Fahrenheit.
"It froze the lake where we could see it from the office," he said. "You couldn't see anything but ice."
So the moderate climate of the Western Slope has suited them well, he said.
Among his activities are his penchant for working out nearly every day at the New Castle Fitness Center, and his love of music.
He sang baritone in a barbershop quartet along with Breslin, something Lee had first gotten involved with in Chicago.
Lee also sang in the church choir, but he has given up his singing.
"I've always been a music lover," he said, pausing a moment before adding, "good music. I was blessed that I grew up with the big bands, Glenn Miller and those guys."
As he talked with a reporter, Dave Lee walked about his house retrieving articles to be packed, talking with Jo and generally keeping on the move.
"I've got to get past this barricade, here," he said at one point while searching for something he was describing for the story. "We've got so much stuff packed up in boxes, it's hard to believe."