| PostIndependent.com

As CT readers, what would you like to see in your newspaper?

I’ve lived in Rifle for nearly three months now.

Today’s edition, the 28th of 2019, marks my third as the editor of The Citizen Telegram here in Rifle.

A few of The Citizen Telegram readers have either sent well wishes over email or called to bend my ear about a story possibility.

I had the honor of attending a Rifle City Council meeting last week and introduced myself to the council and everyone in attendance.

So far, you might have noticed a few small changes, and a quite large change in each edition.

With my background in photography and photojournalism, I believe photos make the paper.

The front page will be our main display for the best image I capture in and around the community each week.

Last week’s Third of July Celebration here in Rifle, my first, proved to be a photo-worthy event with a huge turnout from the community.

A thunderous pyrotechnic display lit up the sky over Rifle, rivaling any small town in the state of Colorado.

I plan on attending as many events from Silt to Parachute as humanly possible for one person.

Over the next few months you will be seeing more changes as we give the CT a little makeover, providing readers with more of a slice of life in Western Garfield County.

I know change can be a bad thing sometimes, but I don’t want our loyal readers to worry. I plan to fill the pages of the CT with news, features and events that Rifle and the surrounding communities will enjoy.

A great community newspaper delivers what the citizens of the community want and need.

I want to know your stories, and what is happening in Rifle, Silt and Parachute.

If any of you, our devoted readers, have an idea or know of a possible story that impacts the residents of Western Garfield County, don’t hesitate to email or call the CT office.

And, if you have already contacted me, thank you for reaching out. I will be in contact and look forward to telling your story.

kmills@swiftcom.com, 970-625-3245

Mosquito alert: Garfield County health, pest management officials tracking West Nile virus

With the higher moisture level from an above-average spring runoff, Garfield County officials want residents to know mosquitoes are out in force on the Western Slope and to protect themselves.

 “It’s up. It is way up, but I think in some people’s minds it’s insane right now, but a lot of that is because we had such a good year last year,” said Steve Sheaffer, contract manager with Vector Disease Control International.

“In a dry year like last year when there wasn’t that much water fluctuating, it was a significantly more Culex tarsalis,” he said of the mosquito variety that’s the most common carrier of the West Nile virus in Colorado. 

“This year I think we have been seeing 80 percent or more of Aedes variety mosquitoes, which doesn’t typically vector any diseases,” Sheaffer said. “They are just really aggressive and annoying. I think that is what people are noticing right now.”

West Nile virus is a viral infection that occurs most commonly from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Viral spread

Steve Sheaffer inspects a mosquito trap during his weekly collection at the Rifle rest stop.
Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram

Rachel Kappler, a registered nurse with Garfield County Public Health, said it was first discovered in 1937 in Uganda. By 1950, people in the Middle East started becoming sick. Symptoms include fever and encephalitis, which is an infection around the brain.

The virus was first discovered in the United States in 1999 in New York City.

“As of 2005, it has covered the entire hemisphere from Canada to Argentina,” Kappler said.

“We are trapping throughout Garfield County to monitor the numbers of mosquitoes in the genus Culex, to try and keep track of potential West Nile risk and aid in deciding where to focus our operation,” Sheaffer said.

Sheaffer, who is contracted through Garfield County, has been monitoring and controlling the mosquito population in Garfield County for over a decade now.

With the higher number of mosquitoes, the greater the chances for disease-carrying mosquitoes like the Culex tarsalis to be present.

Steve Anthony, vegetation manager for Garfield County, said the program is an intergovernmental agreement with all the municipalities in the county, made up of six jurisdictions. The agreement is renewed every year.

“The big push for West Nile virus came on the radar screen in 2003,” Anthony said. “Up until last year we did not have a confirmed case of West Nile in the county since 2007.”

Mosquito monitoring

Hundreds of mosquitos rest in a trap at Rifle rest stop earlier this week.
Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram

To help monitor and trap the pesky insect, there are 11 points throughout the county and occasional floater traps when high concentrations of mosquitoes are detected, to see what is present in the insect population.

Permanent locations include Battlement Mesa, Parachute, three in Rifle, one each in Silt, at Coal Ridge High School, New Castle, Glenwood Springs, and two in Carbondale. 

Anthony said if a person were to leave one standard-sized coffee tin in their backyard and let it fill with water, it will produce 10,000 mosquitoes over one summer.

Mosquitoes look for dense vegetation during the heat of the day, so any overgrown areas in a homeowner’s yard can provide a good home for mosquitoes.

Sheaffer said that agricultural areas where water stands for more than five days would produce a substantial number of mosquitoes. Retention ponds and flooded areas are breeding grounds for the insects, as well.

“From 2018, 48 out of 50 states reported West Nile virus in their state,” Kappler said.

With 2,544 total cases nationwide in 2018,  there were 137 deaths recorded in the United states. Nebraska, California and North Dakota had the highest rates.

“In Colorado, in 2018 there were 96 cases, resulting in three deaths,” Kappler said. “There was one case in Garfield County last year.”

Since 2002 when public health officials started tracking West Nile cases, Garfield County has seen 16 cases. No deaths in Garfield County have been reported.

“It’s important to know that 94 percent of the cases occur between mid-July to late August. But it technically can occur at anytime of the year,” Kappler said.

Four D’s of mosquito protection

Drain: Eliminate mosquito breeding areas by draining any standing water in your living environment (flower pots, tires, drain gutter, rain barrels, etc.)

Dusk & Dawn: Mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus are most active during these times. Limit your time outside at these times.

Dress: Long sleeves and pants are recommended. Cover your skin when you’re going outside. Wear light-colored clothing and avoid perfumes and scents that attract mosquitoes.

DEET: Use an effective mosquito repellent that is approved by the EPA.

Toll-free help lines

Statewide toll-free help line: 1-877-462-2911 (7 a.m.-11 p.m. daily)

CDC West Nile Virus info line: 1-888-246-2675 English | 888-246-2857 Spanish | 1-866-874-2646 Hearing impaired

Watch for symptoms

shutterstock.com

Some people are more prone to the disease and the risk factors. People age 64 or older have a higher fatality rate, she said.

Eight out 10 people don’t show symptoms, which begin about two to 14 days after a person has been bitten by a mosquito.

Kappler said the symptoms can last about three to 10 days or longer, and one in five people develop a fever, headache, body aches, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea and rash.

“Most people spontaneously recover from West Nile virus, but it is possible to have long-lasting fatigue and weakness [several] weeks or months after the infections,” Kappler said.

“The big reason we are concerned about West Nile virus is it can cause encephalitis or meningitis,” she said.

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

“One out of 150 people, less than 1 percent, will develop encephalitis or meningitis,” Kappler said.

“If anyone develops signs or symptoms that they think is West Nile virus, they should seek medical treatment form a qualified doctor,” she said.

Kappler said the three best steps of prevention involve who, what and when to select a repellent.

“Who are you protecting, because age is a factor; what are you protecting from; and then we go to when and how long is the potential exposure,” Kappler said.

Peach Valley prime

shutterstock.com

Anthony said parents need to pay particular attention to the area around Coal Ridge High School.

“There will be football practices or other sports throughout the summer. So we try to have that high on the radar screen,” Anthony said. 

Both Anthony and Sheaffer warn that it is an area that gets some Culex and a fair amount of mosquitoes, because it is middle of Peach Valley surrounded by agriculture activities. 

“We get in and treat as much as we can, but they seem to just love converging by the school for whatever reason,” Sheaffer said.

Anthony advises parents of children that are going to Coal Ridge and are taking part in activities in the summer time to send them off with some type of protection, whether it be DEET repellent or an alternative type. 

If people are interested to see where the hot spots are in the county on a weekly basis, they can go to the website garfield-county.com/vegetation-management.

“We get the counts for each trap, and it’s actually documented every week for location. If they really want to know where the Culex is, they should check it out,” Anthony said.

kmills@swiftcom.com

After recent dog death, Rifle officer urges people to leave pets at home, not in cars

For Rifle Police Officer Dawn Neely, who handles animal control for the department, checking the animal logs for any new reports is a daily ritual.

After police received a 911 call recently from a sobbing individual reporting a dog was locked in a vehicle and it was deceased, an officer responded and tried to assist. But it was already too late.

Neely, who was off duty at the time of the incident, said upon reading the report it really got to her, so she turned to the Rifle Police Department Facebook page to educate the community.

She thought maybe giving a little more information on the story would get to other people and motivate them to share with others.

As of Tuesday, the post had more than 500 comments and 4,000 shares.

“The whole reason I released that much information was really to get the point across,” Neely said. “I didn’t realize it would quite get to this level.”

Besides what Officer Neely wrote on the Thursday, July 4, post, she cannot comment any further on the incident that occurred because it is an open active case that Rifle Police Department is still investigating.

As of Tuesday, no arrests had been made.

EDUCATION

Officer Neely said she responds to 40-45 calls on average every summer about animals left in vehicles.

With more than six years experience, Neely, who worked as a veterinarian’s technician, said she knows what to look for.

“You always want to look at the whole picture,” she said. “We have to look at the full information, what is the outside temperature, what is the inside temperature if we can get it, and what is the dog doing.

“It’s really what the dog is doing that’s going to give us the clearer picture of whether that animal is in distress or not,” Neely said.

She said it’s a combination of contributing factors that make leaving your animal in a parked car dangerous.

She said you have to look at temperature and humidity, plus the age and condition of the animal. A mature adult dog has more tolerance for high heat and different conditions than a really young or old animal, or especially a sick animal, Neely said.

“Based on my training and experience, if I feel like a dog is in immanent danger I have to remove that dog. But it has to meet that standard before I can do anything,” she said. “The message I would like to get across is to leave your dog safely at home.”

Neely reiterated that if people see a pet in a car and it’s on a hot day, anything over 70 degrees, they should call their local authorities.

Officer Neely said the second thing she wants people to take note of is the license plate, make, model and color of car for identification reasons. If they can, the reporting party should stay on scene; or, if there is more than one person on scene, go to the nearest business and have the car owner paged.

Officer Neely had an incident recently at the Rifle Library when an individual became upset when told his dog was in danger, and didn’t believe her until he witnessed the officer using a laser thermometer on the interior of the vehicle.

“He had his windows rolled down and was parked mostly in the shade, when I arrived on scene,” she said. “It was 85 degrees outside, and when I pointed it around to the shaded parts of the vehicle it was 101.4,” she said.

After making contact with the owner and removing the dog from the vehicle, she checked the interior temperature again and it had risen to 105.9 degrees.

“Your dog likes to go when you’re going on an air-conditioned car ride, or when you’re going to the river or on a hike,” Neely said. “Your dog does not like to be left in 105.9 degrees for however long — that’s not what your dog signed up for.

“Your dog wants to go for the fun, comfortable things, it doesn’t want to be cooked — have a better plan.”

kmills@postindependent.com

1 dead in weekend rafting accident near Dinosaur National Monument

CRAIG — A body was recovered Saturday afternoon from the scene of a rafting accident in Triplet Falls on the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument.

Monument staff received notification via satellite text message at 12:40 p.m. Saturday that a boat flipped in the Green River at Triplet Falls, resulting in an unconscious and injured 47-year-old male, who was part of a commercial rafting trip that included family and friends.

“The rafter was underwater for about 10 minutes. CPR was performed for approximately 90 minutes,” a news release from the National Park Service stated. “Classic Air Medical arrived on the scene to assess the rafter, found him unresponsive and declared him deceased.”

The man was later transported by helicopter to the Ashley Regional Medical Center in Vernal, Utah.

“National Park Service staff, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Moffat County Sheriff’s Office were in the process of launching a rescue effort by raft from the Gates of Lodore when Classic Air Medical arrived at Triplet Falls and found the rafter deceased,” the release stated.

The identity of the rafter has not yet been released.

Triplet Falls has a Class III difficulty rating and is located along the Green River in a remote portion of Dinosaur National Monument about 12 river miles from the monument’s northern boundary near Gates of Lodore.

“The area is surrounded by steep canyon walls rising 1,200 feet and higher above the river,” the release stated. “There is no cell service in that portion of the monument.”

River flow was approximately 2,350 cubic feet per second at the time of the incident.

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Rifle Rapport column: Rush Hour on the Colorado River

What a difference a year makes: This time last year, we were busy putting out information about open burning, fireworks bans and wildfire prevention. It was so hot and dry it seemed the entire state was on fire.

In fact, according to the Forest Service, by July last year, 200,000 acres were burning versus 8,000 this year. The tremendous snowfall and wet spring helped get Colorado completely out of drought for the first time in decades. The cool temperatures also slowed the snowmelt which has helped prevent widespread flooding, although the water in our rivers and streams is still running high and fast.

Everyone has their own benchmark of water levels. In Rifle, many residents watch the retaining wall right under the I-70 bridge waiting to see if the Colorado River will actually breach the top. It has been getting close in recent days.

So how fast is it actually going and how much water is there?

Since the city of Rifle gets its drinking water from the Colorado River, it makes sense to get these answers from the expert.

According to city of Rifle Utilities Director Robert Burns, the current flow is around 21,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) which is 9,424,800 gallons per minute.

“Roughly five days worth of water treatment flows by every minute,” explains Burns. “That is equivalent to 565,488,000 gallons per hour or 13,571,712,000 gallons per day. From 1998-2018 the city has treated 12,735,842,321 gallons of water. Just to put that in perspective, in one day at current flows there are approximately 835,869,679 more gallons of water flowing down the river than the city of Rifle treats in 20 years.”

Wow. More water going by in 24 hours than we treat in 20 years.

River flows should be slowing in the next few weeks. In the meantime, keep your eye on that retaining wall, Rifle Creek or the water levels near grandma’s garden. And remember, this information can be utilized many times in the future when you regale friends and family members with memories of 2019 “when the water came up to gram gram’s tomatoes.”

Rifle Rapport is a periodic column featuring the people and projects of the city of Rifle. If you have suggestions for future articles, please contact city of Rifle Public Information Officer Kathy Pototsky at 970-665-6420 or kpototsky@rifleco.org.

CDOT advises to be aware of heavier traffic during holiday weekend

Colorado Department of Transportation’s ‘Be safe – be prepared’ campaign recommends nine steps summer drivers should take.

1. Stay alert. Plan enough time to stop along the way to stretch, get something to eat and drink, return any calls or text messages, and change drivers if you’re feeling tired or drowsy.

2. Avoid distracted driving. The focus always should be on driving. Avoid using cell phones, texting, eating and using in-vehicle technologies.

3. Don’t drive impaired. Increased DUI enforcement will be in place through the holiday weekend.

4. Watch for more pedestrians and bikes. Warm temperatures mean more people are outside walking or bicycling. Slow down and pay extra attention at crosswalks and along roadways.

5. Share the road with motorcycles. Motorcycles may quickly come in and out of your blind spots due to their speed and size. Always take a second look with more motorcycles out on the road.

6. Obey all posted speed limits, or drive more slowly, if necessary, based on weather or traffic conditions.

7. Maintain proper tire air pressure. Warmer temperatures can cause tires to be overinflated.

8. Turn your lights on, especially during twilight hours, making it easier for other drivers to see you.

9. Semitrucks and other large vehicles tend to drive at slower speeds. Be prepared to slow down, stay out of their blind spots, pay close attention to turn signals and give them extra space to maneuver.

Rifle gym works with underprivileged, at-risk kids

After losing his job, Rifle’s Billy Williams was at a crossroads.

Not knowing what to do next, Williams turned to his two children for what to do next, asking them what they wanted to do.

“My daughter wanted to do gymnastics, and my son wanted to start doing MMA [mixed martial arts],” Williams said. “From there, I just had an idea to open up a gym for kids and families to come and train. There was nothing in the valley in terms of MMA training, so we decided to just open up our own place.”

That idea led to the opening of Flex Family Fitness in Rifle, right across the street from the Brenden Rifle Theater on West Second Street.

There, Williams’ main focus is on teaching and working with at-risk kids, through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He, along with coach Thomas Uylenbroek — a Jiu-Jitsu instructor that Williams hired from the Netherlands — has helped morph the gym from a small, family-oriented operation into a valleywide gym that works with a number of at-risk and underprivileged kids through MMA.

“We didn’t have this sort of thing when I was a kid,” Williams said. “I was an at-risk kid who found himself in a lot of tough spots, so I wanted to work with kids like that in the valley.”

While growing up, Williams said he had gyms in the area that he couldn’t attend because they didn’t have the money and his didn’t wouldn’t sign the waiver to let him in.

“But I’d sit outside and watch through the window,” he said. “That’s where my mentality comes from. I’m not doing this for the money, I’m doing this for the kids. I want to give them an opportunity to be part of something — help build them up and give them something productive to do.”

While giving them something to do, Williams and Uylenbroek have been able to expand through the school system, bringing in kids from Parachute, Rifle and Glenwood Springs, as well as Silt and New Castle. Williams added that the gym has also recently started working with special needs children, with a class expected to open next month.

“We’re going to teach them how to use a speed bag and other things like that,” Williams said. “Again, we just want to help build them up.”

Additionally, Williams and Uylenbroek are partnering with Garfield District 16 during the school year, working with a group of at-risk middle school kids in the Well Springs program.

The sport of MMA can be considered violent, especially from the fighting seen on television, but there’s much more to the age-old sport, they said.

It can teach discipline, most of all, which is a huge help to at-risk children, giving them a sense of purpose and structure. That alone can really turn an at-risk child’s life around. That’s been the aim for Williams and Uylenbroek.

“It’s been great so far,” said Uylenbroek, who moved from the Netherlands to Rifle after his home washed away in a flood. “I’ve seen these kids go from not knowing anything about the sport at all, to being really good at it. But with some of the kids, I’ve seen them go from being really shy and hiding in the corner, to going to the top of the class. It’s been great to see them really open up.

“This sport is my passion; I’m so happy to be able to spread this passion and make an impact in this community.”

The gym hosts Jiu-Jitsu classes for kids from 4:30–5:45 p.m. every day. Soon, they’ll expand into family classes in MMA, Zumba, and many other fitness classes.

For now, though, Williams and Uylenbroek are focused on making an impact one child at a time through the growing sport.

jcarney@postindependent.com

Chateau at Rifle resident Matty Baker celebrates 104 years

It is fitting for Matilda “Matty” Baker to celebrate her birthday just days before the nation’s birthday, because at 104 she is a real firecracker.

Vibrant as someone at least 20 years her junior, Baker was the center of attention last Saturday during the annual 4th of July celebration at the senior living establishment on the north side of Rifle.

Not your typical 104-year-old, until the last few months she had been walking a quarter mile twice a day around the facility with only a little help from a cane.

“It’s staggering, especially since she is so healthy,” her daughter and Basalt resident Maury Kaplin said. “People laugh when they ask, ‘How’s your mom,’ and I say her memory is starting to not be as good as it was — they look at me like I’m crazy. … She’s 104.

“She has been so sharp all along. She just goes on and on,” Kaplin said.

Recently, Baker began using a walker, but she will be the first to tell you she can still get around without it.

She said it comes in handy to pack around her tissue and serves as a purse to carry her personal items including a wallet, in which she still carries old photos of her children.

“According to the way it is, I can feel the age coming on, I can find things I used to do with ease difficult to handle, but I do it and I try to do it as best I can,” Baker said.

Surrounded by her daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, grandson-in-law, two of her 15 great-grandchildren and all the residents and their families of Chateau at Rifle, a stunned Matty could only smile and try to hold back tears as she was given a birthday honor by the Colorado Commission on Aging.

Baker says she knew nothing about the surprise party for her 104th birthday.

In tribute to her 100 plus years of life, CCOA representative Chad Federwitz presented Baker with a framed certificate signed by Gov. Jared Polis.

“A hundred years of perspective, that’s amazing — 104 is even more amazing,” Federwitz said. “I think this award and honor of recognizing centenarians or people who live longer is another aspect of honoring how we as a state value older adults, It’s an opportunity to really reflect and look back at history, hear their perspectives.”

Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton was also on hand to celebrate with Baker and her family as well.

“One hundred and four is very impressive,” Clifton said. “I think it is really important that we celebrate aging, and that we show its importance. Older people are valued, and they have a lot to contribute.”

A LIFE LIVED ‘MY WAY’

A resident of Chateau at Rifle for two-and-half years now, Baker is enjoying living the best life she can at her age.

She was born and raised on Long Island, hailing from Huntington, New York, approximately 40 miles from New York City, where she started her career.

“I lived in Manhattan, on 34th Street and 2nd Avenue overlooking the East River,” Baker said. “I had quite a tour.”

She was a dancer and taught dance until she was married, moved to New Jersey, and started her family. There, she and her husband, Bill, raised their three children, two boys and a daughter.

After losing her husband of 66 years, she went back to work.

“I got a job as an office manager at Bellevue Hospital in New York City,” Baker said.

She worked at the hospital for almost 10 years before retiring at the age of 71.

Living on her own after retirement, with only a little help during the daytime, Baker’s children thought she needed someone there with her at night, as well.

“I have a theory that everybody has got their own place. I love my children dearly, but I will not live with any of them — their life is theirs to live, and I’ll live mine,” she said.

“I fought it for a while, then my daughter insisted I come out here and stay with her.”

Kaplin and her husband Gerry, who retired to Basalt, talked Baker into moving to Colorado to be closer to them.

“We promised if she came out to establish Colorado residency, we would look for an assisted living residence for her — which we did,” Kaplin said.

Baker moved to Roaring Fork Valley in September 2016, and lived with her daughter and son in law for about four and half months. The family looked around the valley trying to find the closest place to the family’s Basalt home.

“We found the Chateau, and here I am, very content and delighted to make my own home, and do as I please,” Baker said.

Kaplin said that when they first came to visit the Chateau, everyone was welcoming and said hello to her mother. She remembers her mother saying she liked the place. It felt comfortable and friendly.

“It will be three years February first,” Kaplin said.

Kaplin and her mother say the place is a delight, she loves the staff and everyone has been great.

“I’m very content to be here,” Baker said.

LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME

For Baker, a year ago when she turned 103 it seemed hard to face 104, and the same feeling comes over her as people begin to talk about her 105th birthday.

“It doesn’t seem possible, but what will be will be,” Baker said.

“I live from day to day. People come to me often and they ask me what did I do to obtain this age. Nothing unusual, I lived a normal life, I ate what wanted to eat and I still do. I’m not on any diets, and if I don’t like it, I don’t eat it. If I like it, I order it.”

Everyone at the Chateau has fallen in love with Matty Baker.

To many residents at the Chateau, she is known as momma, because she is old enough to be some residents’ mother.

“We love our momma, our grandmother and to some of us our great-grandmother,” said Chateau Executive Director Sonya Vick.

“She is my inspiration. I think she is everybody’s inspiration here at the facility. We all want to be like Matty,” Vick said.

Always the feisty one, Baker had a few parting words for family as the party came to a close Saturday.

“I once told my daughter, when I go, don’t cry over me, be happy I lived this long and had the life I lived, but don’t cry.”

To which she said Kaplin replied, “What if I do?”

“I’ll come back,” Baker said with a laugh that filled the room.

kmills@swiftcom.com

Chateau at Rifle resident Matty Baker celebrates 104 years

It is fitting for Matilda “Matty” Baker to celebrate her birthday just days before the nation’s birthday, because at 104 she is a real firecracker.

Vibrant as someone at least 20 years her junior, Baker was the center of attention last Saturday during the annual 4th of July celebration at the senior living establishment on the north side of Rifle.

Not your typical 104-year-old, until the last few months she had been walking a quarter mile twice a day around the facility with only a little help from a cane.

“It’s staggering, especially since she is so healthy,” her daughter and Basalt resident Maury Kaplin said. “People laugh when they ask, ‘How’s your mom,’ and I say her memory is starting to not be as good as it was — they look at me like I’m crazy. … She’s 104.

“She has been so sharp all along. She just goes on and on,” Kaplin said.

Recently, Baker began using a walker, but she will be the first to tell you she can still get around without it.

She said it comes in handy to pack around her tissue and serves as a purse to carry her personal items including a wallet, in which she still carries old photos of her children.

“According to the way it is, I can feel the age coming on, I can find things I used to do with ease difficult to handle, but I do it and I try to do it as best I can,” Baker said.

Surrounded by her daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, grandson-in-law, two of her 15 great-grandchildren and all the residents and their families of Chateau at Rifle, a stunned Matty could only smile and try to hold back tears as she was given a birthday honor by the Colorado Commission on Aging.

Baker says she knew nothing about the surprise party for her 104th birthday.

In tribute to her 100 plus years of life, CCOA representative Chad Federwitz presented Baker with a framed certificate signed by Gov. Jared Polis.

“A hundred years of perspective, that’s amazing — 104 is even more amazing,” Federwitz said. “I think this award and honor of recognizing centenarians or people who live longer is another aspect of honoring how we as a state value older adults, It’s an opportunity to really reflect and look back at history, hear their perspectives.”

Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton was also on hand to celebrate with Baker and her family as well.

“One hundred and four is very impressive,” Clifton said. “I think it is really important that we celebrate aging, and that we show its importance. Older people are valued, and they have a lot to contribute.”

A LIFE LIVED ‘MY WAY’

A resident of Chateau at Rifle for two-and-half years now, Baker is enjoying living the best life she can at her age.

She was born and raised on Long Island, hailing from Huntington, New York, approximately 40 miles from New York City, where she started her career.

“I lived in Manhattan, on 34th Street and 2nd Avenue overlooking the East River,” Baker said. “I had quite a tour.”

She was a dancer and taught dance until she was married, moved to New Jersey, and started her family. There, she and her husband, Bill, raised their three children, two boys and a daughter.

After losing her husband of 66 years, she went back to work.

“I got a job as an office manager at Bellevue Hospital in New York City,” Baker said.

She worked at the hospital for almost 10 years before retiring at the age of 71.

Living on her own after retirement, with only a little help during the daytime, Baker’s children thought she needed someone there with her at night, as well.

“I have a theory that everybody has got their own place. I love my children dearly, but I will not live with any of them — their life is theirs to live, and I’ll live mine,” she said.

“I fought it for a while, then my daughter insisted I come out here and stay with her.”

Kaplin and her husband Gerry, who retired to Basalt, talked Baker into moving to Colorado to be closer to them.

“We promised if she came out to establish Colorado residency, we would look for an assisted living residence for her — which we did,” Kaplin said.

Baker moved to Roaring Fork Valley in September 2016, and lived with her daughter and son in law for about four and half months. The family looked around the valley trying to find the closest place to the family’s Basalt home.

“We found the Chateau, and here I am, very content and delighted to make my own home, and do as I please,” Baker said.

Kaplin said that when they first came to visit the Chateau, everyone was welcoming and said hello to her mother. She remembers her mother saying she liked the place. It felt comfortable and friendly.

“It will be three years February first,” Kaplin said.

Kaplin and her mother say the place is a delight, she loves the staff and everyone has been great.

“I’m very content to be here,” Baker said.

LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME

For Baker, a year ago when she turned 103 it seemed hard to face 104, and the same feeling comes over her as people begin to talk about her 105th birthday.

“It doesn’t seem possible, but what will be will be,” Baker said.

“I live from day to day. People come to me often and they ask me what did I do to obtain this age. Nothing unusual, I lived a normal life, I ate what I wanted to eat and I still do. I’m not on any diets, and if I don’t like it, I don’t eat it. If I like it, I order it.”

Everyone at the Chateau has fallen in love with Matty Baker.

To many residents at the Chateau, she is known as momma, because she is old enough to be some residents’ mother.

“We love our momma, our grandmother and to some of us our great-grandmother,” said Chateau Executive Director Sonya Vick.

“She is my inspiration. I think she is everybody’s inspiration here at the facility. We all want to be like Matty,” Vick said.

Always the feisty one, Baker had a few parting words for family as the party came to a close Saturday.

“I once told my daughter, when I go, don’t cry over me, be happy I lived this long and had the life I lived, but don’t cry.”

To which she said Kaplin replied, “What if I do?”

“I’ll come back,” Baker said with a laugh that filled the room.

kmills@swiftcom.com