Friends, neighbors remember horse trick performer, western historian Anita Witt
The Roaring Fork Valley lost an icon last Tuesday when writer, historian and western personality Anita Witt took her final ride into the sunset.
Witt was a true cowgirl, from her upbringing in Wichita, Kansas, to her five decades living on her ranch in Missouri Heights outside of Carbondale.
A graduate of Oklahoma State University, Witt taught physical education for two years before riding after her dream of being an entertainer.
“Anita loved to entertain, playing her guitar, singing, doing rope tricks for small or large groups … she just loved to spread joy and give,” said Laura McMullen, of Valley View, Texas, near Sanger, Texas ,where Witt owned a ranch and spent her winters.
“Anita was tiny in stature, but big in character,” said Lynn Kirchner of Carbondale, a longtime friend and riding buddy. “She was huge in the community.”
Witt was a lover of animals, including her horses Whiskey, Jose Cuervo and Trigger, along with her dog Spanky.
She traveled as part of the old Mild West Rodeo Company, which was based out of Carbondale. She would go from rodeo to rodeo, doing shows all over town including local festivals, senior centers and more, showing off her roping, trick horses, songs and stories.
“She was amazing entertainer in her time,” Kirchner said. “She did an actual dog and pony show.”
“She was a true horsewoman, trail riding and rodeo,” said Holly McLain, another longtime friend and neighbor. “Anita was kind-hearted, optimistic, and up for any kind of adventure and good time.”
Well-respected in the community, Anita and her husband, Donald Witt, were the owners and founders of Center Drug (now Walgreens on Grand Avenue) in Glenwood for 23 years.
A proponent for preserving western heritage in the valley, Witt is a big reason the old schoolhouse in Missouri Heights is still standing and being preserved for future generations.
“She truly was a dedicated historian, she had a love for the area,” said Colleen Sardinsky, neighbor and very close friend. “She was devoted to supporting the old one-room schoolhouse in Missouri Heights.”
“Because of Anita, it is still there, as a place for people to gather,” McLain said.
Witt was a collector of stories, pictures and oral history from the ranching community.
“She was really instrumental in recording the western heritage of the Roaring Fork Valley,” McLain said.
“One thing I appreciated more than anything was her respect for those who came before her and made it possible for her when she arrived,” Sardinsky said.
She authored three books, “They Came from Missouri: The History of Missouri Heights Colorado,” “Lady Godiva’s Book of Horsemanship,” and “I Remember One Horse: The Last of the Cowboys in the Roaring Fork Valley and Beyond,” for which she also made a DVD movie.
“She honored cowboys and the people who came before her in her books,” Kirchner said.
“Right up until the end, she was active entertaining people,” McLain said.
“She did not waste a minute, always on the go,” Sardinsky said. “Truly an extraordinary women; she won’t be forgotten, ever.”
For her memorial last Saturday, it was standing room only at the old schoolhouse.
“The amount of people that came out to honor her was amazing,” Kirchner said. “It was a wonderful gathering of family and friends.”
“She was a dear friend; she wasn’t my blood mother, but she became a mother to me,” Kirchner said. “She was a special woman.”
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