George Winters Thurston
George Winters Thurston of Glenwood Springs, the founding general manager of Holy Cross Energy, died Monday, March 11, 2002, at Glen Valley Nursing Home in Glenwood Springs. He was 95.
A man of many talents, Mr. Thurston lived his early years in a variety of places, including Chicago and California, Carbondale, Fort Collins, Monte Vista and Grand Junction before settling in Glenwood Springs. He built trails for the U.S. Forest Service and stocked fish in Crystal River Lake. He surveyed for the Bureau of Land Management, chauffeured for a famous silent movie actress and worked on various tunnel jobs, including the water diversion tunnel in Lincoln Gulch above Aspen.
On Oct. 28, 1940, Thurston was appointed general manager of the fledgling Holy Cross Electric Association, a rural electric co-op that served the Roaring Fork Valley and Eagle County. His starting salary was $125 a month.
“He saw the business go from nothing to about 12,000 customers,” said Ed Grange, who worked under Thurston and served as the co-op’s general manager after Thurston retired in 1974.
“He saw the first lines energized in 1941, and he saw the company through World War II, when materials were scarce,” Grange said.
“During World War II, we couldn’t get tires for the pickup,” recalled Thurston in a 1984 interview. “So I took the tires off my car and put them on the company pickup.”
In those early years, Holy Cross and many other rural electric co-ops brought electric power to rural residents and remote towns that private electric companies wouldn’t serve.
Under Thurston’s leadership, Holy Cross took the risk of providing power to the new Vail ski resort in 1962 and Snowmass Village in 1967, uncertain whether the new industry would really take off.
When it formed, the small rural company served about 700 customers from Vail to Glenwood Springs and Aspen. It now serves 48,000 in the same geographic area.
“He built a solid basis for this company,” Grange said. Thurston was also an outstanding manager, in his dealings with employees and his knowledge of the business.
His longevity set a standard at Holy Cross. After Thurston’s retirement, Grange held the job for 19 years, followed by current manager Kent Benham, who has held the post nine years.
Mr. Thurston was born April 17, 1906, in Carbondale, to William and Jessie Thurston. He graduated from Carbondale High School in 1925 and was a resident of Glenwood Springs for 54 years.
He joined the Masonic Lodge in 1940 and was an active honorary lifetime member and achieved a certificate of letter-perfect lectures.
He married Ella Comries in 1927. She died in 1947. He married Dollie Brooks on Dec. 31, 1963.
The couple enjoyed spending time at their cabin at Fulford. Mr. Thurston learned to water ski in Glenwood Canyon at the age of 58, and drove around in a hot red jeep while smoking cigars and playing Elvis Presley tapes. A motto written about him in high school, “Patience and perseverance conquereth all things,” best described how he lived his life.
He was preceded in death by a daughter, Eileen Thurston, and by brothers Harold and Dow Thurston.
He is survived by his wife; daughter and son-in-law Karen and Richard Haff of Glenwood Springs; stepson Larry Brooks of Gypsum; and four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, one niece and one nephew.
Graveside services will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, at Hillcrest Cemetery in Carbondale.
Memorial contributions may be made to Roaring Fork Hospice, P.O. Box 1970, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602.
Farnum-Holt Funeral Home in Glenwood Springs is in charge of arrangements.
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