Ida turns 100
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Ida Toniolli, Glenwood’s first baby of the new year back in the year 1911 and the longtime owner of the Western Hotel on Cooper Avenue, turns 100 years old on Jan. 2.
Toniolli was born Jan. 2, 1911, in the old Star Hotel (now the Hotel Denver) to Austrian immigrants Clem and Augusta Paolazzi, who had come to the New World from the Tyrolean region along the Austrian-Italian border.
“I was almost a New Year baby,” Toniolli said during an interview with the Post Independent late last week. “The city gave me a gold ring.”
Her daughter, Roz Eberle, who also grew up in Glenwood Springs but now lives in Minnesota, came to Glenwood on the train this weekend for the big occasion.
A gathering of family and close friends will celebrate Ida’s 100th birthday at the Italian Underground today.
During her years in Glenwood Springs, in addition to owning and operating the Western Hotel with her husband, John Toniolli, Ida was quite active in the community, including with the Catholic Church.
According to Eberle, she held every office with the Catholic Daughters organization, and was also involved in the St. Anne’s Circle, and the Altar and Rosary Society.
In the larger community, she held all offices and was drill captain for the local Eagle’s Lodge, was president of the American Legion and was a member of the Jane Jefferson Club.
According to an article in the Dec. 9, 1998 Glenwood Independent, Ida’s mother came to the United States around the turn of the 20th century, and met Clem in Telluride where they were soon married.
Her father was a miner, and they eventually came to Glenwood Springs where he continued to work in the coal mines. Around the time Ida was born, however, Clem was diagnosed with “miner’s consumption” and the family moved back to the family homestead in the Tyrol when Ida was just 9 months old.
Clem eventually returned to the Roaring Fork Valley by himself, and promised to send for the family once he found work and a place to live.
However, those plans were delayed by the outbreak of World War I. Even though Ida and her older brother, Quirino, were American citizens, they were not allowed to leave.
Ida still remembers the house on the main road to Trento, Italy, where they lived at the time.
“I remember a lot of (Austrian) soldiers coming by, and they would take over the house to stay overnight,” Ida recalled. “My brother and I used to have to stay upstairs.”
It took seven years before she, her brother and mother could board a ship for the return trip to the United States. After 21 days at sea and another three-day train ride from New York to Glenwood Springs, they were reunited with Clem.
In the meantime, he had purchased a ranch north of New Castle on West Elk Creek. Ida still remembers she and her brother traveling the four miles by horse-drawn buggy to school in Elk Park, near today’s Harvey Gap Reservoir.
“When dad could afford another horse, we got to ride horseback to school,” Ida recalled. “Boy, we thought we were pretty well off having two horses.”
The one-room school house had 10 students, and Ida remembered struggling to learn English.
“My parents said to us kids not to speak one word of Italian, or keep your mouth shut, especially at school,” she said in the 1998 interview with the Independent. “It was learn the language here or go back where you belong.”
After completing high school in New Castle, Ida went to Barns Business College in Grand Junction. She paid her way through college by watching a little boy for a young couple there.
“My friends used to go play cards, but I stayed at home with the kid,” Ida said.
She worked summers at the telephone office in New Castle. John Toniolli was a miner like Ida’s father, and was working in the Telluride mines when he came to New Castle to visit family in 1932 and met Ida. John’s family was also from the Tyrol region in Europe. They fell in love and were soon married.
In 1939, worried for her husband’s health if he kept working in the mines, it was Ida’s scheme to buy the Western Hotel, which had been put up for sale by Mike Bosco, father of Hank Bosco of current Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge fame.
The Toniolli’s raised their own two children, Roz and Johnny, at the hotel, where they lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms.
They were married for 48 years before John died in 1980 of throat cancer. Ida continued to run the hotel in the years since.
In more recent years, Ida was a common fixture sitting on the bench outside the hotel on warm days, often feeding the pigeons.
Donna Fell, who has her real estate office across the street from the hotel, has become good friends with Ida.
“We met on the street corner singing Christmas carols,” Fell said. “Up until just recently we had been walking between a half mile and a mile together, three or four times a week. We always sing when we walk, and she loves to walk down to the train station to watch the trains come in.”
“She’s just an amazing woman, and has some great stories,” Fell added. “I’m proud to know her.”
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Glenwood Music is looking forward to honoring instrument rental contracts with local schools, but is currently trying to navigate months of backorders due to supply chain interruptions caused by COVID-19.