Immigrant Stories: The Weaver family has history in No Name |

Immigrant Stories: The Weaver family has history in No Name

Jim and Kathie Weaver. Courtesy

Intro: Kathie Flynn met Jim Weaver, the love of her life, in 1976, and for the next 41 years, they did almost everything together until Jim’s death in September 2017.

Jim Weaver is remembered as “Doc” Weaver, an outstanding orthopedic surgeon in the valley and an innovator in orthopedic surgery. Jim grew up in Glenwood, graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 1947 and went on to Harvard and then to the University of Colorado, where he earned his doctorate in orthopedic surgery.

He met Kathie in New Mexico when he was chief of orthopedic surgery at the University of New Mexico. Here, Kathie remembers Jim and his parents.

Weaver: I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was born in 1944. My grandparents, the Flynns, came from Dublin. So I was very Irish and very Catholic and did 16 years of Catholic school.

Gallacher: How was that? Being raised in Catholic schools? Do you have stories?

Weaver: Well, when I was in sixth grade, I was in St. Vincent’s Girl’s Academy with my two friends that were my best friends. Elvis Presley came to town, and he was singing at the armory in Albuquerque, and my two friends went down and were standing on the stage, and when Elvis got off the stairs, they each kissed him one on each cheek. It was in the morning paper in Albuquerque, and they were expelled from St. Vincent’s Girl’s Academy.

Gallacher: What was growing up like for you?

Weaver: My parents raised Arabian horses. They had good friends from Lebanon, and they had brought some Egyptian Arabians over from back home to New Mexico, and they became good friends of ours. And so, we started raising Arabian horses.

We did halter classes and riding classes, native costume classes. We had the national Arabian champion stallion and the international Arabian champion stallion out of our herd, both in the same year.

Gallacher: Where did your grandparents settle after Dublin.

Weaver: They lived in St. Louis, and my brother and I would spend summers with them in St. Louis. It was great.

Gallacher: What happened after Catholic school? What did you do?

Weaver: I had a job, working at an orthopedic office during the day, and I was volunteering at night at the Bernalillo County Indian Hospital in Albuquerque in the emergency room. That’s how I met Jim. He was a professor of orthopedics at the University of New Mexico. Eventually we got married and moved to Aspen. Jim’s partners had been wanting him to come to Aspen for a long time, since he grew up in Glenwood.

We owned part of Snowmass Clinic, and he worked at the Aspen office, and I worked at Aspen Valley Hospital at night, typing while he was operating on the people that he’d seen during the day at Snowmass Clinic. And then we’d drive back to Glenwood.

Gallacher: Had Jim always planned to come back to Glenwood to practice medicine?

Weaver: Yes, his dad wanted him back here to help him take care of his mom. He was an only child.


Jess Weaver, Jim’s father

Gallacher: What was Jim’s dad like?

Weaver: Jess was a great guy, high energy like his son, smart. He came to Glenwood in 1926 and started the creamery on Cooper. He delivered milk and ice cream with a horse and wagon in town, and Jim washed milk bottles, and they lived in the apartments above the creamery.

They built a summer home on No Name and spent summers out there. Eventually the family bought a sheep ranch near Harvey Gap, and in 1932 Jess bought land on the Flat Tops, and Jess and Jim’s grandfather built a trail up No Name. It was the trail that is now known as the Jess Weaver Trail. They built the cabin in 1934 at 10,400 feet that overlooks Grizzly and No Name Creeks. That’s where he started raising horses for the cavalry.

Jess had a 99-year lease with the Forest Service. We have a live spring right on top, and so there was plenty of water and grass.

Gallacher: Where did they winter those horses? That’s some rough territory in the winter.

Weaver: They would herd them down to Harvey Gap where Jess had his sheep ranch.

Gallacher: What were summers like at the cabin?

Weaver: Oh, my gosh, just gorgeous. Deer and elk were everywhere, because the only reliable water source was from this natural spring. We had a big tank that we just kept running all the time.

Gallacher: What was Jim’s mom like?

Weaver: She was great. She played the piano and organ and sang for the Presbyterian Church.

Gallacher: Did your folks visit the cabin?

Weaver: No, they couldn’t get to the cabin because it’s a four-hour horseback ride all up hill, and it’s rugged. You’ve got to be strong to make it up and down on a horse. So a lot of our family and friends never made it up there.

Gallacher: You were comfortable around Arabian horses, so you must have fit right in.

Weaver: Yes. Jim and I did well together. In the beginning, there was just Jess and Jim and I, and we’d go up to the cabin and spend the night, and I’d get a headache and be a little nauseated, but neither one of them said to me, “You have high altitude pulmonary edema.“ They just said, “Oh, it’ll go away.” So it wasn’t exactly easy dealing with those two. Jess would wake up every morning at 5, and if we weren’t awake, he made sure we were.

Gallacher: When Jess was up, everybody’s up?

Weaver: Exactly. He’d get out the cast iron pans and start banging around, making breakfast. And if that didn’t work, he would start the chainsaw.

Gallacher: Oh, lord.

Weaver: He could be a maniac, but he was a great guy.

Gallacher: Yeah, but he wasn’t so great when the chainsaw was running at 5 in the morning.

Weaver: No. Jim would say, “Oh, my God, my dad wants us up.”

Gallacher: Jess Weaver sounds like a very strong-willed person

Weaver: He was. Jim used to tell the story about the year he graduated from high school in Glenwood. It was 1947. Jess, Jim’s dad, had graduated from CSU in 1926, and he wanted Jim to go to veterinary school when he graduated. He said, “I will buy you a brand-new Plymouth convertible if you go to CSU veterinary school, or you can take your scholarship and go to Harvard.” Jim looked at the brand-new car and said, “Dad, I gotta go to Harvard.”

Gallacher: I read that Jim lost a son in an accident. Can you speak to that?

Weaver: Yes. He was 16 years old. Jess was his name, after his grandpa. He was climbing in Silver Plume, Colorado, with some friends, and they didn’t have any climbing equipment. They were 350 feet up when he fell. They helicoptered him to St. Anthony’s in Denver; he died two days later. Jim also lost his daughter to breast cancer about seven years ago.

No Name Creek

Gallacher: He had a lot of tragedy in his life. Didn’t he lose his dad in an accident as well?

Weaver: Yes. It was 1978, Jim was supposed to present a paper in Lake Placid, New York, on June 30th. And Jess called insisting that they go to the cabin. He said, “I can see the aspens turning green on top, and we need to go.” Jim said, “Dad, look at the creek right next to your house. It’s crazy high.” It was June 25th, and the runoff was peaking.

Jess kept insisting, and Jim finally gave in and saddled the horses. I stayed home to look after Jim’s mom. Jim said, “We’ll be back soon. When we get to the crossing, Dad will see that it’s impossible.”

An hour or so later, here came Jim down the trail at a trot, and we never trotted a horse on that trail. He was crying. “I lost Dad,” he said. “When we got to the crossing, it was raging, but Dad was still insisting that we cross. He told me his mare was steady on her feet, and he was going. I told him to wait ’til I got a rope around him, but he just kicked her, and she stepped in, and the rapids rushed over her and Dad was gone.”

I called search and rescue, and then we rode back up to look for Jess and get the mare. She was still standing in the rapids, but we couldn’t get near the creek.

Search and rescue, Butch Blanco, Craig Westley and a bunch of others came up, and Craig was finally able to get the mare out. Screens were set up along No Name Creek, but days went by with no sign of Jess. Finally, after 10 days, we decided to have a memorial.

Two weeks later, they found Jess in the willows, not far from where he had fallen in.

Gallacher: Losing his dad like that must have haunted Jim.

Weaver: It did.

Gallacher: How did he make peace with that memory?

Weaver: Well, before the accident, Jess had been failing. He was losing his eyesight and his memory, and he was dealing with a bleeding ulcer and epilepsy. Jim felt that he was ready to die. He told me the last thing his dad said before he rode his horse into the rapids was, “If I make it, I make it, and if I don’t, I don’t.”

Gallacher: That’s quite a story.

Weaver: Yeah. A few years after Jess’s death, Jim and I were coming down the No Name Trail on horseback, and there were two Forest Service men coming up the trail carrying a sign. “We’re looking for Dr. Weaver,” they said.

They were carrying the sign for the “The Jess Weaver Trail.” We were so touched that the Forest Service had named the trail after Jess.

Gallacher: What was it like when you first met Jim? Was it love at first sight?

Weaver: Yes, for both of us. Jim would say, “The minute Kathie and I met one another, we fell in love.”

Gallacher: What do you think that was? What was it about him that …

Weaver: He was tall, blonde and really good looking and had beautiful blue eyes and a great body. He was funny. He had a very dry wit and didn’t speak much, but when he did, you wanted to listen, because it was important.

Gallacher: And you made a life together.

Weaver: That’s what we did. It was great. And then he died four years ago on the 20th of this month.

Gallacher: How has that been for you? Swimming in the river of grief?

Weaver: It was tough, Walter. Jim was my bestest friend. We were constantly together. Being an only child, he didn’t like being alone, and I was with him all the time.

Gallacher: You probably still see him “in all those old familiar places.”

Weaver: That’s why I walk the Jess Weaver Trail. That’s why I come here in the summer. That’s why I look up on the mountain and know all my relatives are up there, all his relatives and all our dogs, and so I’m at peace when I’m here for the summer.

Note: Kathie lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her spiritual guide and fur friend, Barney.

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