New light shed on Fruita’s Masser House token mystery
Special to the Free Press
A token found during the Masser House restoration in Fruita is back in the hands of the family. In November, a stamped aluminum coin with the name Wendell Moore fell from the roof of the garage when it was torn down. Bill Holstein and Donna Stratton, proprietors of the home, have found many treasures in the yard since the project began a year ago, but Stratton carried the token with her every day in hopes of finding the rightful owner.
“It seems as though everything we find takes us on another adventure,” Stratton said. “We are learning so much about the history of the times and the people who either lived there or had some tie to it. This house seems to touch so many people and we are fortunate they share their stories with us.”
Sally Moore, Wendell’s widow, received a call from her sister-in-law, Ann Moore, who saw a picture of the token featured in a recent story in the Grand Junction Free Press. Coincidentally, Sally had a copy of the newspaper, but hadn’t read it yet. The next day, Sally and daughter Susan Sewell drove to the Masser House and met Holstein and Stratton, who were working on the house.
The four took a tour and spent time talking about the man behind the token mystery.
“Wendell had polio and rheumatic fever as a child. Doctors said he wouldn’t live past the age of nine, and if he did would be a tiny, low-functioning man,“ Sally explained.
However, Wendell became an intelligent and brooding man of 6 feet, 4 inches, a Grand Junction High School graduate, and a Mesa State College student. Although he never received a college degree, Wendell loved the field of engineering and dedicated his life to it. In the late 1950s and early ‘60s, he traveled around Alaska and Canada surveying early warning missile sites for protection from Russia in case of a war.
Wendell was a surveyor and Sally a secretary for the Army Corps of Engineers. They married in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1959. Wendell began his career as a draftsman and worked his way up, receiving several performance awards. He retired in 1990 as Chief of Survey Branch after 37 years of service.
The couple raised three children in Alaska —Bryan Moore, who still lives there, Susan Sewell of Grand Junction and David Moore of Phoenix, Ariz. After the Moores retired, they moved to Grand Junction in 1991. Wendell passed away in 2002 due to complications of a massive stroke he suffered nine years before.
How did Wendell’s token end up at the Masser House over 60 years ago? His father owned Cecil Moore Construction, and Wendell and his four siblings grew up learning the trade. One of the primary owners of the Masser House, A.J. Little, had the garage built in the early 1950s. Although it hasn’t been confirmed that Cecil’s crew built the garage, it’s presumed that the token was part of a tradition the Moore boys had when building with their father. Either they wrote their names or nailed a special personal item on the framework of the structure.
Sally is considering preserving the token in a display case and will pass it on to her children some day. The mystery has rekindled her love of history and she’s excited to learn more about her late husband’s involvement with the Masser House.
“I think it’s wonderful. My kids are excited about it, too,” Sally said. “But it frustrates me because I’m a detail-oriented person and I can’t say for certain how this happened.”
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