Man loses his wife but wins town’s compassion
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Sometimes the worst of times can bring out the best in people.
One example of this is the kind and caring way residents helped perennial Strawberry Days vendor Jack Yarborough of Monroe, La., deal with the sudden and unexpected death of Juanita, his wife of 47 years, on Friday.
“The Yarboroughs have been coming here for at least as long as I’ve worked here,” Mugford said of her six years at the Chamber. “She was one of those people who was so friendly when you meet her, every year.”
Around 9 p.m. Friday, Juanita was found deceased in one of the portable bathrooms set up along North Hyland Park Drive, possibly from a heart attack. The official cause of death was not available Tuesday.
Those who saw Jack Yarborough in the moments after his wife’s death said he was devastated.
That’s why, according to Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association finance director Shiela Mugford, there was no decision to make on whether to help Yarborough – it was automatic.
“Sometimes you can’t help it, when you see someone in that much pain and that much agony,” said Mugford, a co-organizer of Strawberry Days. “He was just a lost little soul.”
Mugford and others at the scene immediately came to Yarborough’s side and helped him through what was likely one of the roughest moments of his life.
The Yarboroughs, who regularly traveled around from show to show during the summer, came to Glenwood Springs by themselves. The rest of their family was back in Louisiana.
“I went to the hospital with him until about 12:30 that night,” Mugford said.
Finally, Jack Yarborough went back to his travel trailer for the night.
On Saturday morning, as hundreds were enjoying the Strawberry Days parade, Yarborough had the tough task of making travel and cremation arrangements while more than 1,000 miles from his home.
“The family couldn’t make it until 6 p.m. the next day,” Mugford said. “It was just he and her out here and he was just devastated.”
So Mugford called Cindy Svatos, the chamber’s longtime organizer of Strawberry Days, who resigned from that job in May.
Svatos immediately opened her home for the grieving family. The Yarboroughs’ daughter, two sons and a daughter-in-law arrived, Mugford said. “Cindy just took them under her wing.”
“They were just amazed at the kindness – they were in awe,” Mugford said.
After an announcement was made to the Strawberry Days crowd about Juanita Yarborough’s death, more than $1,000 was raised by donations at the gate as folks left.
Mugford said Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson and his officers should be credited for helping out.
Police stopped parade traffic Saturday to let the family get through to the mortuary, she said. “The PD was excellent. They were so wonderful when we were doing all that.”
Wilson said the tragedy really showed what kind of a community Glenwood Springs is.
Svatos “went above and beyond the call of duty,” he said.
“She did it and did it willingly and quickly and very well. That’s community,” he said.
And Mugford “handled it with a huge heart and compassion,” he added.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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