‘Miss Jeanie’ to TV viewers, Ford Artaz also gets rave reviews in Glenwood
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” “I see Mikey, and Tommy, and Kelley and Charlie.”
For multitudes of now fully grown children who grew up between the 1950s and 1980s, hearing their name called at the end of each “Romper Room” television show was a coveted childhood ritual.
“Romper Room” was a TV show geared for the preschool set, and premiered in 1954 in Baltimore. It quickly spread, featuring 150 local hostesses in cities across the country, lovely ladies who’d read stories, tell young watchers to “To be a ‘Do Bee!'” and look through a “Magic Mirror,” which gave hostesses the unbelievable ability to see through every TV tuned in and acknowledge kids by name.
Glenwood’s own Jeannine Ford Artaz was one of those hostesses. Known as “Miss Jeanie,” she served as a host on the “Romper Room” program in Denver in the years before she moved to Glenwood Springs in 1966 as a widow, with four children in tow.
A Glenwood local since ’66
Jeannine was born a twin on an Air Force base near San Antonio, Texas, to Grady Carlton Ford, an Air Force pilot, and Volahelen Latham Ford. Her twin brother died at birth, said Jeannine’s daughter, Ginger Watts.
“She was raised an only child, an Air Force brat, and grew up all around the world,” said Ginger.
Jeannine graduated from San Antonio High School, and moved to Denver. Besides her stint as a Romper Room hostess, she worked for KIMN Radio, Channel 2 Television as the Butternut Weather Girl, and as an editor and journalist for Channel 9 News.
She was widowed and moved to Meredith above Basalt to work as a secretary for the Ruedi Dam project.
She met Bob Artaz, a service manager for Glenwood Springs Ford, and the two married in 1968, creating an enormous family of 11 children. Bob died in 1997.
“We are very close,” Ginger said of her immediate and extended family. “We all think of each other as brothers and sisters.”
Five of Bob and Jeannine’s children still live in the area: Sandy Crabtree and Ginger Watts live in Glenwood, Bonnie Waynick lives in Parachute, Vola Mercer lives in Silt, and Carl Artaz lives in New Castle. The couple’s other children are in Utah, Grand Junction, and Arizona: Bobby Artaz lives in Parowan, Utah, Cheri Belyeu and Danny Artaz live in Grand Junction, Honey Johnson lives in Littleton, and Grady Artaz lives in Oro Valley, Ariz. Dana Gustine is deceased. Ford Artaz has 34 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren
“Bob was such a cornerstone for everyone,” said Ginger. “He adored all of us and considered all of us his own.”
‘The best heart’
Saturday, Ginger threw a 75th birthday party for her mother at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The bash attracted more than 50 family members and friends, likely setting a record for the largest number of longtime Glenwood residents to gather in one place.
“I’ve known Jeannine since she first came with the kids to Glenwood,” said Ann Jurkulak, who’s lived across the street from her in the Walz subdivision backing Red Mountain since then.
“Jeannine is our community’s rose,” said Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt. “She’s done so much for this area. Jeannine is always there. She reflects the best of Glenwood Springs.”
“My husband, Charles, taught all her kids,” Ester Piper said. Her late husband was a biology teacher at Glenwood Springs High School. “We lived about two blocks away. Our kids would build forts together and play games like Kick the Can.”
Randy Lawrence, who’s known Jeannine since 1958, came all the way from Red Feather Lakes to attend Jeannine’s party. He knew Jeannine when she was doing radio and television in Denver.
“I’m tickled to death to be here,” he said. “I got an invitation from Ginger and knew I had to be here.”
Jeannine got a big surprise at her party when U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, a Glenwood Springs native, arrived and presented her with a framed tribute. On May 10, McInnis spoke about Jeannine’s contributions in the House of Representatives by detailing her long-standing community work, including her volunteer work with the Valley View Hospital Auxiliary, Glen Valley Nursing Home, Glenwood Springs Sheriff’s Department and the Girl and Boy Scouts.
Jeannine also volunteered to design and make wedding dresses for the annual Newcomers Fashion Show, and was the Strawberry Days Grand Marshal in 2001.
McInnis also recognized her role as a local radio personality on KGLN and KDNK, and community television host with her Mountain Living interview show on community television Cable 12.
“Mother has the best heart in the whole world,” said Ginger.
Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518
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