Monk Dawson remembered for more than just a nickname that stuck
Clarence Dawson, or Monk as he was known around New Castle, passed away on April 21 at the age of 96. In the days since, the community he called home his entire life continues to remember one of the most recognizable figures in town for generations.
His wife, Betty, said his funeral, which was held in Rifle on April 27, was very well attended. A full obituary appeared in the Post Independent shortly following Monk’s death.
New Castle Town Council member Grady Hazelton said he knew Dawson for basically his whole life, as Dawson owned the New Castle taxidermy shop, now Elk Creek Taxidermy, for a number a years.
He said Dawson was always friendly and showed off the new stuff he had in the store and called him “a true mountain man in [his] eyes.”
Steve Rippy, who also grew up in New Castle, said Dawson was one of those staple members of the community you would see your entire life.
Dawson was born June 30, 1922 in the Coreyeltown area, just outside of New Castle. After ninth grade he decided to work full-time on several local ranches, including for the Stayton family dairy. There, he met Betty and two would go on to be married over 70 years.
He got the nickname ‘Monk’ as a kid when he contracted the mumps and his cheeks swelled up to look like a chipmunk’s. While the mumps would be cured, the nickname would stick with him his entire life.
After Peal Harbor Dawson was drafted and signed up for the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, completing basic training at Camp Hale near Leadville. However, while there he contracted rheumatic fever and pneumonia and was hospitalized.
Betty Dawson said he was hospitalized for seven months and the day he got out of bed while recovering from rheumatic fever, he contracted pneumonia.
The doctor said he would have a weak heart all his life and advise him not to plan on an outdoor career. Thankfully for the New Castle community, he didn’t heed that advice.
After helping to rebuild Pearl Harbor, working as an underwater welder in Hawaii, Dawson returned to Colorado.
He worked various jobs after returning to the New Castle area, but in 1947 he started school at the Jonas Brothers Taxidermy in Denver on the GI Bill.
In 1949, Betty and Monk started their first taxidermy shop east of New Castle, where their work table doubled as the dining table.
His daughter, Becky Bloomfield, said he had to learn how to hunt and fish to survive during the Great Depression and was also an avid sportsman late into his life.
She said he took as many of his grandchildren as could go on a hunting trip to Texas a few years ago, when he was around 92 years old. She added that the trip was his last big hurrah, but that he stayed with it until very late in his life.
Monk had a variety of hobbies and business venture over the years. For years he would cut and sell about 100-200 Christmas trees a year and also worked for the Forest Service as well as a family lodge.
He would also work with youth at the church and taught gun safety through 4-H.
In the early 1970s the Dawson’s purchased a building in downtown New Castle where they built Dawson Taxidermy with living quarters in the back.
Bloomfield expressed just how much Monk loved having the shop over the years, which allowed him to meet people from all over the world.
He is survived by his brother, Earl (Donna) Dawson and sister Ruth Jennings, both of Rifle; his wife of 70 years, Betty Lois Stayton Dawson; daughter Becky Bloomfield and her three children, their spouses, and six great-grandchildren; daughter Marla Porter and her five children, their spouses, and 16 great-grandchildren; and son Mark (Sharon) Dawson and their six children, their spouses, and 11 great-grandchildren.
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