Obituary: Gayla Tippett
September 8, 1953 – April 15, 2023
Former Carbondale and Glenwood Springs resident — storyteller, children’s librarian, arts director, actress, zoo worker — Gayla Jo Tippett died on April 15, 2023. She was 69.
Gayla was born on Sept. 8, 1953, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Olin and Lois Jeanne Tippett, the youngest of four children from that marriage.
After graduating from Higginsville High School and attending the University of Missouri, she relocated to Colorado in 1972 to be with her big sister, Billie-Gwen and her partner, John Stadler, in Boulder. She moved to Carbondale in 1973 where she attended Colorado Mountain College and was one of the original “Smithy Girls” when the Village Smithy Restaurant opened in 1975.
She served as director of the Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities in 1977-78, and was instrumental in the dedication of the Ben Reed Memorial Gazebo in Sopris Park that to this day serves as the main stage for the annual Carbondale Mountain Fair.
She married Jerry Duckowitz in 1977, and together they had one son, Jason.
For many years, Gayla was one of the featured children’s storytellers at Mountain Fair, and at many other venues in the Roaring Fork Valley. She was also involved in the annual KDNK Talent Show fundraiser, both performing and directing.
The Duckowitz family moved from Carbondale and lived for a short time in Snowmass Village in the early 1990s before relocating to the Isle of Palms, South Carolina.
Gayla returned to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1994 following a divorce, living in Glenwood Springs and completing her liberal arts degree through Regis University. She worked at the Glenwood Springs Branch Library as the children’s librarian. She met and married Ahmen Auten in Glenwood Springs. They moved to Grand Junction where Gayla worked for the Art Center of Western Colorado.
She and Ahmen later moved to St. Louis in 2007, and following their separation Gayla moved to Kansas City where she helped care for a dear family friend, Dorothy Spencer, while also working at the Kansas City Zoo until 2014 before returning to Colorado.
She lived in Silt for a time, and for the past seven years in Cortez with her partner Larry Smith, who preceded her in death in December 2022. She lived her final days in Cortez, ultimately succumbing to the affects of alcohol dependency.
Gayla was preceded in death by her father, Olin Tippett, and mother Lois Jeanne (Tippett) Stroud, stepfather Melvin L. Stroud, and brother Jim Tippett.
She is survived by her son, Jason Duckowitz (Michelle) and grandsons Holden and Ellis of Langley, Washington; exes Jerry Duckowitz of Orlando, Florida, and Ahmen Auten of St. Louis; sisters Billie-Gwen Tippett Russell (Kirk) of Olympia, Washington, and Sandy Tippett-Smith (Steve) of Silt; brother John Stroud (Tami) of Carbondale; and many nieces and nephews.
Memorial contributions can be made in Gayla’s name to Carbondale Arts, the Carbondale or Glenwood Springs branch libraries, or an alcohol dependency recovery program of your choosing.
A memorial service is being planned for later this summer in Carbondale.
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