Obituary: Mary Vawter
Mary Linda Mills-Vawter
Mary Linda Mills-Vawter (Clapham) passed away peacefully at age 82 in the Denver area on May 14, 2020 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was born in Alliance, Nebraska to Guy Omer and Grace McMillan Clapham on July 10, 1937. Her family’s roots extend back to British Colonial Virginia. She was very proud of being a direct descendant of Martha Ball, George Washington’s mother.
The Clapham family moved away from Nebraska to near Golden, Colorado and finally to Glenwood Springs where Mary Linda attended Garfield County High School (GCHS), sang as a soprano in the high school choir and graduated in 1955. That year she became Glenwood’s Strawberry Day Queen and at the same time was named National Strawberry Queen. Mary Linda then attended Colorado State University (then Colorado A&M) where she belonged to the Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority. After leaving college she attended modelling classes and became Miss Colorado in the Miss Universe Contest in 1957. She did not win in Long Beach, California, but told her friends about the many personal interactions she had with women from around the world.
Mary Linda married Jerry Mills in 1958. They had three daughters Linda Marie, Laura Ann, and Penny Jo. The family raised and showed quarter horses from a ranch near Colorado Springs. She was very proud of her cutting horse performances at rodeos around the west. Her next life adventure was having a successful career as a real estate broker selling ranch properties across Colorado. She continued to use her wonderful soprano voice in the Unity Church and on stage at Community Theater performances in Colorado Springs.
At the 45th reunion of the GCHS Class of 1955, in the summer of 2000, Mary Linda renewed her friendship with a schoolmate Glenn Vawter. They were married a year later on April 22, 2001 at a Methodist Church in Denver where her father at age ninety-nine walked her down the aisle.
Mary Linda and Glenn lived in Summit County for a few years and then moved back home to Glenwood Springs in 2004. They travelled extensively around the country and the world including trips with their high school friends Lavonne and Floyd Diemoz. Mary Linda joined the Lutheran church in Glenwood where she sang in the choir under the direction of Ruthie Parish who she so admired. Mary Linda joined the Glenwood Springs Elks Club in 2009 and sang the National Anthem and God Bless America at patriotic events. Music was her gift to the world. Her last years were spent at an Assisted Living Facility, Golden Orchard III, in Wheatridge, Colorado where she received wonderful care and was close to her daughter Linda.
Mary Linda is survived by her husband Glenn Vawter; sister Penny Ann Johnson; daughters Penny Jo Mills and Linda Marie Mills Hovanec, and her husband John; grandchildren Aja Mills, Lacey Mills, Jordan Hovanec and Aaron Smith; and cousin Joyce Hideman. Mary Linda was preceded in death by her parents, sister Darlene Clapham, first husband and daughter Laura Ann Smith. She will be sorely missed by her family and many friends.
Donations in the memory of Mary Linda Mills-Vawter are suggested to either the Elks Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 57, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602 or Compassus Living Foundation, 10 Cadillac Drive, Suite 400, Brentwood, TN 37027. A celebration of Mary Linda’s wonderful and adventurous life will be scheduled at a later date.
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