Parachute wins woman’s heart |

Parachute wins woman’s heart

Judi Hayward is passionately devoted to restoring the “Queen of the Mesa” to her throne.The Battlement School, built in 1907, has sat on the brink of ruin for years. The dilapidated building sits atop a hill. Judi’s late husband, Parachute patriarch Lee Hayward, once said it seemed to reign over the valley below. In the final paragraph of a story Lee wrote called “Queen of the Mesa,” he hoped someday someone would adopt the schoolhouse and return it to its original glory.”So I guess I’m following his wish,” Judi said.Not foreverJudi founded the Grand Valley Historical Society in 1999, a year after Lee died of prostate cancer. Once the schoolhouse was handed over to the society, Judi immediately began raising funds and applying for grants to restore it.Born in Milwaukee, Judi, 62, grew up in Wisconsin, married when she was 18 and raised two sons. After 22 years of marriage, she decided to leave her husband behind and take on the world.”My mother calls me her gypsy,” Judi said. She worked for National Community Development Service, an economic development and fund-raising company, which paid for her apartment, a rental car per diem, and paid the best salary she ever made. She stayed in a town three to four months at a time and then moved to the next place, until 1985, when the American Heart Association offered her a spot in Colorado and said she could live anywhere on the Western Slope.”I thought I would live in Glenwood, but it was awful,” she said about the cost of living. “I needed to rent because I wasn’t going to be here forever,” she added, laughing a little.In the end she found a three-bedroom, two-bathroom modular home in Parachute where she only paid $185 per month including utilities. “Of course,” she said, “I’ve watched it go up and up and up since then.”Trail ride to loveSince Judi was mew to the area and single, everyone she met told her she needed to meet Lee Hayward. She protested, saying she was a strong single woman and liked it that way.But eventually she found herself driving around outside the 96 Ranch, up on Battlement Mesa, where Lee guided trail rides. She had just pulled up next to the fence to admire the horses when a pickup truck rolled through the ranch entrance. “This good-looking cowboy stepped out of the truck,” Judi said. “He was wearing these tight jeans and these wonderful-looking boots.”She told him she was there looking for Lee Hayward, and she wanted to go for a trail ride. The hunky cowboy said he was Lee Hayward.One Sunday morning a couple of weeks later, she went for a trail ride at the 96 Ranch, expecting a line of horses for all the guests. But there were only two. Lee invited her to breakfast before the ride. And that was the beginning of their five-year courtship.”He was absolutely the love of my life,” Judi said. “Everybody doesn’t find that love, but I did.”Carrying the torchFive years after they met, when Lee asked Judi to marry him, she eagerly agreed. She said Lee’s son responded to the news by asking his dad what took him so long.”His son and daughter told me I was the one who taught him to love,” Judi said. “And I think they were right. We taught each other, but I might have been the lead on that one.”Judi said she had trouble keeping up with Lee in the beginning – he was so full of energy and love for Battlement Mesa and Parachute, where three generations of his family grew up before him.Now she carries a torch for him – and more. Judi ran for mayor of Parachute in the last election. Though she didn’t win, she is on town council. She’s also on the Colorado Mountain College board of trustees and feels fortunate to be part of creating a new campus in western Garfield County. She’ll help decide where to build at Monday’s board meeting.Judi is also part of District 16’s education foundation, raising money for mini-grants so teachers can do projects the district can’t afford. Judi’s women’s investment group provides opportunities for the women in the area, including Judi, to learn how to invest and trade. And now, Judi is fascinated by genealogy and has started work on a book about Lee’s ancestor Mini Hayward, who came to Colorado by train and stagecoach to marry Lee’s great grandfather, Dr. Corydon Hayward.Though Hayward never planned to stay in Parachute forever, she can’t see herself leaving.”I won’t leave here while I still have work to do,” Judi said. “This is home.”

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