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Woman boosts Rifle’s big birthday

Carrie Click
Western Garfield County Bureau Editor
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson
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RIFLE ” Susan McKeon can’t stop thinking about the past “the year 1905, to be exact.

The former federal officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of coordinating this year’s Rifle Centennial Celebration.

The city of Rifle turns 100 years old on Aug. 18, 2005. But the whole year is going to be filled with special events to celebrate the city’s century cornerstone. McKeon already is entrenched in centennial planning, much of which entails bringing all the city’s entities together that are already working on Rifle’s big birthday.

The Rifle Centennial Committee has been meeting for the past few years. The group is working on a calendar and an historical book, and special events. The sorority Preceptor Beta Kappa has designed and is selling a Rifle Centennial blanket, and the Rifle American Legion Post 78 is bringing The Moving Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., to Rifle in June as part of the city’s centennial celebrations.

Then there’s an auto show, free concerts, a fashion show, a parade, a time capsule and more ” all of which are being coordinated overall by McKeon.

McKeon and her husband, wildlife biologist Wayne Jipsen, moved to Rifle just last fall from Rawlins, Wyo., though the couple has a long-standing love affair with the area.

“I’ve been coming here for a couple of decades,” said McKeon, of the skiing, backpacking, hiking and biking she’s enjoyed in the region.

Intent on making the upper Colorado River Valley their home, Jipsen, an avid outdoor sportsman, took a position with the Department of Agriculture in Glenwood Springs overseeing a 10-county area. Then the two started looking at where they wanted to settle down. They chose Rifle.

“I’m very intuitive,” McKeon said. “We looked at Glenwood, New Castle, Silt and then Rifle. When we got here, I thought, ‘This feels good.’ It instantly felt like home to me. It felt very energetic here, and optimistic. People here are real, enthusiastic and kind.”

McKeon landed the centennial coordinator position after seeing an ad in the newspaper. Her first day on the job was Jan. 11.

She’s more than trained for the position. With a master’s degree in environmental science from Baylor University, McKeon has worked all over the country ” in New Hampshire, Florida, Texas, Georgia and Alabama ” as a park ranger, environmental specialist, and with the aforementioned Corps of Engineers.

She said she kept getting promoted with each job she took, which was ironically pulling her away from what she loved.

“I was going higher in organizations, but also my office kept going higher up in the buildings, and further away from the natural environment,” she said.

That’s when she started working with the Heifer Project in Arkansas, a nonprofit that teaches people sustainable animal husbandry practices. (Several schools in both the Re-1 and Re-2 districts are involved with raising money for the project.) McKeon said that work brought her back down to earth ” exactly where she wanted to be.

Now, McKeon’s life is a blend of science and spirituality, organizational planning and event coordination.

A minister, ordained in 2003 after studying in New York City and Missouri, she volunteers two days a week as the hospital chaplain at Grand River Medical Center. She also runs Sacred Center, an outreach ministry that offers spiritual parenting classes, counseling, wedding and other ceremonies, yoga instruction and more. McKeon also works with both the Farnum-Holt and Rifle funeral homes, performing funeral and memorial services.

With the centennial, her ministry, her outdoor pursuits and, when the weather warms, a little gardening, McKeon’s life is full.

“Life is worth celebrating,” McKeon said. “That’s why I’m so honored and feel so privileged to be given this opportunity to create this celebration for the community.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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