Citizen Spotlight: Rhoades family roots grew fast and deep in Rifle
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“Citizen Spotlight” is a monthly feature profiling a longtime resident of Western Garfield County and their contributions professionally, personally and otherwise to make this area an attractive place to live. If you know someone who might be interesting to tell others about, email email@example.com or call 384-9114.
Dick and Karen Rhoades raised their two children mostly in Saudi Arabia. Dick was an engineer in the oil business and his work kept them abroad.
“We always expected we would come back to the U.S. and we had always said we wanted to live on the Western Slope,” Karen said.
Karen, 67, grew up in Wyoming and Dick, 71, grew up in South Dakota. They met when Karen was finishing business school in Denver and Dick was getting his degree from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
After years abroad, it was time for their children – Brenda and Michael – to go to high school, which they couldn’t do in Saudi Arabia and Karen couldn’t stand the thought of sending them to boarding schools.
So, on a six-week vacation to the states in 1983, the Rhoades dropped the kids off at computer camp in Steamboat Springs, camped at Rifle Falls and hired a realtor. They bought a house on a hill overlooking Rifle that had a garage for their camper and three acres for horses.
Their land holdings would later grow to more than 50 acres, shrinking just a bit when they would give 2.5 acres to the City of Rifle as an easement for trails and another three-quarters of an acre for a small park.
The Rhoades went back to the Middle East for another year before moving to their house in Rifle in time for school to start.
“We just felt like the people in Rifle were outstanding and friendly,” Karen said. “We thought we could live here like a hometown where everybody called you ‘friend’.”
Rifle was struggling in the early and mid-1980s, after the oil shale bust, Dick said. They moved without really having a solid career plan and both became realtors. Karen stuck with it and was quickly immersed in the community. Dick ended up taking engineering jobs all over the country that mostly kept him away.
“People didn’t really know who I was,” Dick said.
Someone once asked Karen who they saw her hugging at the bowling alley the night before.
“It was me, of course,” Dick said.
Karen dove head first into the Rifle community. She was involved in everything from the Rotary Club to the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce. She even served as president of the chamber in 1990.
“When you first come to town, you have to do a lot of things to be known,” she said.
After the kids finished high school in 1990, Dick and Karen returned to Saudi Arabia for another 10 years. They spent weekends and holidays with the troops fighting in Desert Storm and opened their home to soldiers so they could have warm baths and make calls home.
When Dick retired in 2000, the Rhoades eagerly returned to Rifle, where both of their kids were raising families of their own. Karen fell right back into the community organizations she left a decade earlier. And Dick got involved, too.
Both were deeply involved in Rifle Centennial celebration efforts in 2004 and 2005. Karen worked with the Preceptor Beta Kappa sorority to make the centennial throw. Dick was on the centennial committee, which later became the Rifle Historical Society and which just elected to merge with the Rifle Creek Museum. He is a long-time board member and advocate for the organization, which is now working on brochures and signage promoting Rifle for the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism program.
Dick has also been on the Silt Water Conservancy District board for about a decade.
Karen has remained just as involved in the community as she was when she first moved to town, and was recently honored with the John B. Scalzo Lifetime Achievement Award from the chamber.
“We don’t want it to sound like we’re bragging,” Karen said. “We’ve just done a lot because we enjoy it and because we love Rifle.”
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A conservation nonprofit is hosting a guided hike in both Spanish and English at Rifle Arch to celebrate Colorado Public Lands Day, a news release states.