LIFT-UP willed woman's estate

Organization rewarded by grateful Oak Creek resident

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— No kindness goes unrewarded. In this case, the reward was a $63,000 home.

Toward the end of Darlene James' life, the woman who everyone remembers for walking the streets of Oak Creek with a smile on her face, needed some help.

Her health was failing and she was unable to leave her house.

LIFT-UP of Routt County delivered food when she couldn't get out and provided money "to make her house livable," LIFT-UP Executive Director David Freseman said.

Pharmacist David Bonfiglio, who met her three years ago, would deliver her medicine when she couldn't make it to the drugstore.

"She was a neat lady," he said. "She loved animals."

Everyone in South Routt probably knew Darlene James, said her ex-husband, Charlie Bevan. She moved to Oak Creek in 1977 and lived there until her death in May. She was 57. She had four children who have all moved away from Oak Creek.

James and Bevan divorced 20 years ago, but were still good friends, he said.

"She loved to fish," he said. "That's all she wanted to do. She drove me crazy."

He would come home from work everyday at 4:30 p.m. and she would have a picnic meal packed, a 12-pack of beer and her fishing rod ready.

"After she caught that first 11-inch brown trout, that's all she thought about," Bevan said.

"She used to walk around town a lot and liked to talk, but toward the end she had a harder time walking because she had trouble breathing."

Last spring, James' condition worsened and she was diagnosed with lung cancer.

"She died rather quickly," Freseman said. But before she died, before she was diagnosed with cancer, James set up her will with LIFT-UP as the heir of her entire estate, "with the exception of a few pictures that she willed to her children," he said.

At the time of her death, James was on 100 percent disability and lived off the bare minimum payment from Social Security, Bevan said.

"I think she needed a lot of free food," he said.

Initially, after James' death, LIFT-UP distributed the items in her home to those in need. LIFT-UP's board of directors voted to sell the home.

The home was put up for sale in July, and sold in December for $63,000.

There is was still a loan against the home and several bills, Freseman said, leaving LIFT-UP with close to $40,000.

"Hopefully, we are going to invest it," he said.

The board has yet to decide how the money will be used, but consideration will be given to keeping at least some of the money in South Routt, Freseman said.

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