Gretchyn E. Watson: 1915-2004

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Longtime Craig and Steamboat Springs resident Gretchyn E. Watson died Sept. 15, 2004, at the Doak Walker Care Center. She was 89.

Gretchyn truly was a woman of the West. Her grandfather, Elisha Melville Saunders, was a Colorado territorial settler who migrated with his family to the Arkansas Valley from North Carolina in 1871. Her father, Roger M. Saunders, was born in the Maybell Valley in 1888.

After living in the Arkansas Valley as a young man, Roger moved to Routt County and married Gretchyn's mother, Jessie Smith Saunders, who was born in Pueblo in 1893.

Gretchyn was born July 8, 1915, in Pagoda, the second child of a family that included Cora, Roger, Jessie Mae, Harry and Geraldine Saunders. They lived on a cattle ranch on the Williams Fork River in the early part of the 20th century, and later moved to a ranch east of Craig during the Great Depression. It was there that they raised cattle and operated a small dairy that served the town of Craig and surrounding areas.

Gretchyn spent her grade school years in a one-room schoolhouse in Pagoda. She graduated from Craig High School and attended Colorado A&M College, where she majored in business.

After graduation, Gretchyn returned to Northwest Colorado, where she married Loren Anderson and gave birth to a daughter, Saundra. Gretchyn worked as a bookkeeper and CPA for various businesses and mercantile establishments in Craig. She ran the Selective Service Office during World War II and later worked as an accountant at local automobile dealerships.

She married Chester Watson on June 21, 1951, in Elko, Nev. Chester was a local businessman who worked in trucking and automobile sales. Chester dreamed of returning to the livestock business he had known as a youth, so the family spent 20 years raising sheep in Northwest Colorado.

Gretchyn was busy, never missing a school program. She was active in the Woolgrowers Association and the Congregational Church, for which she served as treasurer. She created marvelous meals and baked great pies.

She held the post of Grand Officer and achieved Grand Matron in the Order of the Eastern Star, and she was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

When Chester was disabled after a ranching accident in 1964, Gretchyn learned everything she could about nursing in order to care for him.

Gretchyn and Chet continued to live in their Craig home for the next 30 years, selling their sheep operation in 1968. Chet was a two-term Moffat County commissioner. The couple traveled, enjoyed their expanding family and spent a number of winters in Yuma, Ariz.

Gretchyn developed Alzheimer's disease after Chet's death in 1992. She lived her final six years at the Doak Walker Care Center, where she was loved and given excellent care.

Gretchyn is survived by her two children, Saundra Steele of Steamboat and Kent Watson of Challis, Idaho; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

A service was held Sept. 24, 2004, at the First Congregational Church in Craig. The Rev. Dave Barnes officiated. Interment was at the Craig Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made in Gretchyn's name to the Doak Walker Care Center, 1024 Central Park Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487, or to the Alzheimer's Association in care of Grant Mortuary, 621 Yampa Ave., Craig, CO 81625.

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