Former Steamboat Springs resident Nellie Gray Soash died Jan. 15, 2005, surrounded by family in her home at Mantey Heights Care Center in Grand Junction. Soash was 13 days shy of her 98th birthday.
She was born Jan. 28, 1907, on her mother's homestead at the base of Elk Mountain near Steamboat. Her father assisted during her birth. She attended Routt County country schools, including Salt Creek and Fairplay, and in 1926 graduated from Steamboat Springs High School. That fall, she enrolled at Western State Teachers College in Gunnison. During the summers of her college years and for years afterward, Nellie taught first- through eighth-grade students in one-room country schools throughout Routt County, including Lancaster, Mad Creek, Morrison Creek, Trout Creek and Pine Grove.
On July 12, 1929, Nellie married her high school sweetheart, Irvin Soash, at the Congregational Church in Steamboat. Within a few years, the Great Depression affected the couple as businesses and mines closed, and they started ranching with Nellie's parents on the ranch where she was born. In 1934, in the depths of the Great Depression, the bank seized her father's cattle and put them on the auction block. She took the few dollars she had saved from teaching and bought some of them back. This provided the family enough animals to gradually rebuild the herd.
Nellie was active in the Ladies Home Demonstration Club, the Grange, 4-H and the Democratic Party. She served on the election board for many years and was an officer on the Mystic School Board, where her children attended school. She and Irvin later started a Grade A dairy and became active in the Colorado Milking Shorthorn Association.
The couple spent most of the winters from 1952 through 1984 in Yuma, Ariz., where they worked, danced and made many friends. But home was still on the ranch where she was born, which she owned upon her death, and her son Richard continues to operate.
In 1985, she and Irvin began spending winters in Grand Junction, except for the winter of 1986-87, which they spent in California. She was grateful to have traveled in Mexico and Alaska and to have seen the Amazon River and the Panama Canal by cruise ship. Nellie remembered that as a child, she had learned about the canal's opening in 1913. But, more than all other places, she loved the ranch where she was born.
Nellie is survived by her children, daughter Maxine Cornwell and her husband, Robert, of Sacramento, Calif., daughter Barbara Greffenius and her husband, Richard (Griff), of Grand Junction, and son Richard (Dick) Soash and his wife, Suzy, of Steamboat and Denver; 13 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
She was preceded in death by her husband of nearly 58 years, Irvin Soash, and by her brother Perry Gray.
A memorial service is tentatively planned for August.
Remembrances may be sent to Mantey Heights Care Center, where the staff gave her excellent care. Contributions should be noted for staff room improvements and in memory of Nellie Soash and sent to IHS at Mantey Heights, 2825 Patterson Road, Grand Junction, CO 81506.