Wither given Leckenby award

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Frances Wither is the glue that holds a lot of Routt County's history together. She keeps the collective memories of the community in bundles and boxes of letters and photos. The stories are stacked neatly in the drawers of her bureau and on the shelves in her closet.

If the staff of the Tread of Pioneers Museum has questions about the way something happened, they call Frances Wither.

She's the community historian, as well as a meticulous recorder of her family history. Ask her a question about any of it, and she's happy to share.

For all she's done, for preserving the history, as well as being a part of it, Wither was given the prestigious Leckenby Pioneer Award on Tuesday night.

"I never thought I would get this award," she said. "I didn't think I was qualified." It's exactly the kind of thing a woman who has been behind the scenes for more than 50 years would say.

Frances Wither celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this month with a gathering of family and friends at the museum, where she was presented with a long tribute, bound in a handmade book, written by the people closest to her.

It was a fitting place to celebrate her life so far. It was an institution she helped build with her sister-in-law, Dorothy Wither.

Dorothy Wither had been collecting local historical artifacts in the back room of her downtown dress shop for years until she had enough to start a museum.

Frances Wither volunteered at the museum in those early years and served on the board of directors for 38 years.

"After Dorothy died, Frances was the continuity that kept that effort together," Jayne Hill said. "I worked with her on the board, and she was always faithful. She always did more than her part. She wants things to be authentic and factual and proper.

"She is a very deserving person to receive this award. She has been faithful to the town and the valley and really made a difference for us."

Frances Wither moved to town in 1937 after college to be with her future husband, Bob Wither. The two married in January 1940.

They bought a house in Old Town and raised two sons and a daughter. Few things were more important to Wither than her family.

"Raising a family was the most important thing I did," she said.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips, call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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