Lifelong Steamboat Springs resident and tireless higher education supporter Benita Bristol, pictured in a December 2007 photo, died Monday at age 87. Benita and her late husband, Everett, were at the first meeting when plans were set in motion for Yampa Valley College, the predecessor of CMC in Routt County.
Benita Bristol, a Routt County native and higher education advocate who worked with Colorado Mountain College for decades, died Monday after an illness. She was 87.
Benita Bristol and her husband, Everett, attended the original meeting when plans for Steamboat Springs' Yampa Valley College were set in motion, according to a news release from CMC. She volunteered at that college for years and later helped rescue the campus when it was in danger, said Brian Hoza, assistant campus dean of student services.
"At some point, there was a risk that we would lose the college, and Ev and Benita were instrumental in a group that worked with so many others. : They gathered support in the community to join the Colorado Mountain College district and sustain it as part of Colorado Mountain College," Hoza said.
Bristol Hall, the main academic building on the CMC campus, is named for Benita and her husband.
John Vickery worked at CMC from 1982 to 2000, the last 12 years as campus dean. Bristol was the college's rock, Vickery said.
"As much as she supported the college and the campus and everything, her No. 1 priority were students," he said. "And even when some of the students could be a little trying at times, 18-, 19-year-olds, she was there for them. : She didn't baby them; she didn't coddle them, but she was very supportive."
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Vickery said he had lunch with Bristol about six weeks ago at the Egg & I Restaurant.
"She was just her regular lively self and knew probably half the people in the restaurant," he said. "And she made sure she went over and talked to them if they didn't come over and talk to her. That's the kind of person she was."
She was also a straight talker who wasn't afraid to give Vickery the skinny on what was really happening on campus. Bristol also wasn't afraid to tell him when she thought he should be doing his job differently, Vickery said.
Bristol was involved with the Tread of Pioneers Museum and was one of the original board members for the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, her friend Ed Hill said. He sat on the foundation with Bristol.
"She was a very active lady and highly regarded by those of us who were privileged to serve with her," Hill said. "She'll be a real loss to this community. She was a real mainstay."
When she was in her 60s, Bristol enrolled in classes at the CMC Alpine Campus. She graduated with an associate of arts degree in 1985, according to the release. Bristol was elected to the statewide Colorado Mountain College Board of Trustees in December 2007. She resigned from that position this month for health reasons, according to a news release from CMC.
Bristol was raised with nine siblings on the Ralston family ranch on Grouse Creek, according to a 1984 article in the Steamboat Pilot. Hazie Werner and Ruby Heid were among her sisters.
She left Routt County for the first time in 1940, to attend Barnes Business School in Denver, according to the 1984 Pilot article. She returned to Steamboat Springs and married Everett "Ev" Bristol in 1947, according to a 1989 article.
Everett, a Nebraska native, served as chief engineer for Yampa Valley Electric Association. He was a member of the CMC board before his death in 1989.
Benita Bristol worked at CMC for decades as a greeter and switchboard operator.
Hoza said Bristol, whom he called the "matriarch" of CMC, would be missed on the campus.
"Benita was just an amazing woman who was really the heart and soul of the campus for so long," he said. "And the students just adore her, and the faculty and staff have loved her."
Vickery recalled the convocation in the fall, where Bristol was present. When administrators were introduced, "there was a lot of polite applause," Vickery said.
"And then they introduced Benita, the trustee from the college in the county, and she got a standing ovation," he said. "She was a very special lady, and she'll be really missed."