Lil Gonzalez

Photo by John F. Russell

Lil Gonzalez

Locals 2012: Lil Gonzalez

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Are You a Local? Quiz

Take Steamboat Living’s simple quiz to help determine whether you’re a cheechako or a sourdough when it comes to your tenure in Steamboat.

1. White out is used to:
A. turn legs into jelly
B. correct mistakes on a term paper
C. warm up your legs on the first run
D. A and C

2. Three current postal clerks’ names are:
A. Don, Tom and Ron
B. Fred, Hank and Harriet
C. Julie, John and Norbert

3. Locals used to gather atop Thunderhead in the early morning for:
A. advice from Billy Kidd
B. free coffee/mimosas
C. rope drop

4. I try this ski parking sequence, in order:
A. tiny lot below Knoll Lot, Ski Time Square, Knoll Lot, Meadows Lot
B. Meadows Lot, Knoll Lot, Ski Time Square
C. rodeo grounds, City Market, Wildhorse Meadows

5. Drink out of the Lithium Spring and you may get:
A. the trots
B. a euphoric feeling
C. a ticket
D. algae in your teeth

6. The original name of the Yampa River was:
A. Bear River
B. Steamboat River
C. Anything Town USA River
D. Billy Kidd Brook

7. The original hospital in town now is:
A. a medical marijuana dispensary
B. Old Town Pub
C. Old Town Hot Springs
D. a tattoo parlor

8. The following people attended Perry-Mansfield:
A. Dustin Hoffman, Julie Harris and Lee Remick
B. Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake
C. Marilyn Monroe

9. Touch the Buddy Werner statue atop Mount Werner and you’ll get:
A. arrested
B. good luck
C. cold fingers

10. The following Broadway musical resulted from Agnes de Mille square dancing in a schoolhouse in Hayden:
A. “Grease”
B. “Oklahoma”
C. “West Side Story”

11. The word “Yampa” comes from:
A. a flowering, edible root that grows along the river
B. the founder of town, Herbert B. Yampa
C. an Indian greeting

12. The real name of today’s Lighted Man is:
A. Tom Hanks
B. Jon Banks
C. Claudius Banks

13. The name of our local mountain range is:
A. Park B. Elk
C. Zirkels
D. Never Summer

14. These bands played at the Inferno:
A. Dave Matthews, Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Sonia Dada
B. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Taj Mahal and the Suburbs
C. Grateful Dead, Jethro Tull and Charlie Daniels

15. The original name of Steamboat Ski Area was:
A. Billy Kiddville
B. Storm Mountain
C. Grouse Creek
D. Wally World

16. The old Routt County license plates started with:
A. ZY
B. YK
C. WZ

17. Lincoln Avenue is so wide because:
A. it was designed to fit Hummers and Lincoln Navigators
B. it was used to drive cattle to stockyards
C. high school tuba players needed more room at Winter Carnival

18. The train depot once was one of the largest:
A. cattle shipping centers in the West
B. facilities to host Cabaret
C. coal-transfer stations in Colorado

How did you score?
5 points for each correct answer (90 total)
80 to 90: veritable John Crawford
70 to 79: Billy Kidd
60 to 69: five-year ski bum
50 to 59: came for the winter, stayed for the summer
Below 50: just visiting

When Lil Gonzalez, 68, moved to the Yampa Valley from Los Angeles with her husband, Ben, and three sons in 1974, she didn’t know that she’d leave her mark on far more than the apparel at the T-shirt store they came to manage. From employees to neighbors, everyone she interacts with sings nothing but praise.

“She’s the best boss in the world,” says longtime employee Karen Dooley. “She’s fair, honest and one of hardest workers you’ll ever find. She’ll never give you a job she wouldn’t do herself.”

Managing The Shirt Shop while raising her three sons — Armando, 46, a TSA employee at the airport; Tony, 39, a lieutenant fireman in Denver; and Michael, 43, captain of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue — she saw her business in Ski Time Square expand into operations in Breckenridge, Aspen and downtown Steamboat. Later, Shirt Off My Back purchased the lease and brought her on board as manager.

It’s an apt name for her business as she tirelessly gives the shirt off her back to friends and family. “I become friends with my employees and show them that I care about them,” she says.

“They come to me whenever they have issues, and I listen to them.” Case in point: When an employee went through a relationship breakup, Lil bought her a ticket to visit her aunt in Los Angeles.

Whether the good-natured style of small-town living has rubbed off on her or her on it, that’s what she loves about living in Steamboat. “Initially, it was a major adjustment moving here,” she says. “Back then, there wasn’t anything here ... just a couple of traffic lights downtown. We were living at the beach, and all of a sudden I had to get all three boys winterized. But then that first summer came, and it was so beautiful here there was no turning back.”

And she couldn’t be happier leaving the hustle and bustle behind. “Even though some people think it’s getting pretty busy here, I come from L.A., so I still think it’s great,” says Lil, who now has three grandchildren and takes care of her mother at home, as well. “I just love the beauty, intimacy and closeness of the community and the support it gives whenever it’s needed.”

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