Steamboat Springs Oak Creek’s Peter “Mike” Yurich, who translated a voracious appetite for collecting items of historic significance into a new museum, was recognized for his passion Wednesday night, when he was given the annual Leckenby Pioneer Award, presented by the Tread of Pioneers Museum.
Yurich, 77, continues to volunteer six days each week at the Tracks and Trails Museum, which opened July 28, 2007, in the old, renovated Town Hall building in Oak Creek and virtually is full of his collected historic artifacts, photographs and documents.
Jim Stanko, of the award selection committee, praised Yurich for his unflagging diligence.
“Mike Yurich was the guy who went to houses where people were moving out — sometimes they lost their homes for unpaid taxes — and he collected photographs and documents and old newspapers, and luckily for us, Mike didn’t just put them in the attic like I have. He had a dream to make a collection for the people of Routt County.”
Yurich was born in Oak Creek and lived in his childhood home until two years ago, save for a 15-year stint in the Peace Corps, during which he served in many countries.
Yurich’s interest in preserving history was kindled at age 12, when he began collecting dog tags, according to Nancy Peckham, a member of the board of the Historical Society of Oak Creek and Phippsburg.
But Yurich’s dog tag collection isn’t what you might think. He doesn’t collect the dog tags left behind by old soldiers, rather the dog tags left behind by Oak Creek’s historic pooches.
“I collect everything, and when I find six of something, it becomes a collection,” Yurich said. “My oldest dog tag is 1918, but I have a complete collection of Oak Creek tags (one for every year) from 1920 to date.”
If dog tags sound trivial, Stanko said Yurich has compiled oral histories and newspaper clippings that tell the strong influence of mining on Routt County and has written and edited a large number of books and pamphlets.
“They aren’t just a dry history of South Routt but personal recollections from local people in a form we can all enjoy,” Stanko said. “That’s a fantastic accomplishment.”
“Mike is still creating new visions for the museum faster than the board can implement them,” Peckham wrote in a letter nominating Yurich. “School groups, locals and visitors have benefited from the local history tours the museum provides. Mike continues to compile history before it is lost.”
Honored posthumously during the ceremony at Rex’s American Grill & Bar was Don Brookshire, whose widow, Ardys, and son Troy accepted the Stanley L. Larson Award on his behalf. Brookshire, the son of Elk River Valley ranching pioneers, served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier in World War II.
He returned to Steamboat Springs to make a significant contribution to his community, Stanko said.
He was a member of the first Steamboat Springs City Council, which was formed after the city adopted its home rule charter, and he served until 1996. Brookshire was a tireless contributor to the community through his support of young people with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and the high school, and he held every office in the local American Legion and VFW posts. In his role as a member and commander of the American Legion, he took a particular interest in that organization’s sponsorship of Fourth of July fireworks from 1948 to 1995.
“He liked to hunt and fish, and he liked to go to those (city) meetings,” Ardys Brookshire said after the presentation. “He was happy to do that. But one year, he said he wouldn’t (run for City Council again), and they told him if he wouldn’t do it, they’d put him in there anyway.”
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com