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Nelda Jean Stewart


Nelda Jean Stewart

May 8, 1923 – April 1, 2013

Nelda Jean Stewart was born in Desdemona, TX. She was always a proud Texan. She mostly grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and then lived in Irving, TX, Estes Park, and Boulder, CO.

Her early life included summers working on her Grandparents’ farm in central Texas with her three brothers and their cousins. The summers spent picking, canning, sewing, and quilting, instilled a life long interest in cooking and sewing. Later she would move to Cromwell, Oklahoma, where her father managed an oil well camp for Marathon Oil Company. Growing up on an oil well camp in Oklahoma during the depression gave her a very pragmatic and minimalist outlook. When combined with her natural optimism, she was very disarming and down to earth. 

She graduated from Central State College (now University of Central Oklahoma) in Edmond, OK with a degree in Latin. It was there that she met Charles Jamieson, who, as a teaching assistant, helped her get through chemistry. While attending school she worked as a receptionist and physician’s assistant for a doctor in Edmond and then as a teacher.

WWII was in full swing during her time in college and afterwards, and Charles enlisted in the U.S. Navy after his graduation. As the Navy consolidated after WWII he volunteered for the US Coast Guard. Upon his discharge from the Coast Guard he returned to Oklahoma and worked in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas for Core Laboratories. Back in Oklahoma, he reconnected with his college classmate and they were married in Edmond, OK on December 20, 1947. Their marriage lasted 66 years through many experiences, adventures and heartbreaking tragedies.

Here are a few. Nelda Jean got through all this without complaining:

Nelda Jean was the anchor of her family. She raised four boys and gave them all incredible experiences and opportunities: Larry, Mark, Bob, and Lee. Lee, Nelda Jean’s youngest child, was killed in a tragic climbing accident in 1984 that tested her capacity to remain optimistic and positive, but she was able to do it.

She survived cancer. She recovered from a broken and badly displaced humorous bone when she fell down a flight of concrete steps while filling one of her beloved bird feeders. She was by herself and patiently waited for someone to find her. She had a serious stroke in 2004 from which she worked hard to recover. She willed herself to walk again after breaking her hip just a few years ago. Nelda Jean was very tough and once camped in tent for a month straight near Estes Park without access to running water.

She made many trips with her mother and young boys to Eastland, Texas to visit her Aunt Nettie and grandmother, with whom she had spent so much time growing up. Later, her mother, Alberta Stewart, would move to Irving to be closer to Nelda Jean and her family.

Charles and Nelda Jean bought the Viking Lodge in Estes Park, CO in 1972. Nelda Jean managed this motel with 23 rooms, renamed the Landmark Motel, for more than 30 summers. A room at the Landmark cost $12 in 1972. Her incredible hospitality had many customers returning year after year with several becoming close friends. Nelda Jean made the Landmark a successful business with many happy customers. Nelda Jean was ahead of her time when she started serving a continental breakfast of coffee and donuts to the motel guests in the late seventies. Charles was still working full-time as an airline pilot until 1984 and it was up to Nelda Jean to “run the motel.” Even when Charles started spending more time at the motel in the mid-eighties, it was Nelda Jean who managed things.

Nelda Jean and Charles were also ahead of their time in their efforts to improve peoples’ lives in Irving. They were awarded a Certificate of Appreciation in June 2010, along with their great friends Lou and Bill Falkenstein, for their foundational work in establishing the West Irving Improvement Association in 1964, which helped get much needed sewage and water service to the area known as Bear Creek. She and Charles, along with friends from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Irving, including Nelda’s life-long great friend Jean Vaughn, volunteered and help found the Head Start program in Irving. She was raised Baptist but as she got older she embraced the views more associated with Unitarian Universalism and was an important part of the first fellowship in Irving.

Nelda Jean and Charles were both very active in local elections and in LBJ’s and Hubert Humphrey’s Presidential Campaigns. She and Charles were invited to and attended LBJ’s inaugural ball in 1965. She took her kids into the voting booth often, and this is where we learned what it meant to be a “Yellow Dog Democrat”, and we got to pull the one lever. She never missed an election.

Nelda Jean accompanied Charles on many trips in small light planes without being able to take even the equivalent of a carry-on bag. Many of these trips nearly ended in disaster, but somehow they made it through. Once she asked her son Mark, a long-time pilot for FedEx, how much ice could a Cessna 172 fly with. Mark replied that she had seen a lot more ice on airplanes than he had.

Among these flying adventures was a trip from Texas to Point Barrow, Alaska, above the Arctic Circle in a rented Cessna 310, combining airplane training for their son Larry and a thirty-day airplane ride with no checked luggage for the family. 

She and Charles once flew to Costa Rica in the single engine Cessna 172, landing in many countries in Central America, including staying at a brothel in El Salvador and landing on a dirt airstrip in Panama, in order to support conservation efforts. The engine had to be nearly taken apart and put back together by mechanics in Costa Rica, but they made it.

Even on normal airline trips, Nelda Jean or the family rarely, if ever, actually had a reservation or a ticket. The family always flew “standby” and would often have to spend many hours or even days in airports or go to other destinations in order to get somewhere. Even though she and Charles owned a motel, they rarely made a reservation for themselves or the family when traveling and had to make do with whatever arrangements they could find in the middle of the night.

The family went to Ecuador in 1977 to try and climb 19,347 Mt Cotopaxi in the Andes. This trip took place during Christmas break when there were tight travel restrictions and no checked luggage was allowed. The only items that could be taken were the climbing gear. Continuing his minimalist practice upon arrival in Ecuador, Charles rented a Volkswagen Beetle and, along with Nelda Jean, and sons Mark, Bob, and Lee, traveled around Ecuador for two weeks with only the essentials needed to climb the mountain and little else. Nelda Jean stayed alone in a small town, Latacunga, while the rest attempted the mountain.

She was a selfless caregiver for many years for both her mother and Charles' mother in their final years. 

She loved Rocky Mountain National Park and the view from the Landmark. She went on many short hikes in the Park and around Lake Estes. Nelda Jean was also an avid reader and always had a book in hand. She loved words, and she moved about the world through the sweeping sagas of James Michener. She read all of his enormous books. Her favorite color was yellow.

Nelda Jean was an avid bird watcher, and she and Charles went on many bird watching trips throughout Texas and the southwest. She enjoyed the common birds as much as the rare sightings. She was a great gardener and raised roses in Texas and competed with the elk and deer in Estes Park to always have the motel looking good.

Nelda Jean was an expert seamstress. She made most of her own clothes and enjoyed sewing all kinds of clothes for others. She also patched and repaired all her families’ clothes for many years and helped fixed the climbing stuff.

Nelda Jean was a fabulous cook, and she taught her sons many great recipes: 24-hour salad, three bean salad, fried chicken, angel food cake, really good spaghetti sauce, chili, and more. She was trying new recipes her entire life.

Nelda Jean is survived by her three children, Larry (Terry), Mark (Stasia), and Bob (Sumi), seven grand children: Cory (Erica), Alex, Emily, Katie, Charlie, Keo, and Quinn, and one great grand child, Dylan Lee Jamieson. Nelda Jean was so happy to be able to spend time with Dylan last summer.

Even in her last year of life, when she faced unimaginable physical and mental challenges, she consistently said how lucky we were. Anytime Bob complained about his job, she would always tell him that he was lucky to have a job at all.

Nelda Jean worked to make the world better than she found it, and she will be missed greatly.

Donations may be made to:

John Austin Cheley Foundation

c/o FirstBank
PO Box 151663

Lakewood CO 80215-8663

Notes to Charles or the family can be sent to:

Bob Jamieson

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