95-Year old Ellen Jordan Considers Lake City “One Big Family”

34-year Lake City resident Ellen Bozeman Jordan says her snug new residence, the 140-year old Chiles cabin set on the alley off Gunnison Avenue, “is just a little bit older than I am.”
Well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but both the cabin and Ellen, who turned 95 years old on Monday this week, are revered landmarks of Lake City.
“I’ve always felt at home here,” says Ellen, who recalls that it was in the midst of a snowstorm when she and her late husband, Virgil Jordan, moved here on January 2, 1984.
After the move, Virgil, a retired painting contractor and chemical worker from Kountze in southeast Texas, was continually queried by family members on when they’d be returning home.
Virgil’s response, as recalled by Ellen, was “Well, I hate to tell you this, but we are home.”
“Ellen has found her place. She loves mountains and she loves snow.”
Reflecting on her 95 years, Ellen says she continues to feel very much at home in Lake City due in large degree to the fact the town and its residents “are like one large family to me.”
Ellen, her two younger brothers and three sisters, were natives of Kountze in what is called the “Big Thicket.” Trees proliferate in that largely flat, moist southeast Texas environment. Timbering is big and it is perhaps not surprising that Ellen’s future husband, Virgil, worked in the Kountze sawmill.
The sawmill was a large employer in the area, employees including her step-father, Eddie Hall, who died when he was struck by a fallen tree.
Ellen first met Virgil at age 14 and married him when she was still in high school. “He was something of a catch,” she confides, describing her future husband as “tall, dark and handsome.”
Childhood days during the Depression in Kountze consisted of fairly predictable day-to-day activities, interspersed with enjoyable expeditions to nearby Village Creek where Ellen and her family camped and spent tranquil hours fishing for catfish, perch and bass.
Virgil and Ellen married in 1939 and with the start of World War II, Virgil enlisted in the U.S. Army. He received his training at a glider pilot school in Stutgart, Arkansas, and then was assigned duty in India, Burma and China.
“It was quite an experience for a Texas country boy being sent off to the jungle in India.”
Ellen initially joined Virgil in Arkansas but returned home to Kountze after he was sent overseas. Back in Kountze, she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Valerie, who was born in 1945. Virgil and Ellen’s second child, well-known Lake City glass artisan Dave Jordan, was born 13 years later.
After his discharge from service in January, 1946, Virgil worked as a painting contactor, truck driver and was employed in chemical plants and shipyards around Beaumont, Texas.
Following retirement in 1983, the Jordans were drawn to Colorado after their daughter and son-in-law, Valerie and Hubert Laird, moved to Lake City.
“As a family, we had always enjoyed working and, well, it wasn’t too long after moving to Lake City that we all found work,” she says.
Looking back to their snowy arrival 34 years ago, Ellen recounts, “we intended to come for a visit but we never left.”
Virgil worked for Hinsdale County at the landfill, son David drove a trash truck for Jim Dyson, and Ellen became an indispensable part of the team at several Lake City resorts. Early in her local work, she assisted Annette and Wayland Moody, and their sons, when they owned G & M Resort on Gunnison Avenue. She assisted the Moodys’ successors, new owners Jeff and Shari Heaton, after they acquired the G & M, before rejoining the Moodys at their new resort, the Wagon Wheel, in Wade’s Addition.
Interspersed with her resort work, Ellen and Virgil also briefly managed Matterhorn Motel, and she helped Gerald and Robin Fleenor when they owned the old Lake City laundromat on Silver Street, accompanying the Fleenors one year for a thrilling laundromat convention in Las Vegas.
Ellen says she initially met her future employer, Annette Moody, while working behind the counter for Helen Kainer at Lake City Bakery. Referring to her work with Annette Moody, Ellen reflects, “We immediately clicked, for a long time people thought we were sisters.”
“And I loved every minute of it,” she says, referring to her work at the G & M and then Wagon Wheel Resort as “blending in and working as just a member of the family.”
Ellen assisted in every aspect of resort work from behind the counter taking reservation to cleaning cabins. And there was always the laundry. Sheets to be washed and hung out to dry were “just like cotton, you never quite got to the end.”
Ellen continued working non-stop, with no plans to retire until she was sidelined with a broken hip in 2014 and forced to stop work at the young age of 91. “I hadn’t counted on becoming old and fragile,” she says with a smile.
Not counting her extended Lake City family — “we’re all family here” — Ellen’s immediate family consists of her son, David, with his partner, Susan Story, in Lake City, and daughter and son-in-law, Hubert and Valerie Laird, Woodville, Texas.
The family has grown to include three grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and a remarkable 16 great-great grandchildren.
In addition to Dave, local family includes Lake City residents Toni and Billy Painter, Ellen’s great granddaughter and her husband, and children, Skylar and Winter, who are just two of Ellen’s 16 great-great grandchildren.
Ellen and Virgil were married for 61 years prior to his death in December, 2000.
During an amiable afternoon chat just prior to her 95th birthday this week, Ellen was asked the inevitable question.
“To what do you attribute your remarkable longevity?”
Eyes twinkle for a moment. “I’ve been blessed, what more can I say?” Her general motto in life, she says, is to “live each day at a time and live the best that you can.”
Longevity is a family trait among Ellen’s immediate relatives. Her mother lived to an advanced age, although the record for greatest longevity goes to Ellen’s great grandfather, Charpiot, who lived to age 105, as well as an uncle, Claude Batiest, who marked his 104th birthday.
On gentle prodding from her son, Ellen acknowledges that she never drank alcohol, although she does admit to a few cigarettes in World War II days because “it was just what you did then.”
Dietary considerations don’t come into play, the nonagenarian favoring dairy and meat products based on being raised “country style.”
Two of her favorite dishes are fried chicken and chicken fried steak.