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Elizabeth Nicholson Cheney, a long-time Montrose resident and caring community member who took care of more than a dozen foster children while raising her five daughters, died Friday at her home, surrounded by loving family members.
An avid traveler with a keen appreciation for the beauty of the outdoors and U.S. history, she crisscrossed the country with her husband, Tom, in their RV, camping in state and national parks from the Pacific Northwest to Florida.
She doted on her 11 grandchildren, crocheting them blankets when they were babies and challenging them to fierce games of Nerts and charades when they were older, loving nothing more than a big family reunion in the mountains. She excelled at word puzzles and was a skilled adversary on the croquet course in her backyard. She was also an incurable practical joker, baking a risqué undergarment into a cake and once pouring cooled bacon grease onto her unsuspecting brother’s head.
Born in Washington, D.C., Beth moved at age 5 to Colorado Springs, where she was salutatorian of her graduating class at Palmer High School and a National Merit Scholar.
She knew of Tom from their church youth group, but the two really “fell” for each other in a chance encounter on the ski slopes when she was 16, he 17.
In line for the T-bar lift at Cooper Hill resort, Tom saw Beth was by herself and asked if he could join her. She obliged, but warned him she was a beginner skier and wanted to get off at the halfway point.
“I was tall and she was short so the lift cross-bar hit both of us at an odd angle,” Tom recalled. “At the halfway point while trying to exit the lift our skis became entangled and we both fell into a pile in the snow. No one was hurt. Both were quite embarrassed.” They continued to ski together all afternoon from the mid-point of the slope, and they forged a joint trail from that day forward.
Both went on to Colorado State University, Beth finishing in three years to catch up with Tom, who was planning to join the Air Force as a pilot. They married on August 30, 1959 at the First Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, celebrating their 63rd wedding anniversary at home last week.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her brother Bob (Karen); daughters Lisa Cheney Steen (Loren), Karen Cheney (Tom Avril), Joni Vanderbilt (Peter), Susan Gray, and Emma Meza (Carlos), and 11 grandchildren.
All are welcome to attend a memorial service on September 9th at 10:30 at the First Presbyterian Church, 1840 East Niagara Road in Montrose. A light lunch will be served following the service.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made “in memory of Beth Cheney” to organizations that serve the homeless and the hungry, including Haven House (4806 N River Rd, Olathe, CO 81425) and Sharing Ministries Food Bank (49 N 1st St, Montrose, CO 81401).