Meet Your Neighbor: Judy Whitten

Meet Your Neighbor: Judy Whitten

When I met with Judy on a windy afternoon this week, it didn’t take me long to see a few of her most prominent characteristics: she is goal-oriented and efficient. She handed me a sheet she had prepared with all of the pertinent information for our “Meet” interview. She had the answers to all of my questions, before the questions were asked. Still, we talked for over an hour and had a wonderful conversation.  Interview by Bruce McDonald and Judy Whitten.

Bruce: Well then, I see from your interview guide you’ve lived here for 46 years. What brought you to Southern Gables?

Judy: When we first got married, we moved into an apartment building with a job as managers, through a friend we knew from Julesburg. It was a great job, and a great start for us.  We saved up enough to get into a house. Then after we had been there a while, a friend told us about the nice lots available in this area. We bought a “Better Homes and Gardens” house plan for $30, and decided to have it built here. There weren’t many other houses in this part of Southern Gables.

Doug and Judy Whitten

Julesberg? Way up in the northeast corner of Colorado, out on the plains, right? Is that where you grew up?  Yes, I grew up around there, on a farm outside of town. I’m a farm girl, started driving when I was nine. Between 13 and 15 I was spending summers on my uncle’s farm, which was larger, and driving his big Oliver diesel tractor six days a week. Doug was from Julesburg too. High school sweethearts?  Well, we knew each other, and dated off and on. I came to the Denver area right out of high school, and went to business school. We got married after Doug finished college, and then he got a Master’s degree. We’ve been married 56 years.

So that seems to be working. Congratulations. How about family in the area?  Well, our daughter was raised here of course, and now we have two grandchildren and they’re all close by. We enjoy our contact with them, and spend a lot of time with my job as chauffeur. And soccer games! Lots of soccer games, including tournaments out-of-state. Our grandchildren are very close and we enjoy being part of their lives.

You’re retired, I guess, doing all that with the grandkids.  Yes, we’re both retired, 12 years for me. I worked at KPMG, a Certified Public Accounting firm, for 46 years. The last 20 years of that I was the Events Coordinator. I planned everything from birthday parties to big annual conferences. I really enjoyed that part of my job, working with accountants and lawyers. They earned a lot of respect in my eyes; they worked hard and they partied hard.

Other than the grandkids, what are some of your favorite activities? That’s easy. Involvement in Southern Gables events and assisting my husband, Doug, during his eight years as president of Southern Gables Neighborhood Association. Together we have worked to institute gatherings to bring the neighbors together. Some of these events are the Neighborhood Nite Out, Monthly Neighborhood Luncheons at the different restaurants in the Southern Gables Area, Neighborhood Block Parties, Annual Leaf Raking of senior citizens’ lawns, and my  Neighborhood Monthly Bunko Group.

Doug and I have always enjoyed boating and being on the water. Our favorite place is Lake Powell – it’s so sad what’s happening there, with the years of drought – and we go frequently to Lake McConaughy.

Someone recently told me since I was retired I was living “The Life of Riley.” Do you feel that way about the retired life? Well, I guess if it means getting to do what you want, on your own schedule, I suppose so. Our favorite place to vacation is Hawaii and we have made about 15 trips there. Since my retirement we have made four trips to Hawaii spending a month each trip. That was my retirement dream.

It’s easy to see something else you must love, with the beautiful lawn and flowers all around. Yes, I enjoy my yard and flowers!



A Brush With History

A Brush With History

By Harry Puncec

There is a group of men that I meet with on a regular basis, called the ROMEO Club. In case you’re not familiar with the term, it’s “Retired Old Men Eating Out.” The purpose of the group is often described as exchanging “war stories,” and that term means anything that happened in the past and can be embellished with a little polish for a more agreeable perspective. We have found that, through this process, the older we get the better we were.

The other day over at the Valley Inn we had a brush with real history. We were joined by James Harvey III, one of the few remaining Tuskegee Airmen.  He’s the old guy in the photo, a Lakewood resident who at 98 years old is mentally sharp, surprisingly mobile (only used a cane), and has a sharp sense of humor. We ended up speaking a bit louder than usual for James’ sake and that had a surprising result: a couple firemen at a nearby table bought all our breakfasts.  They came over and we all chatted with one of them pulling up a chair next to me.

One of the young firefighters is at the head of the table in the photo above (the other one took the photo) and Lt Col Harvey is on the right. I am the one between them and was telling a joke. It’s a great group of guys.

On the other side of the table are “The Guys” from my old outfit: Bill Burrows, Ray Milhollin, and Jim Dillie obviously enjoying my brilliant joke!

Photo from interview published on YouTube, referenced below.

Back to the fireman who picked up the tab and who we were conversing with.  He was deeply impressed to meet Mr. Harvey.  Nice guy who had, of all things, worked for Mr. Harvey’s daughter 24 years ago.  Talk about coincidences.

Photo credit: American Veterans Center Oral Histories

I was deeply impressed in meeting Lt Col Harvey. Of course he is proud of his Tuskegee Airman affiliation, but justifiably he is even prouder of winning the Air Force’s very first “Top Gun” competition in 1949. That is a world-class accomplishment. You can read about James’ history in this article on Wikipedia: James H. Harvey. We didn’t talk about it at the ROMEO meeting, but I found out later that the Top Gun win was not officially recognized for many years. It has been recognized now, and having met the nation’s first “Top Gun” seems all the more special.

In his own words, on YouTube: The True and Untold Story of the First Top Gun Winner – Tuskegee Airman James H. Harvey III.