Meet Your Neighbors: Dale Trone and Kathi Baird

On the way to meet Dale and Kathi at the Gables Community Garden, I joined up with Kathi and we enjoyed the walk together on the cool spring morning. She walks a lot. As we approached we saw Dale had arrived just ahead of us, coming from an errand, of course by bicycle. He bikes a lot. He was dressed in his cycling gear. We sat on some stone benches next to the garden facing the playground as the kids came out for recess.  Interview by Bruce McDonald

Bruce: Dale, it’s such a familiar sight to see you in your riding gear, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wearing anything else. Do you ride everywhere you go?

Dale: Well, I ride a lot, but not everywhere. About half of my riding is just running errands. A Thanksgiving turkey tastes a lot better when it has come home with you in a backpack. We do have a car. I just dropped it off for some work and rode back here. As for the bike clothing with the bright colors and all, when I’m riding I don’t want anybody to ever say, “I didn’t see you!” Riding has always been an important part of my life, along with other kinds of exercise. Skiing for example. And it was through skiing that Kathi and I met.

So you’re both from Colorado?  Kathi:  No, no, I grew up in Cincinnati and Dale was from Pennsylvania. We met through a ski club though. I was working in the Cincinnati public schools… Dale: and my work took me to lots of places including Cincinnati. We both loved all kinds of exercise and outdoor activities so that intersected there in Cincinnati at the ski club.

We know Colorado is a magnet for skiers so was that what brought you here to the Rocky Mountain area? Or was it your work?  It wasn’t our work that did it. Our move to Colorado was part of a 5-year plan aimed at retirement. We just knew that we wanted to go west. Kathi: I worked in the Cincinnati Public School system as a school librarian. Boy, was that a career to love, especially during those times of growth in technology! Working with books and literature with the kids led to becoming the expert on the audiovisual equipment – projectors, sound systems and so on – and then in turn I was first among the school staff to start learning about computers as they made their way into the educational system. I enjoyed leading the way, helping the teachers and the administration set up new and better systems. My last assignment before retiring was at an arts enrichment school. I really loved that. Dale: We crossed paths because of skiing, but in a way it was my work that allowed that to happen. I was an IT professional for Procter & Gamble. Ever heard of the dryer sheets, Bounce? The latest new thing back then. That was my baby, managing systems for quality control and production planning in the Green Bay plant. Then P&G bought Folgers and sent me to Kansas City to get things set up the P&G way. They made a lot of changes in the company so I had plenty to do. Still, while I was  there I got started with skiing (What? Really?  Kansas City? Go on…)  No, I did not ski in greater KC. My volleyball group organized a ski trip to Winter Park. The offer was $99 for 2 days lifts, 2 nights lodging, ski rentals, and some meals. I had never tried skiing before so it sounded like an offer I could not refuse. On the work front in Kansas City, P&G soon moved the Folgers headquarters to Cincinnati to bring them in with the rest of the corporate headquarters. That got me to Cincinnati and I joined the ski club there. The biggest benefit of all that was meeting Kathi.

You mentioned a 5-year plan for retirement. How did that get you to Colorado?  Dale: We actually stepped up the plan and did it in less than 5 years, once we saw how great this area was. I had been out here for ski trips and checked out the Denver area, and knew we would want to be west of I-25. We were on our way to a road ride in Moab – it was a “Livestrong” benefit – when we took a detour through Southern Gables, just looking around. We saw this house for sale, and made an offer. The offer was accepted while we were out on the ride in Utah, and we signed the papers on the drive back home. That was in 2004.

Do you have a favorite memory with your Southern Gables neighbors?  Dale: That would be building the garden. We have our own vegetable garden at home, but the community garden here is wonderful. Not just as a resource for the school but for all the neighbors who participate. We made lots of friends when we pitched in to get the garden started up. We laid out the plots, built the planting beds and pathways, got the mulch started and all that. It was a lot of work, good work. Kathi: We have another favorite memory, from having a car crash into our house! Not the crash itself, but what happened after. It was about three in the morning and we heard and felt the impact. Street racing, teenagers. It was pretty terrible, demolished the fence and part of the garage, and there was glass all over from a shower door up against the fence from remodeling in progress.

Shattered-glass collage: memento of the crash party

We were new and didn’t really know anybody, didn’t know what to do. That afternoon we sat out in the yard in front of the mess with a case of wine, put out some extra chairs, and invited anyone walking by to sit and visit. It turned into a neighborhood party. We met the nicest people! These are some of our best friends today almost 20 years later. Our neighbor Ed took some of the fragments of all that glass and made them into a decoration on one of our wine glasses. We still have it after all these years, as a memento of what introduced us to so many of our neighbors.

What are some of your hobbies, interests, leisure-time pursuits? Dale: We are pretty involved in knowing what’s going on with the local government. There are the monthly Councilmember ward meetings, and we are regulars at City Council meetings, generally now online but you can still make yourself heard in the public comment part of the meeting. Kathi: While the bike riding is a big thing with Dale, I don’t ride as much but I work out at the gym 2 or 3 times a week. I work out hard. I’m proud of my mobility and holding my own with the younger set. Dale: There’s a connection between my biking and the interest in government too: I’m a member of the Lakewood Bicycle Advisory Team. We advocate for cycling safety and making conditions better for riding. We were active in getting the Lakewood Bicycle Master Plan updated. There are problems with the infrastructure and improvements are slow but it’s getting better. Right now the focus is on finding quiet-street routes that families can use.

Any favorite quotes or words of advice?  Kathi: Age is not a number. Health is a priority in living at a level defined by what you can do, rather than the years that have passed.

In closing, is there anything else you want is to know about you?  Well, we have a cat, a Bombay cat.

OK then! There probably isn’t anything to add that could top that fact! 

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