Meet Your Neighbors: Frank & Leta Bontrager

Interviewed by Christy Cerrone.

Continuing our series of interviews with our Southern Gables neighbors, to help us get to know and appreciate each other. If you know a neighbor you’d like to have featured, contact Christy, information below.

How long have you lived in Southern Gables?  We moved from Harvey Park in southwest Denver to Southern Gables in 1987, thirty-three years ago. Our two boys, Stephan and Jeff, attended Green Gables Elementary, Carmody, and Bear Creek High School.

What are a few things that you like the most about the Southern Gables community?  We like the friendliness of neighbors and the activities of the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association.

Do you have a favorite memory with your Southern Gables neighbors?  We started a block party event by inviting our block to our deck for an 80th birthday party for an older neighbor. We have tried to continue having this annual barbeque/potluck event every fall.

What is the most neighborly experience you’ve had or seen in our neighborhood?  The annual leaf drive in November has really been successful. [Ed. note: That’s tomorrow! Saturday November 7.] Seeing so many volunteers working together to recycle leaves instead of all of the bags going to a landfill has been a great sustainability activity. The willingness of neighborhood volunteers really is remarkable in Southern Gables!

Tell us a little bit about how both of you have been involved in the neighborhood.  

The Southern Gables neighborhood entrance sign at the corner of Estes and Jewell has been a fulfilling project for me, (Frank). I was always concerned about all of the ugly weeds that were in that plot which was seldom mowed by the Agricultural Ditch Company. I mowed the weeds a number of times until I became a member of the Southern Gables Neighborhood Association in 2012. I suggested that we do something by purchasing a sign and landscaping to improve the appearance of that corner. Our association got the ball rolling, especially with Sam Sotiros, who was president at that time. He and Stanton La Breche made a number of contacts with the ditch company and the city of Lakewood to get approval for our idea. The next step was to get the plot leveled with some neighborhood volunteers and then hiring a Southern Gables landscaper, Nju Huynh, to put down a weed barrier and a layer of colored rocks. The flagstone rock sign was ordered with engraving and installed by a group of volunteers in 2013. I then purchased the perennials, shrubs, and small blue spruce trees and again several volunteers helped plant them. Since the vegetation needs watering during the hot summer months, we get volunteers to sign up using an online “SignUpGenius” schedule to assist in this task. This project could not have happened without the cooperation and willingness of neighborhood volunteers!

Leta continues to teach piano students in our neighborhood and beyond. During this COVID-19 situation she has been teaching virtually since March. She enjoys teaching all ages, including adults. Leta was an elementary music teacher in the Littleton Public Schools, taught music in preschool through 4th grade at Montview Presbyterian Church Conservatory, and several other private schools. She has been very involved in piano accompanying at our church and school related events.

What are your hobbies or interests?  I enjoy gardening, bike riding, home improvement projects, fishing, backyard bird watching, reading, and of course the neighborhood projects I mentioned. We are both involved with our church and volunteering with Family Promise, a program for homeless families. We enjoy the adventure of traveling to new places, visiting our five-year-old granddaughter in Pittsburgh, AND attending live theater and classical music concerts.

Favorite saying:  “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Contact [email protected] to nominate a candidate for the “Meet Your Neighbor” series. 

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