The sun casts shadows on the columbines as they sway lazily outside Bill and Karen Pelham’s home in Frisco. Inside, the couple takes a break from packing boxes. Sitting cozily inside the living room, they reflect on the people and places that have shaped their lives for the past 19 years.
“Every time we would look somewhere, we kept coming back to Summit County. So we decided that was the place to be,” Bill Pelham said.
The Pelhams said they searched all over the western states looking for the perfect place to retire, and they never second-guessed their decision to make Frisco their home.
Both Karen and Bill hold master’s degrees. Bill had a 30-year career with the Air Force, and is a retired colonel/command pilot. Karen spent her entire career in the education field. Her favorite quote is from Garrison Keillor: “Nothing you do for children is ever wasted.”
After raising five children and working full time for most of their lives, the couple said they were ready to immerse themselves in the community. Karen’s work and volunteer efforts have taken her all over the Summit School District, while Bill’s legacy lies with the town of Frisco.
Today, the Pelhams will catch a plane to southern Maryland — and the Frisco community will bid farewell to the pair of longtime residents who made a lasting impression on their town.
Bill and Karen Pelham are moving for health reasons and to be closer to family. The move is bittersweet for the couple, who have treasured their time in the small, mountain town.
“We will remember being in a great town and a great county, and we are going to miss the mountains and the people and the community,” Bill said. “But sometimes life leads you in a different direction. And we have a daughter, four grandchildren and a son-in-law back in southern Maryland. They are preparing a new life for us and we are preparing a new life to be with them.”
“And I’m going to be the oldest horseback riding Granny there is,” Karen quipped.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Bill said.
Although he’s been involved with numerous organizations, Bill is best known for his service to the town of Frisco. He started serving as a council member in 2004, and was mayor from 2008-2012.
Bill was the Frisco mayor when town finance director Bonnie Moinet started her position.
“Bill has a passion for the town of Frisco that is unsurpassed by anyone I know,” Moinet said.
Town representatives credit Bill for his leadership skills and ability to move projects forward.
“During his tenure as mayor he had some great council members and he made them a cohesive group of decision makers,” Moinet said.
Councilman Woody Van Gundy served with Bill when he was on the town council.
“Bill was a tremendous asset, and was always very thoughtful in his approach and service to the community,” Van Gundy said.
In addition to his work with the town, Bill served on the St. Anthony Summit Medical Center Community Board, The Summit Foundation Board of Trustees, Bristlecone Health Services Board and Communities Accessing Resources Effectively. He’s also been active in the Rotary Club of Summit County and the Dillon Optimist Club.
There’s a time-trusted saying that every great man has a great woman beside him, and those who know Bill said they agree.
Karen is a longtime contributor to the Summit School District. She retired from the district in 2007, but continued substitute teaching and volunteering for the schools through this year.
“I was so lucky,” Karen said.
“I had great kids and they were so easy to work with. The parents have also been incredible,” she said.
Van Gundy said he had the opportunity to see Karen’s impact on children in Summit County firsthand.
“Our kids went to school while Karen was involved in the school district,” he said.
The couple has made a big difference in the community because of their unwavering dedication, according to their friends and former coworkers.
“When they first got here they made a very concerted effort to take part and be active in the community,” Van Gundy said.
Frisco Mayor Gary Wilkinson said the town won’t be the same without the Pelhams.
“They had a great impact. Karen was very involved with the schools and helped out there considerably, while Bill really got involved with planning commissions, the hospital and Rotary,” Wilkinson said. “They really have had a positive influence in the community today.”