Summit Old-Timer: Marie Zdechlik
Frisco resident Marie Zdechlik has been living in the same house on Pitkin Street and 5th Avenue for the last five decades – in fact, Pitkin Street and 5th Avenue weren’t even streets when she and her husband Robert began hand-digging a well in 1954.”There was a road running along the west side of our lot,” said Zdechlik from her living room Tuesday afternoon. “But the town of Frisco hadn’t put in the streets as they are today.”She and Robert, known in Frisco as “Bob” were given the lot for a wedding present and built the house from salvaged materials they got from Climax Mine – cinder blocks for the foundation, timbers for the house’s supports and sub-floor, and a distinct red tile roof they purchased for a penny a tile (it came off the old boarding house).”I had to chip cement off some of the tiles,” said Zdechlik. “But, oh well. You do what you have to do.”Zdechlik was born in Alexandria, Minn., to Ignatius “Ig” and Anna Renner. Her father was a farmer and a well driller and her mom was a homemaker. She had two older sisters; Elizabeth and Eleanor.She grew up toward the end of the depression and said, “We were poor, but nobody had anything at that time, so we didn’t know the difference.”She attended the University of Minnesota and became a nurse.
“It was always a dream of mine to go to a dude ranch,” she said. So after graduating, she boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Denver and spent a week at Steads Ranch outside of Estes Park.”I used to ride horses a lot,” she said, both English and Western. “It is something I always wanted to do.”She said she rode all week, climbing to the top of Trail Ridge Road through the trees and open meadows and over mountains.”We were treated very royally,” she said. “Just like they feed you on the sleigh rides around here.”She returned to Minnesota, where a polio epidemic broke out in 1944 and 1945. In 1946, when the epidemic broke out in Denver, she returned to Colorado with the Red Cross and a good deal of experience treating patients in iron lungs, and those needing hot packs. “We were paid $10 a day,” she said of herwork in a gymnasium behind Colorado General Hospital on Colorado Boulevard.While in Denver, she went skiing at Winter Park, and thought to herself, “I am going to have to come back here.”
After the polio epidemic in Denver cleared, she returned home to Minnesota, until her brother-in-law heard that Climax needed a nurse. She was also excited because it had a ski hill.”I went to work for Climax in 1947,” said Zdechlik. “I didn’t have a car, but things were simple, you could walk anywhere it was so small.”It was there that she met her husband, who was a math and science teacher at the Max Schott School – named after an old-timer.”Climax wasn’t that big, we were all one big happy family. Everyone skied,” she said. At that time there was a ski hill at the top of Fremont Pass with a T-Bar. Her husband was also the ski coach when fellow Friscoite Bert Snyder, who also taught school and coached at Climax, went into the service.The two married and eventually had six children: Kristine “Kris”, Joel, Lisa, Jon, David and Matt.”I stopped working the day I had my first child in October, 1954,” said Zdechlik. “Although after 20 years I went back to work, first part-time filling in for the other nurses, then full-time. I retired for good in 1982.”Bob continued to work for Climax, but in 1954 stopped teaching and went to work for the engineering department at the mine.In 1958, they came down to Frisco to live in the house they began building four years earlier.
“It was a great place to raise kids. They always played in the meadow across from the house and in a little stream that ran through there,” she said of the meadow south of her house. “There was more freedom. All the kids came and played together. There weren’t any parks, so we had the church picnics in our yard, because it was pretty good sized.”All of her kids graduated from Summit High School, but all except for Jon have moved away.”The more mobile society becomes, the more things are going to change,” she said. “There were 87 people in Frisco when we got here. Things change.”Bob retired in 1979, and passed away in 1991after battling Multiple Sclerosis.”My attitude is you keep busy,” said Zdechlik, of staying healthy in body and spirit. “I fill in for Jon when he travels to coach the U.S. disabled ski team. I help with the cooking, whatever’s necessary.”I do my own snowblowing, keep my own house, play golf as much as I can in the summer,” she added – a sign on her door reads, “I only golf on days that end in ‘Y’.”She has fond memories of raising a family in Frisco and has long been a colorful thread in the tapestry of Summit County. Today she has six more bright stars in her life, grandchildren Kaitlin, Lauren, Andrew, Eric, Blake and Evan.
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