Mounsey, William Bird (Major, Retired) and Harriett Louise LaFon Mounsey
(1918 - 2012)
(1922 - 2022)
Bill was among the Army's first class of graduates of the Officers' Candidate School in Ft. Benning, GA, and was stationed at Camp Hale in 1942-43 as part of the famed Tenth Mountain Division. At the time there were few accommodations nearby for the family members of officers, so the Army worked a deal with the well-known Colorado Hotel in Glenwood Springs, which had shut down because of the inability to get parts during the war. Louise, their first daughter, and their pet dog were among those who lived in the glorious hotel in exchange for the army's provision of needed resources for the resort to remain operational during wartime.
"It was a thrill, a real treat," recalls Louise, who explained that they got to order from the menu and eat meals on tables spread with fine linens and the like. Officers' families were allowed to enjoy the services of the luxury hotel, including the hot springs pool, but they did need to do their own laundry, which meant scrubbing diapers and clothing in the bathtub and creating makeshift clotheslines in the hallways. These accommodations lasted only a few months and represent a little-known fact in the story of Camp Hale and The Tenth Mountain Division.
Bill retired from the Army as a Major after 24 years, but his time at Camp Hale and later in Ft. Carson brought them back in 1964 on a a quest to find a small mountain town in which to settle. His parents had visited Evergreen in the 1920s when the Evergreen Music Conference attracted those involved with church music, so it was one of several communities they checked out. Evergreen, with a population of 2,500 or less at that time, was about to become a year-round community; and the Mounseys were about to play a role in keeping its growth from destroying community values.
Louise: Gardening and birding
In 1968 Louise and Gretchen Stoeppelwerth, the wife of the Lutheran minister in town, founded the Evergreen Garden Club. Bill was right there as one of the first members. The organization, which averages a membership of 65-75, now maintains eight gardens in public places, including two at the Hiwan Homestead, one at the dam, one at the post office, and others around town. Many of the gardens serve an educational and/or historical purpose in addition to beautifying the town. The club offers a garden tour every other year with a plant sale in the alternating years.
Bill and Louise worked with Sylvia and Bill Brockner to gather support in the formation of The Evergreen Naturalists Audubon Society (now Evergreen Audubon and Nature Center). They were charter members.
Bill a leader in the environmental movement
In his retirement Bill became a leader in the environmental movement long before it was labeled as such. He worked for the Denver field office of The Wilderness Society (now the Colorado Environmental Coalition, which is considered the foremost environmental group in the state of Colorado). In that capacity he started the Colorado Open Space Council. It was the first occasion for people from different organizations promoting conservation activities to gather together.
In 1967 Bill was part of forming the Evergreen Mountain Area Planning Council, with a mission of conservation. When there was a campaign to bring the 1976 Olympics to Colorado – with some of the activities planned for Evergreen – Bill and Louise were among individuals who responded negatively through participation in POME (Protect Our Mountain Environment, a subset of MAPC) to oppose the efforts. Colorado was not successful in its bid for the Olympics; and the weather during that period of time when the Olympics actually occurred found Evergreen high and dry without any snow cover. According to the Sternberg book, Evergreen, Our Mountain Community, POME outlasted the parent organization and became a powerful anti-growth voice during the 1970s.
Together, in 1973, the Mounseys and Boyd Norton founded University of the Wilderness when there were only a few wild areas designated by Congress. Bill became the first person offering a service to take people on tours into the wildeerness areas such as the Canyonlands in Utah and canoe trips through the Everglades National Park. Bill was the first non-native allowed to conduct trips in the Okefenokee (Georgia) and down the Suwannee River. Likewise, he was the first to do commercial trips in Yellowstone as well as on a 700-mile stretch of the Missouri River. Trips down the Colorado River from Fruita were also amongst the offerings. Together , Bill and Louise provided completely outfitted backpack trips, with tents and sleeping bags, food and provisions. A typical trip would include 12 people for a week.
In 1981 the University of the Wilderness purchased a summer geological camp built in the 1920s in the Snowy Range of Wyoming, which served as the base for educational and experiential tours conducted in that area. The camp had 32 buildings, most of which were 2-person cabins. The property and commercial touring operation were sold in 1995.
Bill's vast knowledge of the wilderness led him to be selected to help with mapping and drawing up boundary lines for The Gore Range, a 20-mile stretch of wilderness area that stretches from Frisco to Vail Pass; the boundary lines he proposed were eventually approved by Congress. He performed similar boundary definitions for the Eagle's Nest Wilderness, Holy Cross Wilderness, and Flat Tops Wilderness areas, among others.
Bill was involved with discussions about improvements to the intersection in downtown Evergreen for a period of roughly 20 years prior to its makeover in about 2000. He participated in the process of writing of the Evergreen Community Plan and has long complained that Evergreen has never been adequately recognized by the county.
As a member of the Curmudgeons, it was Bill's idea initially to work with RTD to offer "the little green bus" service throughout Evergreen. He and Rocky Graziano worked to bring the idea to fruition.
Honors and Recognition
In 2011 Bill was honored by the Combat Infantryman's Association for his leadership. He served as the Commander of the Colorado Unit of Combat Infantrymen. The infantrymen involved in combat represent the warrior corps of the armed forces, Bill explains.
Louise was designated as Member Emeritus of the Evergreen Garden Club. In 2011 Louise and Bill received the Founder's Award for their lifelong service from Evergreen Audubon and Nature Center. A private group of individuals is currently raising funds to honor the Mounseys by purchasing a sculpture entitled "Flowers for a Friend" by sculptor Ken Ball, to be placed in a public garden.
Sources: Bill and Louise Mounsey and Evergreen, Our Mountain Community
In 2016 a sculpture was placed in front of the Hiwan Homestead Museum honoring Louise and Bill Mounsey.