There are few women who can say they’ve been happily married twice – but Kay LaMontagne is one of them.
Unfortunately, she’s also been widowed twice. Suddenly each time. With anniversaries of their death within a day of each other.
But Kay has spent a lifetime “pulling things together” – whether it be creating seminars, launching private schools, designing of home furnishings, or reestablishing her own life. She has a sense for identifying the best attributes of whatever pieces she has to work with, enlisting the help of other qualified professionals and producing a fine finished product.
Before moving to Colorado in 1984, she and her first husband – Dave D’Evelyn – had started two private high schools in California. Both schools were college prep with a religious focus, an outgrowth of a summer camp in which they’d participated. Armed with degrees in English and education, she chaired the English Department; and he was an administrator.
Coming from a family tradition of being educated at Berkeley, Kay delightfully points out she’s more conservative than her alma mater might suggest.
In the mid-80s Dave was involved with starting the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank and later became the education policy analyst for Colorado, writing the Charter School bill 20 years ago under Governor Bill Owen. In May of 1993 – just 3 days after the bill passed – Dave and the former Superintendent of Schools for the City of Denver were killed in a small plane crash.
During that time, Kay wrote an 8-hour seminar on how parents could better support their kids in school. She’d been traveling nationally giving presentations on subjects such as “youth and values” to employees of large corporations like US West, Hewlitt-Packard and Coors, some under corporate employment with the US West Education Foundation and some personally. She stopped speaking for awhile because her children asked that she not fly after the death of their father.
She knew the family needed to look outward, and in 1994 she took her young children (ages 6 and 11) to live in Europe, enrolling them in an International School, a 5-mile bike ride from their home in The Netherlands. As a family they tracked artists like Van Gogh, Monet and Rembrandt through Europe.
It was while riding bikes through the fields of tulips that she felt inspired to take the next step. Seven months after arriving in Europe, they returned to Colorado in time for her daughter to start 7th grade at the newly created D’Evelyn School, an option school with its own curriculum for grades 7-12 in Jefferson County – named after her late husband.
Kay is a past-president of both the D’Evelyn School board as well as the school foundation. She’s always had an interest in education, values and children.
Ted LaMontagne, a member of her church who’d served as a male role model to her children, would become her husband in March of 1997. Ted, a prominent businessman in Evergreen, was the owner of two businesses on Meadow Drive – The Hardware and Mountain Home, then a retail storefront for kitchenware. Kay would assume leadership of Mountain Home, shifting its focus to furniture rather than kitchenware.
In November of that year, Home Depot would make its debut in the mountain area. Despite the community’s love for the rustic character of The Hardware, located in the famous showbarn – built in 1948 to house the prize bull that serviced the 750 breeding cows of the Buchanan Ranch – that love affair gave way to the “big box” entry into the Evergreen business scene. The Hardware was liquidated before the end of 2005, and Mountain Home shifted to the barn from the bunkhouse, creating its own presence in the community while building upon its predecessor’s reputation for honesty and good service. Together they embarked on a new venture based on Ted’s vision of a collection of stores related to the home. Ted handled the business end and Kay handled sales.
The economic downturn that reared its ugly head in October of 2008 made it a hard time for running a furniture store, but at least they had each other to lean on … until Ted suddenly passed away in May of the following year.
Thrust into a role she’d never known, but supported by capable and caring staff, she looked for inspiration on how best to proceed, telling herself, “I don’t need to know everything, but I need to be a good listener and turn to others who might know more.”
She’s proved to be not only a survivor but one who can thrive after adversity.
Pursuing specific businesses that complement home furnishings, she’s created the Evergreen Design Center, a grouping of eight upscale, retail operations that all enhance the ambience and value of one’s home. From flooring to flowers, every aspect contributes to the wow factor of the design center. Mountain Home remains the anchor store.
“It’s a great collection of businesses that all feed off one another,” Kay says with a good deal of pride and one of her big smiles that envelops her eyes.
With Mountain Home’s providing of free design services associated with the purchase of furniture, it’s not only survived a sour economy but also established a reputation for providing a good value to its clientele. “I consider my customers the ones who’ve finally bought their dream home and don’t want to decorate with IKEA,” she says, explaining that 85 percent of sales are custom orders.
The store has earned recognition as Best Furniture Store on Denver’s A List (2011) and in 2010 as Evergreen’s Business of the Year.
Travel has often proved to be a time to temporarily simplify her life, seek clarity and look forward. Whether sleeping in a Bedouin tent while visiting the Middle East desert or riding horseback through Mongolia between outdoor campsites, Kay has been comfortable with the lack of amenities she enjoys the rest of the year.
Teaching Sunday School and helping with her church are integral parts of her routine that parses time for community to define her existence. She’s a regular participant with Evergreen Rotary and serves on the Rotary Foundation board. In addition to the D’Evelyn Foundation board, she also serves on the board for a private, residential school in Buena Vista. She’s made time to mentor two international students attending Red Rocks Community College, helping them to integrate into American communities; and she always finds ways to support the vast network of nonprofit organizations that make up Evergreen.
But she’s always thinking ahead, tapping into her past experience to help others – specifically not allowing challenges surrounding the loss of a family member be a justification for keeping kids from fulfilling their potential. Putting together more parenting seminars seems on the horizon.