Contrary to the title of a famous Thomas Wolfe novel, you CAN go home again. Just ask Gary Antweiler, who left Colorado for over 35 years and then returned to build a house on the Evergreen land that his great-grandfather homesteaded in the 1890s.
Gary’s great-grandparents, who emigrated from Germany, built a log cabin on the property, and some of their barns are still standing. Living in the area has been a family affair every since. Gary’s 92-year-old aunt, Zairah, still lives on the homestead. Gary’s grandmother was a Berrian, whose family homesteaded along Highway 73.
Gary’s father, Irving, brought his war bride, Gertrude, to Evergreen, and they built their home on the other side of Blue Creek. Irving, named after Irving Berlin, was noted throughout the community for his huge vegetable garden, whose bounty he generously shared with Evergreen neighbors.
Gary grew up on the family property, went to Evergreen schools and then attended CSU in Fort Collins, majoring in electrical engineering. His first job for Texas Instruments took him to Dallas, where he met his wife of 45 years, Jackie. After stints in Boston and Phoenix, Gary and Jackie spent 30 years in Austin. Gary worked for Motorola as an electrical engineer, and Jackie was a writer, teacher and public affairs representative for the IRS.
When Gary retired in 2005, the couple had had enough of Austin…the crowds, the heat, the humidity and the bugs. So they decided to move to Colorado and build a home on the family property.
Gary came home not only to Evergreen, but also to the church of his youth. Gary’s parents hosted the first meeting of the Evergreen Lutheran Church in their living room in the mid-1950s. Today, Jackie and Gary are active members of the church. Jackie belongs to two sewing groups at the church, the Piece Makers, who quilt every week for those in need of solace, and a knitting group that is currently making helmet liners for soldiers. Jackie coordinates meals for volunteers for the popular annual Grove Sale and has recruited her brother to come from West Texas to work the event with Gary, organizing and sorting items for an entire week. Gary and Jackie also served as treasurers for the annual Alternative Gift Fair for a number of years.
“A church the size of ours, there’s always opportunities to help out, “Gary says.
In addition to volunteering there, Jackie and Gary have traveled with the Evergreen Lutheran Church to Germany and Austria where they followed in Martin Luther’s footsteps and attended the eight-hour Passion Play in Oberammbergau.
Before returning to live in Colorado, Gary and Jackie volunteered with a number of Austin churches to build orphanages, churches and dormitories in the Mexican town of Piedras Negras. They spent one weekend a month in the town, and “it became our mission,” Jackie says. “We got the feeling that this was where we belonged,” Gary added.
Gary’s willingness to become re-involved in the community didn’t go unnoticed. When his cousin, Jim Walpole, former superintendent of Platte Canyon Schools, served on the Mountain Resource Center Board of Directors, he recruited Gary to join him. Gary immediately stepped up and not only joined the Board, but also went to work as a volunteer one day a week at the Resale Store and one day a week at the Food Pantry.
One of the Resource Center’s greatest ambassadors, Gary regularly invites local and out-of-state friends to tour the center, often leading to a donation. He’s involved Bob Hawsey of Thrivent Financial, a Christian-based financial investment firm, which encourages its clients to be generous through its “choice dollars” program. The program allows clients to donate gift cards to local charities. With Gary’s encouragement, Mountain Resource Center received nine $250 gift cards from Thrivent clients last year.
Gary is such a dedicated advocate because he’s experienced firsthand how Mountain Resource Center helps the community. “Since I’ve been on the board, two people have told me that referring them to MRC saved their lives,” he says. One was a woman whose husband was very ill and most of their retirement savings were eaten up by medical bills. The family was able to get wood, food and new glasses for the wife through the Resource Center. “I can see the branches on the trees again,” she reported happily to Gary.
Another woman, whose husband abruptly left her with no home or resources, received food and job training through the Resource Center and is now gainfully employed.
Jackie pitches in for special events at the Mountain Resource Center like Mountain Bowls and the annual Holiday Party for kids, where last year she managed the craft table.
When not at the church, the Resource Center or their ranch with their Schnoodle, Jake, the couple can be found traveling the globe. They’ve been to New Zealand, Australia, Korea, Japan, most of Eastern Europe, England and Scotland and have cruised the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, Greece and Russia. Yet they are always happy to come home again to Evergreen…and our community is better for it!