November 1930 ~ February 2019
When the columbines emerge from the damp ground this spring, we’ll remember Doris Oletta Zadra, whose love for all things growing marked her journey through this life. She left us on Feb. 20, 2019, but her spirit lives on in her three children, eight grandchildren, sixteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson, along with scores of others whose lives touched hers.
Born in Weld County and raised in Silverton and Ridgway, Colo., Doris Brown was the eldest of four girls and a devotee of her daddy, Floyd Otho Brown. From childhood, she was trained by mother Zola Lee Martin in the nearly-lost arts of home economics, from sewing to canning to cooking from scratch. As an adult, Doris ensured her children and grandchildren, regardless of gender, learned how to bake the perfect roll or cobbler and fry an elk steak with just the right amount of crispiness. Fall canning was plenty of work but worthwhile, especially when future granddaughters-in-law learned they’d best “get in here and peel some peaches if you expect to be part of this family.”
Favorite pastimes included sewing and quilting; Doris was known in the community as a maker of gorgeous prom, bridesmaid, and wedding dresses (and the occasional honeymoon negligee). During quilting sessions, she offered lots of encouragement and hands-on teaching, though sloppier practitioners also learned the art of deconstructing and remaking poorly-done squares.
One of seven 1949 Ridgway High School graduates, Doris explored Texan and Virginian climes before returning home to meet and marry “her” Victor Zadra in 1956. Between them, they ran the Zadra Ranch, a cattle operation centered around a sprawling green-and-yellow ranch house with wagon wheel porch banisters. Victor, a quiet, unassuming cowboy who mostly kept his thoughts to himself, found his complement in Doris, who rarely failed to speak her mind. Those with Doris’ spicy personality continue to live her legacy: that to say truth isn’t always popular but is often necessary.
Together, Doris and Victor raised three children: Bill (Phyllis) Zadra of Rangely, Colo.; Floyd (Terry) Zadra of Brighton, Colo.; and Lazola (Steve) Hixson of Colorado Springs, Colo. Doris was no typical stay-at-home mom; she whipped up multi-course dinners during haying season (or baled hay herself as needed); took carloads of kids to out-of-town sporting events; and helped gut visiting hunters’ elk and deer as a courtesy to them (the hunters, not the deer).
The Zadra Ranch also set the stage for grandkids to practice skills often nixed at home: taking pre-permit driving lessons with Grandma, making all manner of messes (that eventually got cleaned up), or sneaking out to the barn to try Doris’ favorite More cigarettes. Much was permissible as long as kids used the brains God gave them and stayed out of the irrigation ditch.
As children and grandchildren grew, Victor and Doris pursued varied interests. There were dance nights at the Ouray Elks Club and Cow Creek Community Hall. Doris hunted while standing in the back of a Jeep, where she simply tapped the roof to alert the driver (son Floyd) she was ready to shoot. Victor participated in baseball games in which players rode atop donkeys, which resulted in predictable hilarity.
When, in 1983, the couple moved to Kingman, Ariz. to dodge Ridgway’s harsh winters, they reveled in the proximity to Las Vegas and nearby Laughlin, Nev., where Doris proved an adept slots and Keno player (and Victor occasionally won big when strangers walked away from hot machines). Doris also headed up the local Rebekahs chapter; there, she made new friends and revived her love of sewing while taking classes at a local community college. They spent the next ten years as snowbirds before Victor passed away in 1994, and though Doris would spend the next quarter-century without him, he lived on in her always-colorful storytelling.
In 1999, Doris returned to Colorado for good to be a part of Lazola and Steve’s daily family life. The Hixsons’ kids were growing fast, and having Grandma around after school to help with homework and lend her special brand of vigor to the household was a boon. In 2001, the family moved from Montrose to Colorado Springs, where Grandma enjoyed a basement floor complete with multi-colored walls, a gigantic white leather sectional, and mementos from the ranch. There, she continued her grandchildren’s driving lessons. It was a clever move; as her eyesight failed, they become her chauffeurs.
By 2014, the kids were grown and gone, and Doris needed more care than Steve and Lazola could give. She crossed the Continental Divide to live in Rangely, Colo., where Bill and Phyllis and their children’s families lived. For the next two-plus years, Grandma offered daily entertainment and not a little guff to Rangely District Hospital’s fabulous long-term care staff. She was the center of a family Sunday dinner ritual and had a special passion for El Agave Restaurant’s sopapillas. As her great-grandson Corbin raised steers, Doris often reminisced about her days on the ranch and her favorite calf, Curly. Her last day was a peaceful one peppered with laughter and memory-sharing as she celebrated the good in her life and the family who surrounded her.
Doris Zadra will be remembered with joy in a ceremony in Ridgway this summer.