- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) - When Peggy Ford Waldo was in high school, she had a ferocious fight with her mother over a speech class.

Ford Waldo was a shy little girl. She was short, barely 5 feet tall, and it always made her self-conscious, even when she used it to her advantage in gymnastics. Her mother thought it was time to outgrow that. Ford Waldo refused to go at first, but her mother insisted, as mothers will, and that was it.

The class worked. She now gives many presentations a year in front of an audience on Greeley’s history. She did that for the release party on a book she wrote with help from the Greeley History Museum, where she has worked since 1979. Partly because of those presentations, she is considered Greeley’s most knowledgeable historian, the one who knows everything about our city’s history. Dan Perry, the manager for the City of Greeley Museums, calls her knowledge “truly encyclopedic.”

Ford Waldo doesn’t enjoy having her picture taken. She doesn’t want people to talk about her. She’s still a bit shy. But she’s not only willing to give those presentations, she loves to do them. She wants to present and preserve Greeley’s history, and public speaking is one of the best ways to do that, reported The Greeley Tribune (https://bit.ly/2iEfcSm).

Perhaps she got that passion for preservation from her father, a wildlife conservation officer who read “Walden” to her and took her around the San Luis Valley and taught her about the mountains and underlying fields where she explored as a kid. She learned to love the water from a nearby irrigation ditch, where she tubed and picked asparagus in the summer and skated in the winter.

She found it easy, therefore, to love Greeley when she moved here with her first husband in 1973 so he could take a temporary plumbing job. Greeley’s backdrop was of the mountains that fed our irrigation ditches that watered our agricultural fields, much like Montrose. She even lived in an apartment near the No. 3 ditch.

She was like that, though, growing up. She was interested in everything. She used to peer in an abandoned house in her neighborhood because she wanted to figure out its past. She didn’t find it tedious, then, when she took a job with the Greeley Municipal Museum - her office really was just a wing out of the downtown Greeley Public Library - and her bosses expected her to be able to answer questions about the city from residents. So Ford Waldo, armed by her ability to speed read and her English degree, went to work reading through the four cabinets of documents for answers.

She liked history, and she later learned to love history, for the way it connected everything. The water that brought our once-dry city to life still flows through our city and provides the foundation for businesses such as our flourishing breweries. The decisions made by Greeley’s founding fathers and mothers affect us even today, and Ford Waldo finds that endlessly fascinating.

It initially was her job to research Greeley’s history, but it became her calling. Later, her son would complain about yet another weekend trip chasing down yet another stone marker, such as a gravestone, somewhere in a field. Later, as she clipped the Greeley Tribune and continued to seek out and save historical documents and the cabinets grew from four to 40, she treasured the time she spent hearing Greeley’s history from people such as Hazel E. Johnson and W.D. Farr and Josephine Jones and the countless others who shared their family heritage with her.

There are times when people will burst into tears when she presents them a document or article that tells them that family history because they’ve searched for months.

She talks in front of all those people and gives all those presentations despite her shy, short stature because of those families. She wants people to know their history, and she treasures it when they share it with her. The thought makes her tear up, as well.

“It’s a gift, in one way or another,” Ford Waldo said, “and gifts should be shared with the people you love.”

Greeley is her home. She knows so many people now. She feels comfortable here. Years later, after she took a job to help preserve Greeley’s history, she now finds herself an important part of it.

___

Information from: The Tribune of Greeley, Co, https://greeleytribune.com

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