History is her passion

Linda Towle remains involved in the community after retirement

Chairman of the Cortez Historic Preservation Board Linda Towle shows the old school that is now a house. The top floor of the old school was taken off and moved half a block east for another house. Enlargephoto

Journal/Sam Green

Chairman of the Cortez Historic Preservation Board Linda Towle shows the old school that is now a house. The top floor of the old school was taken off and moved half a block east for another house.

After a 15-year career working at Mesa Verde National Park, Linda Towle decided to retire. Now, five years later she is busier than ever volunteering in something she’s passionate about.

“I was not ready to sit in a rocking chair and knit,” she said. “There was a lot of archaeology work that needed to be done.”

Now, Towle is the board president of the Cortez Historical Society where she tries to relay the city’s history to residents and visitors. She also heads up the home tours of homes and buildings on Montezuma Avenue.

Towle took up golf and also tried her hand at knitting, but she still had plenty of free time.

“I didn’t feel the need to remain active in archaeology,” she said. “This is something I want to do, but I was not ready to just have fun. I enjoy it, and I am doing it by choice.”

Towle, who has a master’s degree in prehistoric archaeology, was working for the National Parks Service in Boston when she was offered in 1992 the opportunity to be the chief archaeologist at Mesa Verde National Park.

A prime position for anyone in the field of archaeology.

Not only did Towle work at the park, like a lot of other employees, she also lived there for close to 11 years.

She said she learned about some of Cortez’s history from lifelong residents who lived or remembered the history.

Towle, who graduated from high school in Vermont, reported directly to the park’s superintendent and the department chiefs running the park.

She said her staff was able to go out and enjoy the park and do the fun stuff while she stayed inside to handle the administrative duties.

From 1996 to 2003 there were five wildland fires within the park, and archaeologists were given the responsibility to tell firefighters where historical artifacts were located in hopes they could be saved.

More than 50 archaeologists were given this task and the park was awarded $3 million in 1999 with the first batch of money being reserved for saving “America’s Treasures.”

Towle first became interested in archaeology while visiting Greece in the 1970s, and the country’s importance in culture and its history caused her to think about what was occurring in the United States.

At the age of 30, she returned to college to pursue her master’s degree in archaeology.

“When I look back at it, that was the start,” she said of becoming interested in historical aspects.

She said all of this led up to her retirement in 2007. She had already purchased a home in Cortez in 2003 after moving from Mesa Verde.

She credits her parents, especially her father, in keeping her active. Her father operated a grocery store in Vermont, and while he retired at age of 62, he remained very active. She remembered him playing golf when he was 90 with a friend who was 100 years old.

She said seeing and being around this was inspiring and she’s trying to follow his example.

“I am not ready to sit in a rocking chair just yet,” she said, declining to give her age.

Towle said she learned at an early age that if she wanted to become involved in something then it would happen naturally.

She joined the Cortez Historical Society in 2004, but she really did not have time to serve because she was still working at the park. She is now he board president of the group.

Towle also volunteered at the Cortez Library for about six hours a week upon her retirement and is putting books on tape, but her real passion was working with the Cortez Historical Society.

In 2008, Towle was instrumental in creating the walking tours in Cortez and helped the society receive a grant to conduct an inventory on the homes on Montezuma Avenue that was recently completed.

She also asked if she could serve on the board of directors for endangered places and in 2011 was named to a three-year term.

Towle also has been extremely involved in trying to find a way to restore the McElmo Creek Flume and will present a report to the Montezuma County Commission sometime in the fall on the flume’s condition as well as the options.

Towle added that she will continue to work on grants for historical preservation.

“I put the pieces in place and something happened,” she said. “It just kind of happened.”

She said her move to Montezuma County in 1992 convinced her of the place where she wanted to retire.

“I grew up in Vermont, and when I retired there was no better place to (live) than here,” she said, but added she also knew there was still a lot of work that had to be done.

“I will do it as long as I have the time and energy,” she said. “I can do what I want. I plan to keep doing what I have been doing.”

michaelm@cortezjournal.com