Opal M. Morgenthaler passed away on 8/23/ 2022, at Jacob’s Care Center in Rogersville, MO after a long battle with dementia. Opal was born on October 12, 1925, in Tiffany, Colorado to Walter and Gladys Morris. She was the 5th of 8 children born to the family. Opal grew up on a small farm near Tiffany, CO during the Great Depression era. Her family was economically poor even by Depression era standards. There was no indoor plumbing or electricity on the farm. Despite the conditions, Opal was grateful to be living on a farm where food was not in short supply. As a result of her experience on the family farm, Opal became an avid gardener raising vegetables and flowers.
Opal’s parents and extended family played instruments at the local grange dances. Opal inherited their love for music. She also developed a passion for dancing. She was a regular at the grange dances and a favorite date/dance partner with the fellows. Opal was pretty. She liked to have fun and she was a flirt.
Opal’s mother Gladys died when Opal was 12. At that time, Tiffany’s high school only went through 10 grades and Opal’s older siblings were either married or living with relatives in Durango to complete their junior/senior years of high school, leaving Opal as the oldest remaining child at home to care for her 3 younger siblings. Times were hard and responsibilities heavy for such a young woman, but Opal found time to attend school, maintain good grades and play on the high school basketball team where she was honored as the team’s “Most Valuable” defensive player.
Opal graduated from Durango High School in 1942. After graduation, Opal was entered a registered nurses’ training program. Much of her medical education was conducted in Denver. While in Denver, Opal and her fellow nursing students frequented the Rainbow Ballroom on Lincoln Street, a dance venue with an indoor capacity of 3,000. Opal and her friends danced many nights away with the US troops in town for basic training.
At the beginning of her third year of nurses’ training, Opal eloped. She married Donald M. Potter in Aztec, New Mexico on October 17, 1944. Opal had hoped to keep the marriage a secret as married trainees were not allowed in the nursing program. However, the marriage license was published in the Durango Herald. Opal and Don’s marriage could not be kept hidden any longer. Opal was dismissed from the nurses’ training program just 9 months shy of obtaining her Registered Nurse certification.
Don was in commercial construction. He and Opal moved frequently to follow Don’s jobs, so Opal did not work outside of the home. She and Don had four children. Opal managed the household and family’s finances. Opal kept a spotless house. She sewed clothing for her children. She cooked nearly every meal as the small towns where she and Don often lived did not have fast food restaurants nor was there money to eat out. Opal took bread baking classes and her made-from-scratch rolls were second to none.
Opal was often an active leader in her children’s’ activities. She was a Girl Scout leader as well as a Den Mother for Cub Scouts. She was a bowling coach for the Youth Bowling Association. Opal encouraged her children to work hard and excel in whatever endeavors they chose to pursue. Opal especially enjoyed listening to her son Don, (known professionally as CC Collier), play his guitar and sing country music.
Opal and Don were both excellent card players in an era when card games were popular entertainment for adults. They played Cribbage against each other daily for many years. They played Spades with their daughter and son-in-law. Opal was also an avid bridge player. She played once or twice a week with a women’s group and once a month in a couple’s group for many years. Opal played bridge until she was in her nineties and could no longer remember the rules.
Opal was a competitive bowler. She bowled on numerous leagues and often carried high average for the women. Don and Opal bowled together weekly various couples’ league for over 20 years. Opal was usually her league’s secretary charged with keeping track of the league’s statistical data. Don was also the secretary on two men’s leagues. Everyone knew that it was actually Opal who kept the books, but the men were happy to have her do it. There were seldom mistakes.
Throughout her life, Opal loved politics and was active in the caucus system. She was a ballot counter in Ignacio, CO in the early 1960s. Opal was supportive of FDR’s Democrat Party her entire adult life.
After Don retired, he and Opal bought a house in Bloomfield, New Mexico and a fifth wheel trailer. They lived in New Mexico during the summer and in their trailer in Arizona during the winter. They played cards and horseshoes with their fellow snowbirds and made many friends during those years. When Don passed away in January 1992, Opal moved to Grand Junction where she purchased a home in April 1992.
While in Grand Junction, Opal worked as a volunteer in the Visitor’s Center. She also became active in the Friendship Force. As an ambassador for the Friendship Force, Opal hosted international club members in her home, and she traveled abroad where she stayed with host families. Her most memorable trip through the Friendship Force was to Japan. Opal developed a lifelong passion for travel. She especially loved cruises. She took two cruises around the Mediterranean, one around the Caribbean, one to Australia, and one to Alaska. She traveled to Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. She traveled from coast to coast in the United States.
Opal began dating Wes Arnold in the mid-1990s and they were married in 2001. They traveled to Mexico on numerous occasions, including spending New Year’s Eve 1999 in Acapulco. Wes and Opal resided in Battlement Mesa. Wes and Opal played golf together and were both active in the community. They “rang the bell” for The Salvation Army at Christmas and helped serve meals at the local soup kitchen. Opal volunteered at Lift Up and at the Parachute Visitor’s Center. She played duplicate and party bridge, belonged to a local book club and an investment group. She was active in the Methodist Church in Battlement Mesa. Opal was especially proud of her involvement in the area’s Kiwanis Club.
While a member of Kiwanis, Opal held various officer positions. She helped with fund raising donating both her time and her money. The Terrific Kids Program, which encourages positive behavior from elementary aged children through a Kiwanis’ sponsored rewards program, was Opal’s brainchild. She administered the Terrific Kids Program for years until dementia robbed her of the ability to handle the program’s finances and organization. Opal also led the way in starting the Kiwanis’ Stars of Tomorrow program for middle and high school students in Parachute/Battlement Mesa. Opal’s volunteer work in Battlement Mesa was both appreciated and recognized. She was selected as the community’s Volunteer of the Year during the first decade of 2000.
Opal initially met Charles Morgenthaler when she purchased his home in Grand Junction in 1992. Opal and Charles met again in Battlement Mesa through the local bridge club. The two were often partners in bridge as Opal’s then husband Wes did not play bridge. After Wes died in 2002, Charles and Opal started dating. They were married in 2003. Charles and Opal enjoyed playing bridge and cribbage together. They also traveled extensively. Charles passed away in 2008.
Surviving family members include three sons, one daughter, and a stepdaughter, i.e. Ronald L. Potter (Rebecca) of Mansfield, MO; Donald M. Potter Jr. (Pat) of Arizona City, AZ; Larry D. Potter of Springfield, MO; Marie Serra (Mike) of Centennial, CO; and Donna J. Taylor of Paso Robles, CA. Other surviving family members include 4 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren. Opal was preceded in death by her husbands, her parents, and her siblings.
Opal will be interred in the Ignacio East Cemetery on August 31, 2022, at 9:00 a.m. Arrangements are being handled under the direction and care of the Hood Mortuary in Durango, CO.
Donations in Opal’s honor may be made to the Grand Valley Kiwanis Club for the benefit of the Terrific Kids Program or the Stars of Tomorrow program. Donations should be sent to Grand Valley/Parachute Kiwanis Foundation, P.O. Box 6155, Parachute, CO 81635.