Long time Durango resident, Gerry Palmer, passed peacefully on October 8, 2019, living to be 101 years old. She was supported by a loving, extended family her entire life. Sandy, her caring daughter, devoted her life to taking care of her during her later years.
Gerry was born on February 16, 1918 in North Aurora, Illinois to John P. Plante and Mary ‘Mae’ (Surges) Plante. She finished high school in two years and won achievement awards in shorthand and typing. She also played basketball in high school. Gerry eloped with Shirley Boyd (S.B. or Shir) Palmer on Feb 17, 1940. They celebrated 60 years of marriage shortly before Shir passed in April of 2000.
During the Great Depression, Shir worked in the Chicago stock yards and Gerry was a beautician in the beauty shop that she and Shir bought. While in Illinois, they also had a produce trucking company, ran the Sycamore sheep yards and purchased a farm where they raised 3000 turkeys. They said that when it thundered, they slept with the turkeys because the turkeys would get scared and crowd together, and smother each other and die!
Gerry and Shir had two children; Terry in 1941 and Sandy in 1943.
In 1952, Gerry and Shir picked up the family and moved to Durango and bought the Sunset Motel on North Main. In 1956, they purchased the family ranch on the Florida River. It is still the home of Palmer Quarter Horses and Over the Hill Outfitters and four generations of Palmer’s have lived on the ranch. In the 1970’s they also bought multiple farms on the Florida Mesa (Jakino and Prociaroni farms) where they raised hay and cattle.
The family worked as drivers for the movie stars on many movies that were filmed around the Durango area, including ‘Around the World in 80 days’ and ‘When the West Was Won’. Paul Newman and Robert Redford stayed at the Sunset Motel while filming ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. During the filming of ‘When Legends Die’, the film makers used Gerry and Shir’s home on Crestview for the movie.
Gerry loved going to garage sales where she would buy things and then sell those same things at the Flea Market in Farmington for a profit. Anything you might need, she had and more amazingly, she could find it! She loved to do things for other people! Gerry owned a kiln and was proficient in making unique pottery and macramé. She played the piano and taught herself to play the organ.
Gerry’s passion was going to the casino (Sky Ute Casino was her favorite) with her best friends: neighbor, Rachel Griego and Virginia Herrera to play bingo. She felt the bingo people were her “second” family! Gerry was very lucky and could play 12 cards into her 90’s (while pointing out what numbers those around her had missed)! Sandy would often drive the “seniors” to Bingo and they would sometimes keep Sandy out until 2:30 in the morning.
Gerry was intelligent, hard-working and “high energy”. She maintained all of the finances for the motel, ranch and other business adventures through the years. She worked at Colorado Land and Title until she was 92.
We would like to extend a special thanks to Cottonwood Nursing Home. Gerry spent her last year and a half at Cottonwood and received excellent care from the staff and she made many close friends who looked out after her. Liz always comforted her, Roger made her laugh, Lorraine took special care of her, Robin gave her teddy bears, and Shirley became her ‘sidekick’. Gerry could be feisty at times (which probably contributed to her long life), but she could laugh about it as well! Lorraine said she loved her even through the ‘feisty’ times (as we all did)! Faithful friends such as Susan Johnson always kept in touch with her!
Gerry is survived by her two children: Terry (Dixie) Palmer, and Sandy Schoonover. Grandchildren: Randy (Kelly) Palmer of Durango, Donald (Samantha) Schoonover of Bayfield, and Stacy Cannady of Las Vegas, NV. Great grandchildren: Joshua, Jessica, and Hannah Looman, Zak and Hayley Schoonover, Dayton (Lindsey) and Taylor Ponder, step-grandchildren: Hannah Mae Davies, Aiden and Daphney Bergel, and great, great-grandchildren: Lane and Colt Ponder.
Gerry was proceeded in death by her husband, Shir, all of her older brothers and sisters, and one grandchild, Cindy (Phillip) Looman who passed on April 8, 2012. Gerry will now be able to see her husband and grand-daughter again - up in heaven!
A service is planned for spring 2020 when all the family can be present to honor her life. We will miss Gerry – loving mother, grandmother, and friend. We will carry her wonderful memory in our hearts forever! Goodbye! God bless You!