by Will Bublitz

Chuck and July Pierce of Limon are the recipients of two special honors from the Limon Alumni Association. They were chosen as this year’s recipients of the Outstanding/Honorary Alumni Award. In addition, they will be the Grand Marshals of the 2023 Limon Homecoming Parade to be held this Saturday, Sept. 23.

“It was quite a surprise to get these honors,” Chuck said. “They are much appreciated.”

Judy agreed. “We are thrilled to be selected for this honor and are looking forward to seeing friends, former colleagues and students at the many Homecoming activities on September 23.  We hope everyone will come up to say hi.” 

The Limon Alumni Association chose them for the Outstanding/Honorary Alumni Award because they are not graduates of Limon High School, but for all their contributions to the school and community since moving to Limon in the 1960’s.

“Chuck taught school, coached at Limon for 30-plus years and continues as a basketball official,” said Craig Bailey of the Limon Alumni Association. “Judy was also a teacher at the Limon School. They are huge Limon School and Limon community supporters, raised their family here and make Limon their home.”

Although they grew up elsewhere, Chuck and Judy have led very active lives since moving to Limon in 1961.

Chuck was born and raised in southern Vermont. He grew up in one of those picturesque small towns in Vermont with the big old houses and the attached barns.  Of course, it was very cold and snowy in Ludlow, Vt., but that did not stop him from playing his favorite sport of basketball.

During the winter when he was in the 5th grade, he and his friends took one of those wooden oval-shaped nail kegs and nailed it to the wall in the barn so they could play.  The barn wasn’t very tall so it only had a 7-foot rim. Later, a friend had a taller barn so they were able to have a real 10-foot basket with a homemade backboard.  On Sunday afternoons, the janitor at the town hall would let them in to play basketball in the small wooden gym built in 1901. 

In 1955, Chuck was a starter on the Black River High School Vermont State Championship basketball team that took second place.  He was one of three team members chosen to play on the Southern Vermont All-State Basketball team.  In 1956, Chuck’s senior year,  he was a starter on the  First Place Vermont State Championship basketball team.

His high school chemistry teacher had graduated from Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas.  Chuck and a friend from Ludlow decided to attend OU where he met his future wife, Judy. 

An OU friend’s wife, Glenda Steele (Pyle), LHS Class of ‘57 was from Limon and knew there was going to be an opening for a teaching position in the Limon Elementary School so Chuck and his friend drove to Limon before graduation to interview for the job.  He was hired to teach the 5th grade and coach junior high sports.  Following graduation, Chuck and Judy were married on August 5, 1961, and moved to Limon the following week where they have lived ever since.  They celebrated their  60th anniversary with their  family in Florida in August of 2021.

Chuck taught and coached in Limon for over 37 years, 19 of those in the same 5th-grade classroom.  He also taught PE and elementary school vocal music and coached all of the junior high sports. He had the privilege of being an assistant high school football coach for 24 years.  Many of those years were under the leadership of Hall of Fame Coaches Lloyd Gaskill and Warren (Mitch) Mitchell.  He started the high school weight-lifting program in the former kitchen of the old gym (now demolished) in the early 1960s. 

In the summers, Chuck worked at a lumber yard, delivered fuel, and painted houses.  After he retired in 1998, he started a painting business and a snow removal business.  Judy made him retire from those businesses about five years ago.  He still likes to get out his ATV plow and snowblower and clean the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways just for the fun of it. 

   As for Judy, she came to Limon as Chuck’s 22 year-old bride.  She had not seen Limon before graduating from Ottawa University but was able to secure a 5th grade teaching position vacated by Phyllis Hugley, who was expecting her third child. 

Judy was mainly raised in the Kansas City, Mo. area where she was accustomed to lots of trees, streams and lakes as well as city life with its shopping and entertainment, and surrounded by lots of family.  It was quite a shock to see the town of Limon and learn that trees basically only grow where there is a town, a farm house or a dry creek bed,  and big-city shopping and entertainment were at least 65 miles away. She consoled herself with the thought that they would only have to stay in Limon for one year and then they were going home! 

Judy came to realize that she didn’t have much time to miss her Kansas City life. The people in the school and town were warm and welcoming and the couple were soon involved in church, school and athletic activities.  Gaskills and Clements Department stores and other shops had nice clothes and shoes, and there was a great hometown theatre, too.  Of course, there was always summer school to attend to keep up with state teacher certification requirements.  Life was busy busy, busy!

Judy taught 3rd grade and kindergarten for six years at Limon Elementary and a combined 3rd and 4th grade class at Genoa Elementary while expecting her first child.  She then became a stay-at-home mom where she had a daycare business and was a substitute teacher in the Limon and Hugo schools. 

When the children were older,  Judy worked in the office of several businesses in Limon and retired after working 12 years for the Limon McDonald’s restaurant.  She said her favorite occupation has been raising two great kids and being a wife and partner to her husband, Chuck.

Their children, Suzanne Pierce Becker and Todd Pierce,  played basketball from the time they were little and practically grew up in the Limon School’s gym.  They played all of the sports.  When Todd was in high school, his coach would take the team to a summer basketball camp at CSU and Chuck would tag along as a spectator.  When they were short on referees,  they would toss him a shirt and he would fill in.  He really enjoyed reffing and did 20 to 30 games at the camp each summer.  Todd then went on to play at UCCS for a couple of years. 

Mike O’Dwyer and Chuck decided to take the IAABO basketball exam after Todd graduated from high school. They got high enough scores to referee  high school games without a patch.  The next year they both qualified and became patched officials for the 1992-93 season.  

Over the years, Chuck  has enjoyed officiating middle school, junior high, high school,  some post-season games, and Power-2-Play games in Loveland,  He is a referee for Area 10 and sometimes travels 130 miles one way for games.  Counting basketball camps and junior high through high school,  he has probably refereed well over 1,000 games.  He would like to officiate one more season if his knees hold up.

Chuck has officiated every year since 1991 although he may have started the season a little late in 1999 and 2010.  In August of 1999,  He wrecked on his motorcycle in the mountains while looking around at the scenery and had to be loaded up and taken Flight for Life to St. Anthony’s. He had a mild concussion, had to have his spleen removed,  had a few cracked ribs, and a spiral break to one tibia.  That slowed him down for a few days.  

In 2010, he had a cardiac arrest down at the LHS track.  Unbeknownst to Chuck, he had a Long QT electrical problem with his heart that caused it to stop after he finished jogging.  Fortunately, his heroes, Limon School teachers Rocky Rockwell and Kelly Packer, saw him lying on the ground and revived him with CPR.  He was rushed to Aurora Medical Center where he received a pacemaker/defibrillator combo and has been good to go ever since!

Chuck tries to keep in shape by jogging and sprinting outdoors and riding his bike on errands around town.  On cold days,  he uses a small gym in his basement where he a recumbent bike, a treadmill. a ParaBody Gym, and free weights. He often wears ankle weights when he’s working around the house or mowing the lawn to strengthen his legs.  Doing ladder work also helps.

The Pierces have volunteered for many activities over the years.  They were Sunday School teachers and youth leaders at their church.  When Chuck and Judy joined the First Baptist church choir, Don Kimble, a well-known LHS music director was also the church choir director.  Chuck had always been a singer, but Don decided that Chuck should become the elementary school music teacher.  On Sunday evenings, the Pierces would go over to Don and Peggy Kimble’s house and Don would teach Chuck how to direct music  That was a big help for Don’s busy schedule and Chuck enjoyed teaching music and putting on Christmas programs.
Chuck directed the Youth Choir for many years and Judy was a volunteer for the Lunch Bunch youth ministry program.  Judy delivered lunches for the Senior Project Smile Lunch Program at the Limon Senior Center and spent many happy hours as a guide for the  Limon Heritage Museum.  They were some of the original members of the Limon-Genoa Community Choir in the early 60’s and Chuck still enjoys singing in the Community Choir and in local quartets.  Judy is the president of the local senior ladies group, Ageless Angels and Chuck and Judy are co-chairman of Lincoln County Republican Precinct 5.

Chuck and Judy have raised two wonderful children in Limon, and now have five wonderful grandchildren, ages 12 to 20.  Suzanne attended college at Ottawa University in the fall of 1987, then CSU and DU and later married a man named Heath Becker from Brush, Colo. in 2001.  She is raising two Brush Beetdiggers, a 16-year-old daughter, Sarah, and a 17-year-old son, Grant.  Her oldest son, Jonathan, is now a US Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton.  Sadly, Heath passed away in January of 2021.

Todd graduated from LHS in 1991, and attended CU at Colorado Springs and CU at Boulder.  He then moved to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, where he worked and taught for 17 years.  He met a beautiful Taiwanese girl there named Jasmine Pan and they were married in Kaohsiung in 2003.  Todd and Jasmine have now been living in Rapid City, S.D. for about the last 10 years where they have a paint contracting business.  They have two lovely daughters, Olivia, age 15, and Josephine, age 12.   

“The main drag of Limon only has one gas station now, with the rest scattered near the exits to I-70,” Judy said. “There are now two stoplights, but trees usually still only grow in town, near farm homes or near dry creek beds.  We now have many friends in Limon.  We are always running into a friend or a former student or teacher at the post office or the grocery store.  Kansas City, Mo. and Ludlow, Vt.  are beautiful and nice places to visit, but Limon, Colo. will always be home!”