The We Are Chaffee too! written personal stories are written by a diverse group of community members. We cannot thank our stories tellers and writers enough for their short, sweet, and incredibly powerful stories.
Katie is a Colorado native and grew up rock climbing. She has been writing for as long as she could hold a pencil and has authored three books and written for a variety of publications.
She enjoys the storytelling aspect of writing, and the idea of 'painting a picture with words.' When not working or with her daughter, Katie can usually be found running on one of Salida's many trails with her two dogs.
Three generations of Nathan Ward's family live in Chaffee County where they have owned businesses, founded organizations, taught school, raised money for good causes, worked on social issues, fished the rivers, ridden the trails, climbed the peaks and loved the mountain lifestyle.
Nathan is an Emmy Award winning filmmaker, writer, and photographer whose work has appeared in media outlets around the world. www.NathanWard.com
Prior to settling into Chaffee County seven years ago with his family, Chad Heeter worked in documentary film and television news for the BBC and Qatar Television.
He lives in Poncha Springs with his two teens.
The Arkansas River brings not only precious water to Chaffee County but people who enrich our community. Lisa Ledwith came to Buena Vista in 1999 as a raft guide and summer resident, eventually moving to Salida full time in 2004 to teach high school English. After eighteen years as an educator in both Buena Vista and Salida, she recently turned to freelance writing.
Lisa is happiest when she’s outside rafting, skiing, enjoying time with family and friends and meeting new people. “I love Chaffee County. When you are from somewhere else and move it takes a certain time before you can say ‘this is my home’. But it’s true: this is my home.”
Interviewing Chaffee County residents about their stories for We Are Chaffee, Too is one of Lisa’s current (and favorite) projects.
Megan loves to write to make sense of all her broken pieces; to create connection and empathy with others. Megan sees the good in everyone and craves to know people’s personal stories because she believes stories can create the capacity for greater understanding and, ultimately, love (and not in a cheesy way!). Megan has deep roots in the local community–her family has been in the area for generations, she was born in Salida and grew up coming here all her childhood summers. She has witnessed the many versions of Chaffee County over time and feels like change is positive. She likes blue skies, heavy rain, the mountains and hiking the highest peaks. Her focus is family, deep friendships and meaningful work.
Cecilia LaFrance resides in Nathrop and works in Buena Vista. Her writing highlights include time as a small-town newspaper reporter; writing of fiction, essays and poetry; and publication of a former blog featuring interviews with individuals experiencing homelessness in Denver, CO. She was a classroom teacher of writing for 10 years and now works in the library field to promote the love of literacy and inquiry, as well as to be surrounded by books.
Luz Stella Diaz
Luz, her husband Terry and their dogs moved to Salida in 2014 from the Atlanta area. She was born and raised in Colombia, South America.
Luz has many interests. She enjoys walking/hiking, playing with her dogs, talking to her friends, traveling, eating, dancing, listening to music, reading and collecting books, writing (in journals, on post it notes, on napkins), volunteering, visiting museums/galleries, meeting new people and cultures.
Luz has an ongoing struggle in her life. Her deep love of the United States is mixed with a constant longing for her home country. Her soul is in both places.
A true Chicagoan down to the marrow, Bianka Isabella Martinez is a black latina whose passions include conservation, stewardship, and the preservation of the natural world. Having grown up in the Midwest she thirsted for the perfect balance of an urban community with an escape into the beaten path. She completed Undergraduate studies August of 2018, with a concentration on natural biology and ecology. Her passion for ecology and conservation drove her into a field where she's able to balance stewardship, and education because she believes that the next generation plays a crucial part in shaping the future of the natural spaces in the world. Her goal is to transform others into lifelong learners with a passion for the outdoors and to see more people of color and queer people pick up the passion for the outdoor along the way. On her free time, she indulges in reading, herping, rugby, and activism.
Hope DeLaRue has lived in Chaffee County for the better part of 7 years. She and her husband moved from New Mexico to raise their two daughters now aged 10 and 7. “I loved where I grew up but when we lived in Albuquerque the crime was getting bad and we wanted to go where it would be more peaceful for our girls.”
Hope has a background in education but while in Salida she co-owned a business helping people downsize, organize and move. When the economic landscape changed during the pandemic, Hope and her husband began homeschooling their kids and went on an epic road trip, living out of a camper and traveling around the western United States for six months.
Upon returning to Chaffee County Hope and her family settled in Buena Vista. The family is happily back home and enjoying all the wonderful people, opportunities and stories in this lovely community of Chaffee County.
Marlene has lived in many different places and has worked in many different work arenas. Her daughter, Megan, says “Mom has done every kind of work except prostitution!” She has been an elementary school teacher and an ESL instructor. She worked as a restaurant manager, promotion director, wholesale furniture sales and warehouse manager, magazine editor, artist, interior decorator, floral designer… Her father once opined, “A person can choose to know a little about a lot of things or a lot about one thing.” Marlene thinks she falls into the first category, to her chagrin
Despite life challenges that still bring sadness to her voice, Marlene has been able to build gratifying relationships with her two children and five grandchildren. She is very passionate about social and political issues. She loves taking road trips, reads voraciously, and enjoys her mischievous little dog, Alfalfa.
Ruth Perschbacher Price
Ruth Perschbacher Price understands the ties of community. She grew up in Chaffee County, left for college at 18 and eventually settled in a small North Carolina town. This experience taught her important lessons about people and the places they call home. Growing up in Chaffee County helped her see how locals tied to a place often yearn for the past while her experiences as a newcomer in small town Appalachia give her empathy for people who don’t feel accepted in their new communities. She now describes herself as “part old-timer, part new-timer.”
When asked what brings Ruth joy, she smiles. “Living here brings me a lot of joy. Like I’ve come home. This has always been my home, really.”
Originally a social worker, Ruth moved into writing gradually, eventually finding her place in North Carolina’s writing community, where she and her late husband started a literary festival. She recently finished her first novel, Wind Born. Her most current writing endeavor is collecting biographies of Chaffee County locals for the We Are Chaffee, Too project.
Arlene E. Shovald, Ph.D
Arlene Shovald found her way to Colorado after a health diagnosis required her to leave Michigan for a drier, warmer climate. She quickly found a meaningful connection to Chaffee County when she began writing for The Mountain Mail newspaper. Though she came ready to defend herself from sexist stereotypes, she learned that attitudes were different in the west and it didn’t take long for her to settle in and find her groove. She even went back to school to pursue a second career in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy after realizing she was a natural with people who would easily open up to her and want help. Her kind eyes and understanding heart were on full display when recalling with a shrug, “people were coming to talk to me anyway.”
Arlene continues to connect with individuals in Chaffee County through her therapy work, as a reporter for The Mountain Mail and with We Are Chaffee County Too. When she’s not working she can often be found swimming laps at the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center which she considers to be Salida’s number one asset.