William E. "Bill" Stroud was born Jan. 25, 1927, to Hugh and Beatrice Stroud in Pueblo, Colorado and departed peacefully Feb. 12 at his home in Cortez. Bill was well-known and respected in the community, and his selflessness and contributions will have a profound and positive effect on the community for generations to come.
After Bill's birth in Pueblo, his family moved to Rocky Ford, where he was raised. His father left when Bill was just 7 years old, leaving him and his brother, Charles, to be cared for by their mother, Bea. Bill was left with many questions and insecurities after his parents divorced and he was taken under the wing of his uncle, Leonard Stroud, a world champion trick and fancy rider and the champion all-around cowboy in 1918 that once held three world titles at the same time. Leonard's positive influence, competitive nature and kindness had a profound influence on Bill, who traveled with Leonard and his wife from rodeo to rodeo, while also competing in junior rodeos and learning to spin ropes. When Bill turned 16 and got his driver's license, he drove Leonard and Western movie star Tom Mix around, listening intently to Old West stories while the men competed and starred on the summer rodeo circuit. Bill would later spend hundreds of hours collecting photos and constructing a montage to help improve Leonard's exhibit at the Rodeo Hall of Fame in the National Cowboy & Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
When Bill was not spinning ropes, he was shooting hoops and playing one-on-one with anyone who would take him on. He loved basketball and was an accomplished player. After a tour of duty in the Merchant Marines, he went to Western State College in Gunnison and played for his beloved Mountaineers. His teammates valued him for his unselfish play and talent. He was a quick and a tenacious defender with outstanding leaping ability. His teammates affectionately nicknamed him, "Spider". Asked once how he got that nickname, he looked at his son, Stuart, smiled and said, "Spider --- all arms and legs and no brains."
After graduation in 1949, he moved to Cortez as head basketball coach, also assisting in football and baseball. During his first year, he met a cute little blond, Laura Maye Wheeler, and they were married Aug. 21, 1950, the summer after her graduation from high school. In 1955, they moved to California, where Bill was the new head basketball coach at Porterville Junior College. When he left for California, a number of players he had coached in Cortez followed to play for him. He was later recognized by the basketball players he had coached in Cortez with a plaque at one of the many class reunions he attended. The inscription reads: "The members of the teams coached by Bill Stroud recognize the influence he has made on their lives. The values of competition, leadership, honesty, hard work, fair play and teamwork have greatly affected their lives. Therefore, with lifelong respect, THANKS COACH, from all of your former team members 1949 to 1955." Many times, Bill fondly recalled the presentation of that plaque and how much he felt genuinely loved by his players. He cared deeply about them all and counted his association with them as a particular highlight of his life.
Bill and Laura returned to Cortez in 1958 and opened the Cork 'n Bottle liquor store. Their son, Stuart Addison Stroud, was born July 4, 1960, the same year Bill launched his dream to build a golf course in Cortez, which is chronicled in History of the Cortez Golf Course by Paul Glaviano. After completion of the front nine holes of what was then called the Cortez Municipal Golf Course, he set his sights on rehabilitating the Stoner Ski Area, which had become lackluster and in need of expansion and upgrading of the lifts. An article in the March 30, 1969, Durango Herald headlined, Look at Stoner, Cortez Golf Course And Think of Bill Stroud, "Doer" by Howard Armstrong. The late Dr. David Herrick, DVM, was quoted about the golf course and Stoner: "While the rest of us mostly sat around and talked about it, Bill Stroud just went out and did it." In 1971, when Bill became the golf pro at Cortez Municipal, he set his sights on building the back nine holes and completing the conceptual design and construction he had secured from the eminent course architect Press Maxwell in 1960. This is also chronicled in the history written by Glaviano and in the March 1980 issue of PGA magazine, 6, 870 Yards of Success Story by Glaviano.
Even when Bill was super-busy building the course and working at the liquor store, he always found time to play city league basketball. He played until he was 56, and loved playing with his players from high school and college, relishing the competition and camaraderie. In 1971, he sold the liquor store and quickly zeroed in on what it would take to complete the back nine. Meanwhile, he did everything he could to promote the game of golf in Cortez, teaching many men and women how to play the game. He started the junior golf program and organized the first junior golf tournaments here. He and others put together the first All-Indian golf tournament, inviting Native Americans from all over the Four Corners area.
Always a visionary, Bill saw a need for flexible membrane liners to prevent polluting leakage from ponds and other water basins and founded Environmental Liners Inc. in 1982. For several decades, it was an important source of employment in Cortez, with workers fabricating liners and its crews traveling throughout the United States for installations. He turned the operation of the business over to his son Stuart in 1987 and continued to serve on the board of directors until 1999.
Bill and Laura, who were married 59 years before her passing in 2010, enjoyed many years of retirement together, traveling in their motor home throughout the country. They lived part-time in El Mirage, Ariz., playing golf and enjoying the warm winter weather and a host of friends. In January of 2012, Bill received the Cortez Citizen of the Year award for his many contributions to the community. In presenting the award, Cortez Journal Publisher Suzy Myer said: "Bill Stroud is the best kind of citizen, one who sees what needs to be done, inspires others to join the effort and keeps chipping away until he accomplishes his goal."
When we enter this life, we never know what our challenges will be or the successes we might enjoy. We don't know whom we may influence in a positive way. Bill Stroud certainly didn't know those answers, either, but he lived his life in full-forward drive, with no reverse and the unshakable belief there was no barrier he could not surmount. His wealth was not monetary. He was rich with accomplishment and the respect he merited from those he mentored and touched. Humble, vibrant, generous and hard-working, Bill made life better for thousands because of his firm belief that everyone should have the opportunity for recreation.
Bill was also preceded in death by his brother, Charles H. Stroud. He is survived by his son, Stuart, and Stuart's wife, Sherrie; and by grandsons Michael R. Stroud and Sawyer C. Stroud, and his dear friend, Elaine Slavens. A celebration of Bill's life will take place at the Cortez Elks Lodge on the third full weekend of August during the Pinto Bean Golf Classic. Further information will be provided at a later date.