Walter E. Ertel was born November 6, 1926 in Cortez, the 5th child of Ida M. (Hamilton) and John Walter Ertel. He passed away at Hope West Hospice Care Center in Grand Junction, Colo. on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
On Walt’s 20th birthday he married Barbara Jo Gafford of Lewis, Colo. November 6, 2021 Walt celebrated his 95th birthday, and Walt and Bobby Jo celebrated 75 years of marriage. Bobby Jo would leave Walt and this life shortly thereafter. Walt claimed often “I’ve had a good life.”
Growing up on the family farm just south of Cortez Walt understood early the importance of water. As a child he witnessed water being brought to the Blue Door area by canal and the immediate benefits families and farming recognized. Later in Walt’s life he would serve several terms on the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Board. Through his leadership as Board President, Walt, along with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the Dolores Water Conservancy District, would sign the compact authorizing McPhee Damn and its storage reservoir to better insure sufficient irrigation water to the valley farmers. Along with this agreement, Dryland farmers were offered delivery of water which prior had never been available.
In the early 1970’s Walt began a farming operation along the west side of Highway 145. Again, Walt’s love of water delivery systems rose to the surface and following after Jimmy Porter’s use of water wheels, he began seeking a fabricator who could build an oversized water wheel to generate enough energy to sprinkler irrigate 80 acres of farmland. His next two projects, which spanned ten years, were gravity fed pipeline systems from ponds, sometimes 3 1/2 miles above the last sprinkler setting. These pipelines allowed for wasteful ditches to be abandoned for all the users along the pipeline. For his efforts, Walt received recognition as Conservationist of the Year in the late 1980s.
Also, during the 1970’s Walt ran a cow/calf operation wintering at the Thompson Place in Cortez and summering at Fish Creek Ranch and their summer forest service range. Some of Walt’s fondest memories were the trail drives from Fish Creek to the home place. It brought together his love of riding horses, cowboying, and family.
Walt also understood well from the example of his father, the importance of serving his community. In 1959, after completing his mortuary science courses in Dallas, Texas ten years prior, and using the opportunity to learn how to properly and respectfully conduct the businesses of a funeral home, Walt purchased Ertel Funeral Home from his father. 1980 brought the third generation of Ertel to begin the rewarding task of serving grieving families. Walt carefully and methodically instructed his son, Keenan, the many protocols of proper funeral service, from the time one arrived at a family home through the last prayer recited at the cemetery. Using the guidance of two generations preceding Keenan, he was able to pass on this vast understanding of ceremony, compassion and commitment to his daughter, Kinsey, who is now at the helm of Ertel Funeral Home. Walt was most pleased to be in attendance for the celebration of Ertel Funeral Home’s 100th year of operation.
Surviving Walt are his children, Debbie Keller (Chuck) and Keenan Ertel (Beverlee); four grandchildren, Brad Keller (Stephanie), Jon Keller (Cassie), Kinsey Ertel (Donnie Tanner), and Tyson Ertel (Brittanie Hager); and seven great grandchildren, Gareth and Oliver Keller, Jacob and Matthew Keller, Keagan Ertel Moralez, Kamdynn Hager, and Kaden Huff. Also surviving Walt are his brothers, Richard Lindsay and Don Ertel.
Walt was preceded in death by his parents, J.W. Ertel and Ida Ertel; his step-mother, Edna Lindsay Husman; his beloved wife, Bobby Jo; and by his sisters and brother, Virginia Mosher, Betty Dillon, Jane Field, Helen Ray and Jack Ertel.
Memorial contributions can be made in memory of Walt Ertel to Southwestern Colorado Livestock Association Scholarship Fund, PO Box 393, Cortez, CO 81321.