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Hilma June (Cope) Madison

1925 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
Hilma June (Cope) Madison Obituary
Among William Penn's second boat of immigrants to the American Colonies were the Cope and Neil families. Descendants of both families moved westward and eventually reunited. However, this time, it was through the marriage of Jonathan Calvin Cope, founder of Cope, CO and Mary Ann Neil. In the mid 1880's the CB&Q Railroad employed Jonathan to select a town site for use as a division point in the Arickaree Valley. In 1886, the Arickaree River was actually full, the prairie green and being impressed with the fertile looking area, he filed a tree claim. Three generations later, Hilma June Cope was born on June 23, 1925 at the Cope Ranch south of Cope, CO. Hilma was the third of five children born to Guy Jonathan Cope and Julia Barbara Vasecka.
Hilma attended Harmony School nearly two miles west of her home and although her parents thought she was too little to attend school, she and her siblings convinced them it was okay. Therefore, her older brother Bill would carry her piggy-back a portion of the way to ensure she could withstand the walk. As the Dirty Thirties raged, she noted that when those huge red dust clouds appeared, her Dad would come to get them in the family car and once home, everyone helped covering the windows with sheets. Her brother, Bill told of times that he could not see the radiator cap at the end of the hood on his Chevy.
Later in the thirties, she and her older sister, Evelyn stayed with their grandparents, Nettie and William Cope in Seibert to assist them with the hog farm and dairy and attend school. Always looking for a way to earn spending money other than shining her brother's shoes for five cents a pair in order to buy a weekly Grapette, Hilma saw an opportunity. Apparently, there was a governmental program during her seventh grade year that allowed students to earn $3.33 per week assisting their teachers. Therefore, she became Dr. Berry's assistant.
Although the times were challenging for everyone, there was time for enjoyment as well. Some of Hilma's childhood memories included riding horses and gathering the cattle every evening, riding the scooter, designing paper dolls and clothing, placing pennies on the
railroad tracks with her siblings and having an opportunity to see Shirley Temple at the Burlington Theater with Evelyn, Aunt Vic (Hilma Victoria, for whom she was named) and her Uncle Frank Vasecka.
Upon entering her sophomore year, she and Evelyn attended Cope High School and lived with their Grandmother Zemek in Cope until graduating in 1943. During the summers of her freshman and sophomore high school years, she lived in Greeley and was employed as a nanny for two toddlers. After graduation, she worked at the University of Northern Colorado's Tobey-Kendel Dining Hall as a waitress for service men. Typically, one waitress was assigned to three tables of ten men, but if she was alone, she was responsible for sixty hungry GIs.
Hilma continued her assistance to the war effort by working at Kaiser Industries' ammunition plant in Denver. Initially, she painted and prepared 155mm artillery shells until she was promoted to operate the overhead cart system. She described the system similar to a trolleycar. The shells were placed on a conveyor that lifted them 60 feet to the tracks where they fell into the carts. Once the carts were filled, she would drive them across the building to an outdoor opening at which time she would descend to 20 feet and then, via a ladder down another 8 – 10 feet. At which time she used a hook to release the open bottom of the carts into storage containers to be shipped elsewhere for the firing mechanisms to be attached to the collars. She dreaded the days when snow and ice made the entire process rather precarious.
During this time, she met Walt Madison, a Navy Submariner who was home on leave. After Walt's discharge in late 1945, they increasingly spent time together and were married October 10, 1946 in Sterling, CO. They purchased their first home in Cope, which consisted of two rooms complete with a pitcher pump and a path out back. Hilma and Walt worked with her dad, Guy and her brother Bill drilling primarily water wells, but on occasion they drilled for oil. Despite her fear of heights, Hilma could be found in the crow's nest racking pipe in strong winds or even a blizzard so as to get the job done. Eventually, the rig was sold and they sought alternate employment.
The newlyweds enjoyed dancing, arrowhead hunting, playing cards, and fishing, which they often did. Hilma worked for Bud and Betty Shaw at the Cope Food Bank. It was nothing for the four of them to jump into the car after work and head to Bonny Reservoir. If the fish were biting, they fished until dawn and headed home to change clothes before work. Nearly ten years after Hilma and Walt's marriage, Bud and Betty, who were then living in Denver, came to visit. Bud looked at Hilma and jokingly said, "If I didn't know better, I would think that was a hatching jacket." Hilma informed him that it was just that and Bud sank into a chair in disbelief. A couple of months later, Hilma gave birth to Donna Marie. When Donna was a toddler, Hilma worked as a clerk at the Cope post office supervised by Postmaster Lila Wrape. She continued until Lila retired in 1963, then Hilma became Cope's Acting Postmaster.
Upon successful completion of the civil service exam the following year, she received her career appointment in May 1965 and continued as Cope's Postmaster until she retired the fall of 1988. Through the years, Hilma and Marion Rapp wrote to the community's enlisted individuals apprising them of the local happenings, recent weather events and expected dates of discharge of their fellow comrades. They signed the letters simply, Ima Snoop, Cope, Colorado.
In 1973 Hilma and Walt purchased Rex and Anna McIrvin's ranch after the McIrivins retired and began several decades of ranching eventually raising registered Limousin cattle. In 1977, they were blessed with a granddaughter, Julia Marie White. It was decided that Julia and Donna would each receive a calf the next spring. Little did they know, as the girls' cows grew, they continued to produce heifers. By the time Julia graduated from high school, she had accumulated enough money to pay for the first few years of college. Soon after Julia was born, Hilma and Walt purchased Harold and Lila Simpson's grassland and home. After work
and on weekends, Hilma painted walls and baseboards in their new home to which they moved in May 1987.
Hilma's preferred painting, however, was on canvas or occasionally old barn wood. When possible, she attended painting classes to learn new techniques. From mountain scenes to still life, using pastels, acrylics, oils, string and ink, pencils, and even finger painting, she created beautiful works. Many family members and friends proudly display her work.
Throughout her life, Hilma supported various causes when she felt the town in which she lived and bears her maiden name was threatened or the community might be deprived of services. Such as each time there was a threat regarding losing the Bookmobile. She and Walt were avid readers and felt that lack of funding to support the continued Bookmobile presence in remote communities would be an egregious act. On numerous occasions she and others raised community awareness so as to ensure their voices were heard and needs met. As an example, when the Cope Food Bank closed, Hilma and Walt anonymously purchased the store for the community in hopes it would be re-opened and remain viable. It continued to be of great concern to her. Hilma and Walt took great pride in their community and enjoyed the many friendships they developed throughout their lifetime.
Another source of pride was their granddaughter and daughter's educational achievements and career accomplishments. Proudly, Hilma and Walt joined by several family members and friends attended Julia's wedding to Glenn Baux in Pismo Beach California July 17, 2004. In following years, Julia and Glenn blessed them with two great grandsons, Preston Alexander and Riley Anthony. Hilma was very proud of her entire family.
In October 2011, Hilma and Walt celebrated their Sixty-fifth Anniversary. Due to Walt's declining health, they moved to Wray to be near their physician and daughter. Sadly, Walt's health continued to decline and he died in January 2012. Hilma remained active until a few months prior to her death on September 30, 2014.
Hilma was preceded in death by her grandparents, parents, her sister Evelyn and brother Bill, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews. Surviving Hilma is her daughter Donna Roberts and Jim Roberts of Wray; granddaughter Julia and husband Glenn Baux;
great grandsons, Preston and Riley of Monument, CO; sisters Mary Robertson, Greeley, CO and Yuma, AZ; Betty L. Smith of Yuma, CO; sister-in-law, Francine Simants of Sterling, CO; nieces Barb and husband Martin Lalick; Beverly and husband Dan Long; Janice Williams; Tracy and husband Alan Axton; Shirley Clark; nephews Raymond Greeley and wife Bernita; Gerald Waidley and wife Beverly; Fred Simants and wife Rhonda; and other family and friends.
Services were held at the Cope Community Church, October 3, 2014 with Pastor Jack Soehner officiating. Burial followed at the Cope Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Hospice of the Plains or the Cope Recreation Center. Arrangements were conducted by the Spellman-Schmidt Funeral Home.
Helen Keller said "True happiness... is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose." Mom had such fidelity through a strong work ethic and sense of pride. She derived much satisfaction knowing she had done her best and typically, it was to the benefit of others.
With a couple of exceptions. As a young girl, she dearly loved riding horses much to the chagrin of her younger sisters, Mary and Betty. For as much as Mom loved the horses, the girls must have been terrified by them. When asked what she enjoyed most as a girl, she responded she loved to chase the little girls on horseback because it was so much fun.
Apparently, she got her just rewards a couple of times, as Tony was barn sour and head strong. She couldn't stop him and panicked when she noticed that the top half of the barn door was shut tightly as they charged toward it. She quickly flattened herself on his back about the time he went through the bottom door. She escaped with only a few scrapes and by the time she went into the house, she had
broken out in huge hives. The second retribution was when her horse walked into the lagoon for a drink and then rolled while she was still in the saddle.
Another less than stellar trick she played on her younger sisters involved candy. Each week her mother would take cream and eggs to Shepard's store and would receive a check for each. At that time, she quickly determined what she could purchase for the family. When the groceries were purchased, "Shep" would get a small sack and fill it with candy for the children. After arriving home, the candy would be equally distributed between the five and the oldest two would depart with their treats.
At that point Mom would suggest the three of them should play a game. Feed the monkey, and you can imagine who volunteered to be the monkey. She said she rarely caught the candy in her mouth, but would quickly get the missed pieces and eat them. Soon after, her younger sisters realized that their stash had diminished greatly, but Mom's remained. Obviously, Grandma Cope didn't realize what mischief was taking place.
Although mischievous at times, she was also helpful in riding out to gather the herd every evening. They were expected to help with the chores, which included hitting the pillowcases on the clothesline filled with drying corn every time they walked to or from the outside facilities. As the corn dried, Grandma Cope would preserve it so when reconstituted with water, the family had fresh corn throughout the following winter and spring.
In spite of being ornery to her sisters at times, she took great pride in crafting paper dolls made from cherished shoe boxes and blank sheets she cut from the family's books to create paper clothing for them. Which, they enjoyed until Great grandma Zemek found and destroyed them, as she felt if the girls had time on their hands; they should be helping their mother. In later years when Mom and Mary lived with their grandmother Zemek, Mom frequently challenged her rule that everyone must be in the house by nine or be locked out.
In spite of being terrorized by the horseback rider and monkey of yesteryear, Mary was forgiving and would unlock the door so Mom could sneak in. When she wasn't as lucky, she spent the night in the outhouse. She told lifelong friend, Clara Johnston that she spent many a night in the outside privy. Perhaps one of those nights was when she and her classmates not only dismantled a man's buggy, but reassembled it again. On the roof of the schoolhouse!
She would have throttled me had I done such pranks! As she matured, she gained greater appreciation for family, community and country, as evidenced by her work ethic. After we learned of the multiple brain tumors, I asked her to review her life with me at which time I learned more regarding the things mentioned here. When asked what made her most proud she stated my completion of college and the job I have in Hospice makes her proud. She, too, volunteered for Hospice. Mom was never one for random praise, which unfortunately, I inherited, but she could be counted on to write an Atta girl in yearly birthday cards when deserved, so her comment was quite humbling.
She should be praised for the hard work she did as a volunteer selling Hospice cookbooks. Having sold more than $4,000 worth prior to their move to Wray, she and Kathy Smith, who has a set displayed on her desk at the Wray Hospital to sell to interested parties, have had a delightful rivalry. Whenever they would see one another, one would ask how the sales were going. During her last hospital stay in early September, Kathy visited her and mentioned she had sold four sets earlier that day. Later, she brought in a set for Mom noting that since she time on her hands, perhaps she, too could sell more. They had a good laugh. True to form, Mom sold two more sets to hospital staff prior to her discharge to Hillcrest Care Center. She was amazing!
Mom was equally proud of her granddaughter, Julia who as a Master's prepared Speech Language Pathologist, and has held two and three jobs so as to improve the quality of life for the multigenerational individuals she treats. She expressed appreciation, respect and pride for her entire family and their many accomplishments. Mom also took great pride in her years of commitment to our Country; working at Kaiser Industries during WW-II, writing anonymous letters to enlisted individuals under the pen name Ima Snoop at Cope, CO, and more than thirty years as clerk and then Postmaster serving the community her forefather founded.
Mom was an amazingly strong and independent woman up until the end. She taught us a great deal about life, perseverance, compassion, love, caring, and how one's final journey twists and turns. Thankfully, in addition to the wonderful memories, she left her legacy in her paintings, her support for her community and those living within, and instilled a sense of pride and purpose in those who knew her.
She taught us not only to take pride in what we accomplish, but to have faith in what we might attain through fidelity to a worthy purpose. It is with great pride, I called Hilma Madison, Mom.
Published in Akron News-Reporter on Oct. 15, 2014
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