County’s oldest native dies at 98 |

County’s oldest native dies at 98

John Sandelin's graveside services to be held Thursday

Brandon Gee

John Sandelin, county's oldest native, dies at 98.

John Edward Sandelin, believed to be Routt County’s oldest living native, died Thursday at his North Routt home surrounded by family.

Graveside services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday at Elk Mountain Cemetery. A lunch for Sandelin’s family and close friends will follow at his ranch.

Sandelin, 98, was born Jan. 22, 1910, in the Fly Gulch area of North Routt County near the foot of the Sleeping Giant on a ranch that is now owned by his nephew David. Sandelin spent all but a few years of his life in Routt County. He spent those years following a variety of pursuits including rancher, guide and outfitter, hotelier, gas station operator, volunteer firefighter and more.

According to an obituary written by his family, Sandelin was the last survivor of the Steamboat Springs High School class of 1929.

“I do anything that comes along,” Sandelin told the Steamboat Pilot & Today on the eve of his 98th birthday earlier this year. “In other words, I didn’t have time to travel the world like a lot of people do. I had too much to do at home. I was busy at home all the time.”

During the January interview, a blind Sandelin ate breakfast at his kitchen table in a cowboy hat with the family members who cared for him. Among other memories, he recalled fighting one of Routt County’s most famous fires. In January 1939, the Cabin Hotel in Steamboat Springs burned to the ground in what was pegged the most destructive fire in the history of Northwest Colorado. Two people died in the blaze.

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Sandelin’s daughter and caretaker Marie Henderson said Sandelin started each day by drinking a quart of warm water.

“That’s his secret,” said Henderson, who also noted her father stayed away from drinking, smoking and drugs. Henderson is one of Sandelin’s two daughters. He also has four sons.

Sandelin watched out for others’ health along with his own. Employing skills he learned in the Navy, Sandelin joined country doctor F.E. Willett on rural house calls in the doctor’s Studebaker.

On the eve of his 98th birthday, most of Sandelin’s responses were labored and straightforward. But he became spirited and laughed remembering his late wife and school-day sweetheart, Katherine, who died in 1994 after the two had been married 66 years.

“He had a long, wonderful life,” friend Charlene Stees said Monday. “I think, for me anyway, he was a world of local history knowledge.”

Stees said she would miss Sandelin’s friendship – and his bluntness.

“He said what he thought and he minced no words,” Stees said, “but he was usually right.”

Sandelin was a vocal critic of government, and he always was willing to meet with politicians and take them to task in letters to the editor. His last letter to the editor was published in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on April 10, 2004. In January, Sandelin still didn’t hesitate to share his thoughts about growth and the future of Routt County.

He said the most notable changes to the county in his life have been “the people, and of course they built it up whenever there was a dime to be made.”

“My advice to the people already here would be to take care of what you’ve got,” Sandelin said. “Don’t be trying to get more stuff to come in and raise hell and remake the county. We don’t need any more help.”

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Sandelin’s memory to the hospice program in care of Yampa Valley Funeral Home, P.O. Box 776090, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477. For more information, call the funeral home at 879-1494.

– To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

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