“How Bob Painter and Jan Gillespie Met”
I went back to school at Colorado A&M, an agricultural/mechanical college. I didn’t have a place to stay because I wanted to stay at the riding stables. At that time they had a riding stable so they could teach riding to college students. Prior to World War II, Colorado A&M had been an artillery unit of the ROTC. They had artillery horses that moved military equipment around. When World War II started, the program had been dropped. But, the stables were still in use. In the 1950’s the units were turned over to the college of agriculture for their horse program. Every year they hired two young men to live at the stable and take care of the horses. In the fall of 1957, I didn’t have a place to stay, but I hoped to get a job at the riding stables. The stable boys were furnished an apartment as part of their wages. Upon arrival, before I went any where else, I talked to Al Richardson, the stable manager, and asked for the job. Al took me to the tack room to introduce me to the girls who were boarding horses there. I noticed a girl wearing a black, flat-brimmed hat. Jan’s hat was something that stood out and made me take notice of her. I was not so sure that I liked the flat brim. I was used to the traditional western hat with a rolled brim. Stan, the other stable boy and I took care of the horses, cleaned the stalls, and did other chores. There were about thirty horses. Besides the boarders, there were fifteen or twenty horses for the riding program. The man who was in charge of the stables also taught lessons to the college students.
As time went by, Jan and I got pretty well acquainted. I was no longer concerned about the flat-brimmed hat. Jan stayed at Rock Well Hall. There was a curfew for the girls: 9:00 on school nights and 11:00 on weekends. We came back to the dorm after a date and since we were a little early, we waited in the car until the curfew was up. We were visiting and I said to Jan, “Maybe we should get married”. I was lying with my head in Jan’s lap. Her response was, “Where would we live?” Well, we left it there, as curfew was up! Jan needed to run back into the dorm before the doors were locked! That was only an introduction to my marriage proposal.
Later on in the school term, Jan caught a ride to Sturgis with Verna McNenny. I went to Sturgis and picked Jan up and took her back to Belle Fourche to meet my parents. This was in the fall of 1957. When I introduced her to the family, and told them she was from New Mexico, my sister Helen asked, “Is she a Mexican?” This statement embarrassed my mother terribly. More importantly, my brothers and sisters loved Jan and were so glad to meet her. She was very pretty, somewhat shy, and gracious.
During that school year, Jan and I spent a lot of time studying together, going to movies, attending the National Western Livestock Show in Denver Colorado, going to rodeo club, and to the livestock club. I was impressed with Jan’s many talents and abilities, her exquisite handwriting, and her photographic memory. She was a seamstress and could sew wonderful western clothing. She tooled leather and was good with mechanics. She was also the supreme equestrian, if ever there ever was one. Jan was in the “Little National Western” livestock show with her horse, sponsored by the CSU Livestock Club. She was able to win numerous awards.
A memorable incident happened when Jan was jumping on her horse, Brandy. Another girl, Annette Jump from Denver was in the class competing against Jan. Annette had a horse that was a beautiful, big jumper, much bigger and better-looking than Brandy. At the end of the competition, there were only two horses left, Jan’s and Annette Jump’s – their scores were tied. So the bars on the jumps were raised. Annette Jump went first, and had one fault, meaning that her horse knocked one bar off when it jumped. Jan, on Brandy, came next. Jan completed the course with a no-fault run, and won first place. This was important to Jan and me, as we felt Jan’s horse was more plain and humble, that she herself had trained while the other horse was more on the professional level.
Jan and I parted in March of 1958 so that I could return home and work on the ranch in South Dakota for the summer. Jan’s mother insisted that we wait until the end of the summer in August to see each other again and to get married. Now, in my later years, I feel she wanted to see if our romance was strong enough to withstand the test of time. This separation was for six months which seemed like forever to me. I don’t blame Helen Gillespie now as I see she was being protective of her very precious daughter. I am thankful that she thought of Jan as a treasure as I, too, believe she is. Please see the pictures of Jan on our wedding day.
Much more could be said, so for the sake of time I wish to end by saying that Jan has been a tremendous blessing in my life. I feel grateful for her and believe that my attraction to her was meant to be. My mother told me that Jan was a good choice and that my Grandmother Painter, a very particular lady, would approve of Jan Gillespie. That was a true litmus test in my way of thinking. That statement was also a surefire vote from my mother if ever there was one. Grandma Painter didn’t attend a single one of her son’s weddings because she felt the girls didn’t measure up.
I am thankful for Jan and for our three beloved children, Heidi, Rob, and Nathan; their spouses and children. These words cannot say how precious they are. The love we feel for Jan cannot be measured. We are all fortunate that we ever knew Jan, for the lovely person that she is and ever will continue to be.