Longtime Paonia resident and educator, Raymond Den Beste, 93, died of natural causes on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2011. Raymond was born Feb. 3, 1918, in Crawford, Colo., to William and Nettie (Sipma) Den Beste, the ninth among five brothers and five sisters.
The family was devout, hardworking and known for their musical talent. He grew up singing with his brothers and sisters, and he and his brothers would form a barbershop quartet whenever four of them were together.
Raymond attended school in Crawford and graduated in 1937. He attended Mesa Junior College in Grand Junction, Colo., and played on their Rocky Mountain Junior College championship team. Raymond received an associate degree and a one-year teaching certificate. Embarking on his long career as a teacher, he taught in Appleton, Colo., for one year, where he taught sixth grade and coached the high school football team to a perfect winning record, and coached their winning basketball team. He transferred to Western State College and graduated in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in music education and mathematics. While attending Western State College he met the love of his life, Nina Loucks. After graduation, Raymond taught at Hotchkiss High School. He and Nina were married on June 9, 1943, in Hotchkiss, Colo.
In July 1943, Raymond was drafted into the Army Air Corps and was stationed at Alexandria Air Force Base, La. He was assigned to the base band and was in charge of the smaller dance band. This unit was given a citation for excellence from the 469th Combat Crew commander. The band entertained troops who were on their way overseas and the wounded when they returned home. At the end of the war, he was recruited to play for Les Brown and his Band of Renown as a bass fiddle player, but declined, deeming it an unfit vocation for a family man.
After his discharge from the Army Air Corps, Raymond returned to Colorado and took a teaching position as band director and math teacher at Paonia High School. He also directed the Paonia Junior High Band and gave private lessons for many years. During his tenure at Paonia, he became well-known for his excellent bands. People often traveled from other towns to hear the Paonia pep band play at sporting events. He received his master's degree from Western State College in 1952. In 1954 he was chosen to become a member of the First Chair of America, which honored the outstanding high school bands in the United States. This turned into a lifetime membership and in 1967 he was honored by First Chair of America as one of the 10 outstanding high school directors in the nation. In 1958 and 1959 he garnered superior ratings in all areas for his band, Boys' Chorus and Mixed Chorus at the Western Colorado Music Festival. He loved teaching math and music, but often included life lessons in his classes. Prior to retiring in 1974 with 30 years of teaching, he taught one year each at Crawford Junior High and Hotchkiss Elementary. In retirement, Raymond remained actively involved with local schools, serving as clock operator for basketball games, helping coach the tennis team as a volunteer, and attending all sporting events at home and away. He also conducted occasional band clinics throughout Western Colorado.
He was an avid hunter, fly fisherman, snowmobiler and loved going on jeep trips. He enjoyed watching the Denver Broncos, University of Colorado football and the Colorado Rockies. His favorite destination was 80 acres and a cabin on Black Mesa, southeast of Crawford, Colo. He loved spending time with his family of several generations.
Raymond was a member of the Paonia United Methodist Church, sang in the choir, and taught the high school Sunday school class for many years.
Raymond was preceded in death by his parents, five sisters and five brothers.
He is survived by his wife and best friend of 68 years, Nina of Paonia, Colo.; two daughters and their husbands, Ruella and Larry Kontour of Crawford, Colo., and Karen and Stephen McKee of Palisade, Colo.; four grandsons, Craig (Kim) McKee, Garth McKee, Kyle (Jenny) Kontour and Kurt (Katie) Kontour. He is also survived by great-granddaughters, Allannis (Jon) White, Myra Sanchez, Ilia McKee, Danae and Halee McKee, and Mairi and Laurielle Kontour; great-great-grandsons, Rylan and Sylus White; and numerous nieces and nephews.
An informal sharing of memories will be held at the Paonia United Methodist Church at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, with a memorial service at the Paonia United Methodist Church at 10 a.m., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice and Palliative Care of Western Colorado, P.O. Box 24, Delta, CO 81416, or the Paonia United Methodist Church Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 157, Paonia, CO 81428.
Arrangements are under the care and direction of Taylor Funeral Service and Crematory. View the Internet obituary and sign the online guest registry at taylorfuneralservice.com.
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