Nina May Den Beste, 96, passed away peacefully on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018, at the Crossroads Memory Care facility in Delta, Colo. She was born in Eckert, Colo., on July 23, 1921, to Rufus G. and Viva Pyle Loucks, the middle child of five. Soon after, the family moved to Cactus Park just east of Cedaredge, Colo. While growing up, she preferred the outdoors, traveling by horseback with her dad to check trap lines and helping with the haying, even though she had three brothers. She enjoyed hunting with her family, and always got her meat. She attended school in Cedaredge, graduating in 1939 as class salutatorian. The following fall she moved to Gunnison, Colo., to attend Western State College and earned a degree in Physical and Elementary Education and at a later date her Master's Degree. While an undergraduate at Western State College, she played a short time on the women's football team and was the second woman to climb the Curecanti Needle in Black Canyon.
After graduating, she married Raymond Den Beste in Hotchkiss, Colo., on June 9, 1943. They then moved to Alexandria, La., where Ray was stationed during World War II. After the war, they returned to Paonia, Colo., where Ray was a teacher at Paonia High School. In 1953, Nina began teaching at Paonia Junior High and remained there until she retired after 29 years of teaching. Her students learned by the many innovative ideas she used to help them understand mathematical concepts. She was the first high school volleyball coach in Paonia. In retirement she remained active with the Paonia schools, attending all high school events, both at home and in other towns, supporting the youth. She and Ray were honored by the Paonia High School sports teams as their outstanding fans. After retirement, she and Ray helped coach the Paonia High School tennis team. She quit playing tennis at the age of 91.
Nina was an exceptional artist and painted many pictures for her family. Numerous family members were the recipients of sweaters knitted by her. Hating to be idle, she spent quiet times working word puzzles and reading. She loved fly fishing, snowmobiling, and tennis and always watched the Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos, and Colorado Rockies. She was active in the community and a 72-year member of the Paonia United Methodist Church, where she sang in the choir and performed solos and duets with Ray. She and Ray spent many summers at their cabin on Black Mesa where she loved hiking, riding horses, and hunting with her sons-in-law and four grandsons. She enjoyed sharing "camp" with family and friends, and on her 80th birthday played volleyball on the uneven terrain at "camp" with her family. Nina and Ray celebrated 62 years together before he died on Dec. 19, 2011.
She is survived by her brother JD of Montana; daughters Ruella Kontour (Larry) of Crawford, Colo., and Karen McKee (Steve) of Palisade, Colo. She is also survived by four grandsons, Craig McKee (Kim), Garth McKee (Telicia), Kyle Kontour (Jenny), and Kurt Kontour (Katie); 11 great-grandchildren, Allannis (Jon), Myra, Ilia, Miranda, Danae, Halee, Mairi, Laurielle, Rowan, and Anaya; and five great-great-grandchildren, Rylan, Sylus, Kyler, Eylijah, and Lyllianna, and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Ray; her parents, Rufus and Viva; her sister, Georgia (Dode) Peterson; and two brothers, Ruel (Bus) and Jack Loucks; and great-granddaughter, River.
Services are pending. Donations in her name may be sent to HopeWest, PO Box 24, Delta, CO 81416 and Paonia United Methodist Church, 3rd and Onarga, Paonia, CO 81428.