Among the many accomplished women in North Denver’s long history, Theo Eson stands out from the crowd. Born Theodosia Belle Keith in Grand Junction, Colorado, in 1908, my grandmother was an acclaimed and versatile writer, small-business owner, mother of three, and longtime church administrator. Along with the many challenges faced by talented women in the first part of the twentieth century, Theo overcame the additional obstacle of being a disabled person: she was born without a left forearm.
In 1924, Theo married my grandfather, Eric Eson, who had served in World War I on a Navy submarine. The marriage took place in a house in North Denver on Foster Ct., which belonged to Eric’s parents. The couple later had three children, including my father Edward, and eventually bought a house on Moncrieff Pl. and Wolff St., across from Pferdesteller Park, where they lived for many years and which was the site of my parents’ marriage in 1952.
Theo was always very active in her church. In middle age, she served as Chairman of the Board of Deacons for Boulevard Congregational, on 26th and Federal. She was also a savvy businesswoman. In the 1930s, she and Eric established a successful family business: Eson’s Dry Cleaners, on 29th and Yates. Here, through long hours of work, they were able to sustain the family through the difficult years of the Depression. Later, in the 1940s, the teenage boys, Ed and Bob, served as ushers at the Elitch Theatre, which continued Theo’s long love affair with Elitch Gardens. Later, in the 1970s, Theo and her daughter, Lorraine, were both featured in interviews for a Channel 6 documentary on the history of Elitch’s.
In the early 50s, Theo and Eric bought creek-side property upstream from the town of Nederland, which fueled my grandmother’s long-standing interest in Colorado history and led to one of her first publications, “A Tale of Two Towns,” which related the early history of Nederland and Caribou. In the late 1950s, the couple moved into the El Jebel Temple, north of Willis Case Golf Course, where Eric, a lifelong Shriner, worked as caretaker until his death in 1963. It was during this time that Theo came into her own as a writer, working in the 1960s as a weekly columnist for the Denver Post on issues of local interest. Later, in the 1970s, she wrote for the nationally syndicated Quilter’s Newsletter, a weekly column called “Grandma’s Corner” that achieved great popularity over the years. Among Theo’s many other writing projects was a young adult novel she co-authored in 1982 with two of her female writer friends, entitled The Mystery of the Cougar’s Yellow Eye. The book’s authorship was ascribed to one Lance Fremont, a pseudonym the women had adopted as a cipher for “freelancer.” Theo continued to write off and on over the years until her passing at the age of 92 in 2000. During her long career as a writer, she served in many leadership roles, including President of the Denver Branch of the National League of Pen Women and State President of Colorado Press Women. Over the years, she also garnered 21 state and national writing awards.
Larry Eson, Ph.D., is a retired college English professor and expert in Medieval Celtic Literature. He lives in Lakewood, CO.