by Dawne Belloise
Tom and Mary Martin essentially grew up in Crested Butte. When you’re 23 years young and looking only for adventure and powder days, somehow, as years fly by, you become an integral part of the community, along the way learning a lot about yourself and life.
That appears to be the story with so many of our longtime locals, but especially so with Tom, Crested Butte’s retiring chief marshal, and Mary, who’s been serving townsfolk and tourists at Marchitelli’s Gourmet Noodle for 20 years.
The couple is moving on to greener greens and warmer climes in Surprise, Ariz. next week, but not before a well-earned celebration. First, on Thursday, October 6 at 4 p.m. at Rainbow Park there’ll be a gathering to honor Tom’s 32 years of service to the town and officially recognize the changing of command as Mike Reily takes over as chief marshal.
Then the town and Michael Marchitelli team up to host a send-off retirement party and community picnic for the couple on Friday, October 7, at Rainbow Park, between noon and 4 p.m.
“We’d like people to come by so we can take the opportunity to tell them thanks for allowing us to serve you over the years. We’ve been the fortunate ones,” Tom smiles. The entire community is invited.
Tom arrived on the burgeoning ski town scene of Crested Butte in 1974 to visit a high school buddy who was attending Western State College. He had never skied before, although his dad would take Colorado ski trips from their home in Aurora, Ill. After spending a week here, Tom decided to stay for the entire 1975-76 winter, working the typical multiple jobs to enable him to live the dream—he cleaned condos and worked as a dish diver for John Bernald at a breakfast place.
“I lived in a house at First and Elk for $125 a month between six of us,” he muses. “Our rent was $21 each and I couldn’t find rent most of the time because I skied all the time. The only source of heat was a pot-bellied stove. We had icicles in our closet. Life was really good though.” Tom laughs about those early times in the rustic and unknown ski town that saw an influx of many ski bums, hippies and hopefuls, the now long-timers who are somewhat longer in the tooth these days.
It was a time of simplicity, a much smaller and less expensive community, however. Tom recalls his priorities. “I didn’t have a dime in my pocket for a cookie at the bakery. Mostly, I was a ski bum and because I was a product of the ‘70s, we tended to party a little bit back then.” Tom returned to Crested Butte from his summer job in Illinois for the ski season of 1976-77, arriving for the notorious winter of “Un” when the snow never came.
“I made it to March 1, because no snow meant no jobs. They were bringing in snow from Kebler to Warming House Hill.” But he was hooked on the lifestyle and the town so he returned the following winter, and lo, there was snow.
Mary Covelli was in college in Aurora, Ill., when she and Tom were reintroduced in June 1977. They had known each other in high school. “The whole time we were dating, Tom kept talking about the Gunnison Valley and how we should move there. I had never heard of it, didn’t know what it was like or what kind of winters there were,” she recalled.
Mary left her teaching job in Illinois and moved west with Tom in October 1978, trading her career in elementary education for a manager’s position at the old Paradise Warming House. As life moved on, as Mary puts it, “having kids and all,” she stayed in the restaurant business, moving from Paradise to the Alpenhof for many years, on to Penelope’s, then finally the Gourmet Noodle for the last 20 years.
“We lived at Chadlington House on the mountain for several years. The only reason we moved up to Mt. Crested Butte was because we could watch the Cubs on cable TV,” Mary smiles. “We were young, naïve hippies. We evolved like everybody else.”
Tom adds, “We had our first child, Brian, in 1982, and that started the whole process of growing up. Our second son, Matt, was born in 1984 and that was 10 days after I started working for the Marshal’s Department. Our daughter Katie came along in ‘87. They were all raised here and all of them graduated from Crested Butte Community School.”
Tom says the simple truth to his landing a police job was through racquetball. “I grew up playing a lot of racquetball,” he explains. One day at the courts, neither his partner nor Rich Largo’s partner showed up, so they played. Largo was the chief marshal at the time and afterwards the two sat in the lounge chatting.
“He asked if I had any interest in being a marshal. I told him I had an interest back in high school,” Tom says. Largo called Tom three days later to offer him a job. “That’s the way we did it back then. You had one year to go to school. Our uniforms were blue jeans, blue flannel shirts and a brown western leather vest. I carried a shoulder holster but the gun came a year later,” because, Tom remembers, he was goaded into carrying one.
Over the years Tom says the nature of town’s law enforcement hasn’t changed drastically. “A lot of our problems are alcohol-related,” he tells, and there’s no surprise there.”
Martin continued, “We don’t really have a lot of crimes against people like other communities have. We still have the same issues and caseloads we had before, whether it’s DUI, drunks, disorderlies, fights, barrooms brawls or domestics. It really hasn’t changed that much but there’s just more of it now because we have more people. The demand for service has gone up because of the increase of people in town.”
Tom reflects on all the events that make this town so attractive and unique—the Fourth of July, the bike events, Big Air, Halloween, Vinotok, to name a few—and he feels, “We have our cast of town characters and so many people all seem to enjoy our events and we enjoy ourselves as a community. It’s been a pleasure to help orchestrate that and to allow the things that need to be allowed, and deal with the things that don’t need to be part of it. I think the cop shop has been really good at deciphering what’s working and not working and I think we’ve done a really good job of that and I’m proud of that. I think we’ve been really fair and in this community, you’ve got to be.”
Tom enjoyed what he termed the highlight of his career when the Whatever event transformed downtown into a concert and event venue. “I worried for months about traffic, but it was the best party for 48 hours. Everybody appreciated all of us, and I’ve never felt better energy in Crested Butte. I was buzzed just from the energy in the air and it was a picturesque afternoon. I saw so many locals in their fifties and sixties having a great time.”
Despite that they’ve been town pillars for decades, both Tom and Mary are amused that many locals don’t realize that they’re a couple. “A lot of people know who I am, and a lot of people know who Mary from the Noodle is, but a lot of people haven’t always put us together. The story goes like this,” he chuckles.
“One day, Nancy Osmundson was in Clark’s Market, and Mary and I were probably acting all giddy like lovebirds. Nancy knew Mary from the Noodle and knew me from the Marshal’s Office, so she knew us both, and she went home and told her husband Oz, ‘You know who would make a really good couple? Tom and Mary.’ And Oz said, ‘Yeah, they’ve been married 36 years.’”
Tom notes that there are so many new people here. “I was doing a bar check one Vinotok and some younger kid asked me if I was the new guy and how long I had been with the Marshal’s Office,” he laughed. “They don’t know your background but we’ve paid our dues.”
Mary has witnessed the changes over the years, and notes, “We used to walk down the street and know everybody. But it’s still a great community and I love it and I will miss it.”
But don’t worry, they’ll continue to be part of the fabric of this community, since they plan to spend summers here interspersed with travel, accommodating their major golfing disorder and spending time with their kids and grandchildren.
They both feel an everlasting bond and appreciation for Crested Butte. “It’s been incredible,” Tom says fondly, and Mary adds, “We call it the incredible journey.”
The truth is, this community is forever grateful for your service and dedication. Thanks, both of you, and best of luck on your adventure.