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The 1980s:Simpler life for Richard Staller, who opened his medical practice in ’83

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Tucked away from the cacophony of the city, life in Evergreen was quieter and simpler in the 1980s — at least for Richard Staller, Evergreen’s first osteopathic doctor.

“My wife and I wanted to be in Colorado. … Dr. Bob Sealby here in Evergreen was looking for someone to come in and take over his practice, so I called him and came out,” said Staller. “It was one of the few rainy days that we had here in 1982, and it seemed like what I was looking for — a small-town family practice, where I could be close to people and see generations of people grow up.”

Staller and his wife Kathy, now a special education teacher with Jeffco Public Schools, moved to Colorado in 1983 and “hung our shingle up in Kittredge” before moving “from the suburb of Evergreen to Evergreen proper” a couple of years later.

At the time, Staller’s practice involved a lot of things that residents would be hard pressed to find now — house calls that involved the proverbial black medical bag, treating patients for free or in exchange for goods such as fresh eggs, and treating major lacerations or other injuries in person instead of sending patients to nearby hospitals.

His practice also involved three generations of patients, many of whom became neighbors or friendly faces he would see at the grocery store or the post office.

“In the ‘80s, there was still more of a local pride about being an Evergreen resident — being here and being part of the community,” he said. “We were kind of in it together. You had neighbors that if you got into trouble, they’d help you out.”

The culture in and around Evergreen was a little different, too. Staller remembers a big ranching community and a “cowboy culture” that he feels has largely disappeared, apart from Evergreen’s annual rodeo weekend.

Still, Staller appreciates that Evergreen’s music scene remains as rich as it was in the 1980s when Willie Nelson and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band co-founder John McEuen — among others — could be found playing at the Little Bear Saloon or tooling around town. Staller himself played music at a number of Evergreen’s venues as a member of No Longer Boys.

Staller also appreciates Evergreen as a great place to raise his two children — Sara, now 36, and Alexander, now 33.

“I feel like they were insulated from a lot of the problems of the city, but still grew up with a world-mindedness, understanding the oneness of humanity and the idea of service,” he said. “I think they’ve both really internalized those feelings like we have. There was a good opportunity to experience friends that had money and people that didn’t in this area, as well.”

Staller said that even with the changes Evergreen has undergone over the past couple decades — from more traffic and more stoplights, to access to 911 dispatch and the end of four-party call lines, to the increased population and real estate development — it’s that sense of community that has kept him in Evergreen for the past 35 years and will continue to anchor him to town even as he moves into retirement.

“I really just fell in love with Evergreen. I love the area, the weather and the people. We have a lot of roots here,” he said.