June Shaputis

75, over time she collected hundreds of interesting epitaphs.

June Marian Shaputis was born on July 3, 1944. She passed away at home on Oct. 12, 2019.

She was born in Fresno, Calif. to Minnie June Ford Murdock and Harry Murdock while Harry was enlisted. Later the family returned to Denver, where she met her future husband Larry Shaputis. They were married Oct. 21, 1961. This union produced three sons, Larry Jr., Scot and Shawn Kevin Shaputis.

Shortly after getting married Larry and June moved to Buena Vista. June embraced her life in Buena Vista, adjusting to rural life as she went, sometimes through a series of mishaps. As she was learning the mysteries of high-altitude gardening, she nearly set the house of fire when she decided to sterilize the fertilizer in the microwave.

Animal husbandry was another challenge. For instance, once in panic she called old-time vet Art Dodge to report that her chicken was dead after being mistreated by her 14 roosters to one chicken she’d acquired in a straight run of chickens. Art explained that there was usually one rooster to several chickens and that he assured her that her chicken probably died happy.

The wilderness and beauty of the area inspired her and titillated her imagination. She learned to identify and cook local plants from stacks of books and the advice of colorful locals. She memorized ghost stories that captivated audiences of wide-eyed children cuddled together in the firelight, her own eyes bright from conjuring apparitions from the forest shadows. She haunted local cemeteries, investigated local ghost towns and found great pleasure walking down shadowy, dirt roads.

She channeled her love of history in interesting ways as well. She used to joke about collecting dead people. Over time she collected hundreds of interesting epitaphs. One of her favorites was inscribed on the tombstone of a hypochondriac that stated emphatically, “I told you I was sick.” She turned that body of knowledge into cemetery tours where she’d charm the groups with local history and funny headstone epitaphs.

Her passion for history also propelled her to become a local historian. In order to earn money for the history museum on Main Street she, along with Suzanne Kelly and others, wrote “A History of Chaffee County,” 1982; “Chaffee County Colorado Burials,” 1987. Later, she chronicled burials and historical facts in a book called, “Where the Bodies Are,” 1995.

Melodrama was another of June’s passions. She was a natural ham, so she sashayed around the stage in boas playing madams and villainesses. Chuck Nachtrieb, a fellow thespian and dear friend, was fond of calling her Her Royal Plumptatodness. He played villain to her villainess in “He Promised Me Roses.”

June’s husband Larry would build the sets and together they’d jump head first into every production available. Once while a show was running she was thrown off a horse and injured her back. Her friend and fellow actor, Linda Bryant, recalled that she would act in a scene where she played the sheriff and she’d make her exit only to have to be hoisted on and off the stage by stagehands and actors because she was in so much pain. The show must go on.

She threw herself into volunteer work as well. She became an EMT, and was part of the women’s auxiliary. She volunteered answering the crisis line, becoming a 4-H leader and curating the Buena Vista Heritage Museum for nearly 20 years.

June is survived by husband Larry Shaputis; step-dad Lee Ryan; sisters Patty McDonough (Jeff Schippel), Jeanette McDonough (Patrick Horton) and Virginia Cook; sisters-in-law Sally Shaputis Olney and Francis Shaputis Gross; brother-in-law Donald Shaputis; nieces Whendy Widener, Danielle McDonough, Lina Berry, and Erin Kyle, Linda Shaputis, Karen Shaputis, Joanne Gross, Dena Lynn Gross, Jolene Vernon; nephews Allen Cook (April), Ed Cook (Kenny Peters), James Scot, Michael Shaputis; grandson Raleigh Alexander Shaputis; numerous cousins, aunts, uncles and others.

She was preceded in death by her sons Larry Shaputis Jr., Scot Allen Shaputis, mother Minnie June Ryan, father Harry Murdock and beloved step-father Daniel J. McDonough whom she called Dad.