She came to Eagle County with her husband Willie in 1959. Think about that. What in the world was here in 1959? For those of us that say we have been here for 20+ years and think it deserves an award for longevity, take a seat.
Millie Barela was not even married a year when Willie was lucky enough to land a job with the Gillman Mine operation. Their plan was to settle right here in Minturn and start their forever adventure together. They rented a house “on the other side of the tracks” for $22/month. They saved what money was coming in and bought their first and last house for (and this is not an over or under exaggeration) $650.00. Life was good and Willie was making such a good wage ($1.20/hour) that Millie did not need to work. Her job was to get ready for the camping and fishing trips they would do in their free time.
Being the progressive young woman that she is, Millie decided she wanted a car. It was 1964 and Vail was a place that still wasn’t on the map, but things were starting to happen. The Christiania Lodge was hiring and Ted Kindal gave Millie one of the first housekeeping jobs ever in Vail. She car pooled with her friend Lucille until she could buy her Jeep. She learned to ski with the originals on Vail Mountain, but really preferred skiing Meadow Mountain in Minturn. Yes there was a ski area where sled hill is now and as Millie describes it, “they had a chair lift and a place to drink coffee at the bottom”.
The years past at the Christiania and Millie commanded the respect she was due. Her pay escalated to $1.90/hr. In 1972, when the Antlers was still operated by Gore Range Properties, she applied and was hired as Head Housekeeper “by a guy named Richard, I think”. I asked her why she changed jobs and she simply said “more money, they paid me $2.50/hour”.
That is the rest of the story and it ends this year. After 37 years with the Antlers, Millie Barela is going to retire and this time she means it. We could speak all the stereotype phrases, “she will be missed”, “how can we replace her”, “the place won’t be the same”, but Millie deserves more than that. It’s not very often that an employee and a beautiful person can walk away from your daily life and truly have an impact on how you carry on.
Her gift to all of us, our owners, and guests is the gift of example. We all need to pattern ourselves as she has lived and worked. That is the legacy of Millie Barela.
(Of course she will be missed, but we can understand she wants to spend more time with Willie and all those beautiful grand-kids). We love ya” Millie.
Have a story or a fond memory? Feel free to leave a comment for her.