Veterans, community rededicate historic chapel

MONTE VISTA — The Paden-Meyer Memorial Chapel came back to life Saturday afternoon with music, memories and prayer.

The benediction was offered by Rev. Gary Gardner, who said the memorials on the Homelake campus were not only to the enemies the United States fought, but the lives that were saved.

Built in 1898 to fulfill the needs of veterans at the Soldiers and Sailors Home, the chapel had fallen into disrepair over the years and, with the help of grants and elbow grease, was restored over the years to again serve those needs.

Administrator Mindy Montague said the renovation had been completed without a hitch.

Music was provided by the Coro Allegre de San Jose.

Home to baptisms, weddings and funerals, along with routine worship, the chapel is a centerpiece of the Colorado State Veterans Community Living Center (CSVCLC) campus.

Built of locally quarried rhyolite, the chapel had an apartment upstairs and had also served as a movie theater.

It was called “assembly hall” in 1911 when a motion picture machine was purchased.

The fate of the chapel was that of many other historic buildings when a fire destroyed the apartment, so the top of the chapel was redone, but it was still in disrepair and closed in 2005.

Enter Ralph Outcalt who, in 1965, had donated items worth about $200,000 to preserve the historic structures on the center’s campus.  The Ralph Outcalt Foundation was founded and board member Karla Shriver spoke about Outcalt’s love for the veterans’ center. His brother was laid to rest among the white gravestones that stand at attention nearby.

She spoke about Outcalt’s possible reaction, should he have been alive to attend the ceremony.

Among the speakers were Dorothy Chambers and Sue Gets, who talked of growing up in families connected to the veterans’ center.

Former State Senator Lewis H. Entz said his family has long been tied to the center. Two of his sisters and a brother-in-law worked on the center campus in the 1930s. One sister worked in the laundry and the other in the dining hall.

Entz has championed CSVCLC so much that a joke in the legislature was that the “H” in his name stood for Homelake.

“All the time I was in Denver, I told the people there that we are here — in the San Luis Valley,” Entz said, The center has been called Homelake since the early days, when the nearby lake became part of a deal to acquire the property and beat Denver to the governmental table in establishing a home for disabled and indigent veterans of the Civil and Spanish American wars.

The original donation included perpetual water rights plus 90 artesian wells, 1,000 cottonwood trees, rock and sand with which to build and a small swampy lake, then called Stanger Lake. The donations totaled $24,500, a generous sum at the time.

The site near Monte Vista was determined by the donation of land by two Monte Vista families, who continued to farm the acreage around the home for years. There was also a dairy on the property, making the center self-sufficient.

The first resident was admitted in November 1891. Shortly thereafter a cemetery was established at the Home between 1898-1905 the barracks, commander’s residence, administration building and chapel were added to the community.   More than 4,000 veterans have lived at the facility -- starting with those from the Civil War and continuing to those from current conflicts.

Caption: Celebrating Veterans Day events at the Colorado State Veterans Community Living Center (CSVCLC) were, from left, Korean War-era veteran Lewis H. Entz, Dr. Manert Kennedy, a Korean Combat veteran who fought at Chosin Reservoir and Eugene Farish, a former U.S. Army Ranger. Courier photos by Sylvia Lobato