A woman of mystery passes
Edna Pooler remembered for ‘greeter’ efforts in two towns... but who was she, really?
She may have been a silent-film movie actress. She may also have been related to John Francisco, who founded La Veta and
was the namesake of an Old Colorado City building (the Francisco House in the 2500 block). It's certain that Edna Francisco
Pooler involved herself in many activities that nobody will ever know about.
The amiable, dapper-dressing, quietly secretive woman - her tiny, stooped figure was well known in both Old Colorado City and Cripple Creek - died on the Westside Oct. 8 at the age of 88, evidently of natural causes. “Miss Edna,” as she was often known, was buried Oct. 17 next to her husband, James Sr., in the Pooler family plot at the Elmwood Cemetery in Beloit, Kan.
“She was a wonderful lady,” said Jackie Matz, a Divide resident who knew her chiefly from Cripple Creek activities. “She helped out every way she could. She was always at all the events and went to the balls and dances.”
Old Colorado City leader Dave Hughes met her and her husband in 1976, when she got involved with the city's Colorado Centennial project that Hughes was in charge of. In more recent years, she would often be seen at the Old Colorado City History Center. “She would always dress as a pioneer woman,” he said. “She would be a greeter at all the historical events we had.”
Mike Coletta, who produces a Colorado Springs news blog (newsblab.com), said he got to know her over time. A unique aspect, he observed, was that even though she had no title, influence or money, “they would put her with all the VIPs” at special events, such as the Veterans' Day Parade.
“She was so nice,” he recalled. “I thought she would never die. She was like a walking spirit.”
One of her most recent activities was serving as a volunteer greeter and head of used-book donations for the past four years at the Aspen Mine, a consortium of service agencies in Cripple Creek.
“I think she was the most independent 88-year-old woman I will ever meet,” said Aspen Mine coordinator Ted Borden. “She had a tremendous love for this community. She really enjoyed talking to people and finding out where they're from.”
Borden additionally described her as a “very private person” who “didn't like to talk about her past.”
This seems to have been a universal style for the lady, based on Pioneer interviews with different people - including her son, Jim Pooler, and younger sister, Violet Zinn.
Asked about her genealogy and possible relationship to the Colorado John Francisco, her son replied, “You're asking the million-dollar question. I don't know. There are bits and pieces, something with the Civil War… She moved around all those years. It was very hard to follow.”
Colorado author/historian Jan McKell had a report about Edna's husband directing a movie at one time in which his wife appeared, called “The Villain.” However, this could not be confirmed in a search of the Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com). Nor is there any indication that Mr. Pooler, whose career endeavors were generally engineering-related, ever was involved in movie-making. Still, it is true that she and her husband were in California for a number of years, not all of which are accounted for.
Mrs. Zinn said she pretty much lost contact with her sister for about 25 years after high school, and that they were never extremely close. She had never even heard the story about the Colorado John Francisco. Her knowledge of her grandfather, also named John Francisco, is that he was born in Indiana (the Colorado Francisco was born in Virginia) and that he would have been fighting in the Civil War in 1862, not founding a town in Colorado. Still, there are some tantalizing similiarities, in addition to the name (such as military background and time spent in Missouri); also, Mrs. Zinn said she has not delved fully into all the family papers at her disposal, including, now, those of her sister.
General aspects of Miss Edna's life can be pieced together. Born in 1917, she grew up in Kansas and graduated from Beloit High School. She was evidently eager for life, marrying in 1934 and taking off for California shortly after graduation.
She and her husband moved around a great deal, additionally living in Kansas, Montana and Oklahoma. Both of them worked. She was with the phone company “off and on” for close to 20 years, recalled Jim Pooler (her only child, born in 1942), who described himself as an early “latch-key kid.”
The family moved to Colorado in 1959, owning a Conoco station at Circle Drive and Highway 24 until the mid-'60s, said Jim, who moved to New Mexico (still his home) in 1964.
After that, she no longer worked full-time, but stayed involved with Chamber of Commerce people they had met during the gas station years. Over time, she evolved into the venerable greeter/volunteer personna that people came to identify with her. She enjoyed the “limelight,” Jim said.
James Sr. died in 1984. Miss Edna apparently had lived alone ever since.
Westside Pioneer article