A Neighborhood's best friend
Marvia Valdez and Toby
As the sun sets on the homes in the 1200 block of Birch Street in Denver, your
eyes will come to rest on a white brick house with green shutters. Until the winter of
2021, as you walked by this house you would likely have seen a white-haired woman
with a big smile sitting at her computer in the window of her office.
She would have waved at you since she didn’t know a stranger. And as you
walked a few more steps north, you would likely have seen a small black and tan dog
named Toby keeping watch through her front screen door.
The white-haired woman’s name was Marvia Valdez, and she was one of the
more familiar faces and an anchor in the Bellevue-Hale Neighborhood in east Denver.
If you didn’t know Marvia from visits with her in her yard, you would have met
Marvia and Toby in their daily visits to Lindsley Park.
You might remember speaking with her there while she worked in the annual
and perennial gardens that she planned and oversaw. Or perhaps you met her
during Christmastime while she worked with neighborhood volunteers decorating the small evergreen trees with ornaments in the picnic area of Lindsley Park. Her
strong sense of community helped hold the fabric of the neighborhood together.
Marvia’s impact on her Bellevue-Hale neighborhood was significant and ongoing.
Though times were changing, she always spoke of how community (the cooperation,
friendship and caring of neighbors for other neighbors) was what keeps a
neighborhood healthy and alive.
Marvia joined the Bellevue-Hale Neighborhood Association (BHNA) Board of
Trustees in 1979, just two years after the RNO (Registered Neighborhood
Association) was formed and registered with the City and County of Denver. During
her tenure on the Board, she served as President for a number of years and
continued on the Board for decades.
Marvia’s enthusiasm, perseverance and quiet leadership motivated many others
to work on behalf of the neighborhood. Says Tom Arrison, one of Marvia’s
Marvia was the first person I met when I moved into the neighborhood
twelve years ago. She was gardening as I walked by. Marvia took the time
to talk and answer my questions. She was altogether friendly and made me
feel very good about my decision to move here. Working around Marvia
over the years, I noticed how people were drawn to her and sought to be
involved in her projects. She was just one of those people who made
involvement easy and a joy. But she was strong-willed and things got done.
Marvia’s main focus was creating and building community through activities that
brought people together. These included an outdoor family Movie Night with live
music, food and ice cream trucks on a local green space north of the Mental Health
Center of Denver (now WellPower), the annual summer BHNA Picnic in Lindsley Park,
and the annual Holiday Party in some of the neighborhood’s historic homes. With
help, Marvia organized and hosted a neighborhood yard sale in her front yard for
several years, raising funds for BHNA.
Marvia developed and maintained communication with City leaders and the
Denver Police. Through her efforts, our neighborhood thrived, became strong and
the BHNA voice in the City became recognized and respected. Throughout the rest
of her life, Marvia remained vigilant and influenced development decisions in the
neighborhood. She made a difference.
Marvia Valdez was born in Craig, Colorado, the high-spirited middle child with 4
siblings. Her family owned a ranch on the Yampa River about 6 miles outside of
Craig. They ran a sawmill, grew wheat and raised sheep. Marvia loved to accompany
her father and uncle to the parcels of land they owned and particularly enjoyed
spending time at the lambing grounds each year. When not following them around
the county, she and her childhood friend Stanley Nelson (the Preacher’s son) climbed
trees and engaged in repeated high energy antics. Basically, they never stood still!
It was during these formative years that Marvia’s fiercely independent spirit
arose and thrived. She excelled at academics, played multiple instruments in the
school band, and was a cheerleader. Marvia was “always good with words” and
loved to tell stories. She loved people and, even at a young age, displayed a high
degree of empathy, going above and beyond to help people, letting them know that
she cared about them. Her sister, Treava Yandle, says her older sister Marvia was a
“hard act to follow”. Marvia moved to Denver in the mid-1960’s and to the Bellevue-
Hale neighborhood on the mid-1970’s, probably 1974.
Marvia wore many hats – as a full-time teacher in Denver Public Schools for 20+
years until her first retirement in 1990, and then as a part-time teacher at Emily
Griffith School where she taught until 2014. Other careers she embraced were as a
landlord, as a neighborhood activist and as an adventurer during road trips with her
A great friend of Marvia and the neighborhood, Laurie Bogue recalls:
I first met Marvia in the parking lot of the condo building I was living in and
where she owned several rental units. Our chance meeting changed my life,
as she decided I needed to buy a house and rent out my condo. She pointed
out that the interest rates and the cost of homes were at a low point we
would not see again soon. And she was right. Marvia led me through the
whole process, and it was one of the best decisions I could ever have made. I
am still in my house today and still love it.
Marvia’s most memorable trait was her amazing ability to connect with students
and their families, with neighbors and with her tenants. Behind the scenes, Marvia
went out of her way to provide extra assistance to many. Marvia loved to sing and
dance, and she loved going to the now-closed Annie’s Café on Fridays with a group of
neighbors. She loved meeting newcomers to our neighborhood and keeping in touch
with many of the neighbors who moved away.
Her “extended family” was huge, and it was her connections with all these
people that “fueled” her to make a difference. This energy became the genesis of
BHNA’s proposal to build a covered activities shelter in Lindsley Park. This shelter will
provide a safe gathering place for families, adults and children, all of whom she
considered the very heart of the neighborhood and of the City of Denver.
Even as she began to lose her battle with cancer (Marvia died in January, 2021),
Marvia never gave up on her dream of a shelter in Lindsley Park. Her infectious
enthusiasm was shared by Ray Allen who has spearheaded the effort to make
Marvia’s shelter dream become a reality. He now heads a committee of neighbors
with fellow Trustees on the BHNA Board to achieve Marvia’s vision. Ray said,
“Marvia was an inspiration for me to help others and to contribute to the
Inspired by Marvia, and in an effort to continue the contributions she made in
building community and to honor her for all her efforts, the Bellevue-Hale
Neighborhood Association, in partnership with Denver Parks and Recreation, has
undertaken fundraising and planning for the construction of the shelter in Lindsley
Park. This shelter will be a community space for picnics, meetings and fitness and
family activities, with opportunities for music and dancing. Improvements to the
picnic area, landscaping and the gardens are also planned.
The park fundraising effort is near completion with donations from many
neighbors, local businesses, and organizations. The opportunity to contribute to the
Marvia Valdez Lindsley Park Shelter and her legacy and vision remains! Please
consider a generous contribution to the Lindsley Park Fund. Donations can be made
through the BHNA website or a check via the mail (BHNA, P.O. Box 200084, Denver, CO 80220). Thank you for your consideration.
Laurie Bogue, Tom Arrison, Ray Allen, and Wendy Harring