Our Stories: Carrie Malde
by Catharine Harris, Minister Emerita
Whose grandfather had a small farm at 9th and Baseline, in Boulder, where the cement ended and sold vegetables, fruits, and flowers to folks at Chautauqua?
Who learned to fly while going to CU?
Who taught Native children for four years in Alaska?
Who has shown her art at the Boulder main library?
Who has been a part of each iteration of the Fellowship?
It is Carrie Malde.
She answered the phone and said, “I’m 94; I’m in good health; I can drive myself; I’ve had my two shots, and I have my cat, Tilly.” She invited me to her landmarked, stone bungalow built in 1927 on “The Hill” near Chautauqua. She has lived there 62 years. As we sat across one another at her table, the sun touched the window next to us. Tilly walked back and forth in front of Carrie as she spoke about her life.
Carrie was born in Denver. After WWII, a friend of her father’s suggested he might enjoy the First Unitarian Society of Denver. He liked it; Carrie joined the church when she was a senior in high school. The Rev. Rudy Gilbert was called by the congregation soon after her father and she began attending. Rev. Gilbert was a thread in Carrie’s early life.
Carrie has always been a self-confident, adventuresome person. While she attended CU, she learned to fly a Piper Club. Her flight instructor took Carrie and her classmates to Lockhaven, PA, to ferry several Piper Cubs back to Denver to sell. A second time, she and her father flew on a commercial flight to Pennsylvania in order to co-pilot a Piper Cub, he had purchased, back to Denver.
Carrie earned the nickname “Raindrop” because it always seemed to rain when she was flying.
After college, Carrie taught in a one-room school house in a lower Yukon town with a population of about 158 people. She taught about 26 Native children in grades one through eight for two years. The children spoke Yup’ik as well as English. On arrival to the school, she found only outdated, racist texts that had nothing to do with the lives of the children she was teaching, so she created her own materials. She encouraged one of the eighth -grade girls to go to high school near Sitka rather than to a trade school for traditional crafts which the local priest was pushing. The girl returned to serve her community as a practical nurse. Carrie still corresponds with this former student. She taught another two years at a school in Anchorage.
On return to Colorado, Carrie taught 4th grade at Uni Hill in Boulder. In October, a teacher in the next classroom asked her to be the fourth at a bridge game and sent Hal Malde to pick Carrie up. They immediately found they both liked Quakers and reading the New York Times. While hiking in November, Hal said, “Well, when shall we get married?” They married the next month in a simple ceremony in her parents’ backyard with Rev Gilbert officiating. Hal took her to the Indian dwellings in the southwest on their honeymoon. Later, Hal worked as a geologist with the US Geological Survey and was involved in an archeological dig in Mexico. Carrie, their two daughters, accompanied Hal for three winters in Mexico for his field work. They were married for fifty-two years before Hal passed away.
Hal and Carrie attended the original Unitarian Fellowship which met in the Carriage House at 2227 16th Street in Boulder. She remembers how fun the square dancing was. The Rev. Gilbert would come from Denver to nurture the group.
When the Fellowship moved to the United Ministries building on campus, she served as President and Vice President of the Board. She painted three panels to decorate the plain wall behind the podium. Since then they seem to have been used in several public buildings in Boulder. Social Concerns has always been her focus as a UU. She raised money for Clinica Campesina to buy an ultrasound machine. She gathered some other women to sew welcome bags for the children at Safehouse and later for EFAA. She also advocated for the establishment of the Gilbert Fund and made the first sizeable contribution to help support new non-profits in Boulder. When the Fellowship moved to Lafayette, Carrie remained active with the Social Concerns Committee and volunteered once a week at the Sister Carmen Center for several years.
Carrie’s oldest daughter Meg had attended first, second, and third grades in Mexico and had learned Spanish. Because Uni Hill grade school was not teaching Spanish, Carrie organized and supervised teachers to teach a class in elementary Spanish and kept in touch with the parents of the students. She wrote a teaching manual for the Spanish-speaking graduate students or wives of graduate students who taught. The women taught a class of elementary Spanish for seven years. Carrie also read to Boulder children in the Reading to End Racism program for seven years
While she was teaching in Alaska, Carrie started painting. Her grandmother was an artist of some note in Boulder. When Carrie’s two daughters were in school, she earned her MFA in painting from CU. She and a friend had a show at the Boulder Library. I remember her paintings in other shows at the library. Shortly after earning her MFA, she purchased a small, old house in Grover, near Pawnee Grasslands. She loved the conservative community of mainly retired farmers and ranchers. She would go up for a couple of weeks alone in the fall and in the spring to take photographs for future paintings and to watch the birds. She also offered her house in the Fellowship’s service auction in the late 1980’s. My husband and I may have purchased a weekend twice so we could bird in the Pawnee Grasslands. The Winstons, the Leonards, the Nachmans also purchased time in her “little house on the prairie.” Carrie also donated a large charcoal drawing of the prairie to a Fellowship service auction. I was so disappointed when our office manager, Carol Presley, outbid me that Carrie made another charcoal drawing which we have hanging in our den. I always looked forward to her charming Christmas cards with her water color designs. I have a ribbon of hearts cut from flowered wall paper on the door to my home office. Carrie made the string of hearts as a decoration for the dais when the Fellowship met in the Masonic Hall.
Carrie says she is most proud of her family: Meg, is a landscape architect in St, Paul, Minnesota, and Missy who is the head of the voice department in Northern Colorado College in Greeley, CO. She says Missy and Meg are her best friends. She loves their partners, her grandchildren and their partners. They are lucky to have Carrie as their mother and grandmother.
Carrie says her life has been a continuum, always offering new things to do. She has said “yes” to what life has offered and has done what she has wanted to do. At 94, she is a contented presence.