Our Stories: Wynn Montgomery
by Paul Gibb
We have among our members a person who is a real spellbinder – that is, he is a member of Spellbinders groups in Longmont and Broomfield. For the last nine years, since Vivian Hamilton introduced him to these organizations, he has told stories in classrooms and in senior care facilities – traditional stories, personal stories (some of which actually happened), historical tales (often with his own embellishments), and some entirely new stories he has created.
He has also used his skills in many ways at the Fellowship. He has offered three memoir-writing sessions, started two men’s covenant groups, served two terms as Board Secretary, and with his wife Millie headed a hospitality team for several years. All this in addition to telling stories to RE classes and as part of an occasional Sunday service – and also offering well-attended storytelling events at BVUUF auctions.
He loves the responses to his stories that he gets from kids. “When I walk into a classroom where the kids already know me, I am treated like a rock star. Once when I came into a classroom the kids formed an aisle and they all bowed down as I walked between them. The teacher swore she never set them up to do it. And they always send me thank-you cards and sometimes make a poster.”
“The adulation of the kids is rewarding,” he continues, “but I am also dedicated to creating an intergenerational bond with my young listeners. I think that my approach to the craft reflects what I tell the new tellers whom I train: Everyone is a storyteller; we need to find our own ‘voice’ and choose stories that fit.” Sixteen of Wynn’s favorite stories are available on YouTube. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLly7Gkc5oln2RkQbfkfFlA.
Some of his other interests and accomplishments: coaching youth baseball for 15 years, being a tour guide in old cemeteries, travel, photography, and cooking. “I love words – crossword puzzles, puns, wordplay, and the lyrics of blues and country music,” he says.
Wynn was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1940 and grew up in rural Georgia. He describes his parents as “both loving and strict.” When his father returned from service in the Navy at the end of World War II, Wynn’s status as an only child quickly changed – three siblings in three years! Wynn’s father, a landscape architect, “was the quieter of my parents, but always available.” His mother did not attend college but worked as a bookkeeper and always had an entrepreneurial project of some kind. “Her worm farm is the basis for one of my personal stories.”
Wynn was raised in the Presbyterian church where his father was a deacon and an elder. But while Wynn was in college his father had a series of heart attacks and became an invalid. The two parents then started following a Pentecostal preacher. As an adult, Wynn resisted his mother’s ongoing and fervent proselytizing and “she went to her grave sure that I would burn in Hell because she had not been able to save me.”
Wynn graduated from Duke University in 1962 with a BA in English. After graduation he worked for General Motors – not in an assembly plant but as a member of an inaugural Management Training Program. That job took him to Detroit for a year, where he met his first wife, and then to Atlanta for six years. He eventually left GM, he says, because “everybody else lived and breathed automobiles, but I couldn’t care less about them.” Then he worked for two management consulting firms and then the City of Atlanta, always planning and managing federally-funded employment and training programs. He held those jobs for 19 years, meanwhile earning a Master’s degree in Public and Urban Affairs at Georgia State University. In 1993 Wynn moved to Kennesaw State University and started a new program there in a similar field. When he retired from that job, he formed a consulting firm called WynnMill Solutions, which he dissolved before moving to Colorado in 2011.
He met his wife Millie in Atlanta when both were attending a UU congregation. They were married in 1975 and were active UUs while their children were in RE, but they then drifted away from UUism for a while before going to a spiritual counselor who said, “You guys are Unitarians; you just need to decide which Unitarian congregation to join.” And they did so.
Wynn has two children from his previous marriage, and Millie has three children from hers. All of these children were young (ages 5 to 8) when the two families “blended,” and Wynn says, “We raised all of them as ‘ours,’ not ‘mine’ and ‘yours,’ and they are still as close as any siblings.” Wynn’s older son lives in the Boston area. His younger son lives in Atlanta. Millie has one child in the Boston area and two in Colorado. Since 2000 and until last year, the entire family has gathered for a bi-annual “Beach Week”and hopes to do so again in 2021.
The deciding factor, when the newly-retired Montgomerys wanted to spend more time with grandchildren, was that, while four of them now live in the Boston area and two in Atlanta, five live in Colorado – three in Niwot and two in Westminster.
We need to thank the parents of those five grandchildren for settling in Colorado and inspiring Wynn and Millie to move here also. We are so lucky to have them among us.