John and Ellen left Denver on a November morning, their new travel trailer in tow. Excitement was in the air. It was the beginning of a three month journey throughout the Southwest, searching for a new home, for a place where they could retire and grow old together. They spent some time along the way in public libraries, relaxing and resting up – doing research. They wanted a location with, among other things, jobs, good scenery and recreation; yet, above all else it needed a college and a Unitarian Universalist Congregation. (John and Ellen had met at a 1996 weeklong UU camp in Carbondale. They fell in love the first day. They have been an item ever since.)
They headed south toward Walsenburg and Trinidad, then on to Albuquerque, Los Alamos, and onward to the Tucson area, where they celebrated the 2000 New Year. They got married in Sedona along the way. After being fused forever together by the powerful beauty of Sedona, they finally ended up visiting Grand Junction.
John and Ellen liked what they found in Grand Junction. They sold their house in Denver and moved to Grand Junction in their camp trailer to begin looking for jobs and a house. They eventually found their place up Unaweep Canyon.
It is a gross understatement to say that John Mayo has lived a varied life. His work history alone rivals the length of War and Peace. After graduating with an electrical engineering degree in 1967, he worked for a hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. He met his first wife Karen while managing a food co-op in Madison, Wisconsin: they got hitched and moved to Texas. The family was living in a rented farmhouse and John was working as a cooperative education teacher when their two sons were born.
In the mid 70’s he started work as the Chief Media Engineer for a college in Dallas; while there he also returned to the university to work on an MFA in broadcasting and film. Then he took a job at the public television station in Dallas where he did research for his thesis, which examined new technologies for television distribution that were then coming about – cable and satellite TV. Because of the contacts he made doing his research, John eventually gained employment working on the main Dallas cable TV system. He moved on as the senior engineer for studios and computer systems for another cable TV company in west Texas.
After several years, John and Karen decided to move to eastern Colorado, near the ranch where she was raised. There he was the plant engineer and IT programmer for a vitamin manufacturer. After six years, John moved on as a senior engineer for a medical equipment manufacturer in Denver. A couple years later John and Karen parted ways.
Then in ‘99 the medical equipment manufacturer was bought out and John was laid off. So began John and Ellen’s journey toward Grand Junction. After they were settled into their new home in Unaweep Canyon, John was unable to find a suitable engineering job in Grand Junction, so he went back to school at Mesa State College (Colorado Mesa University) to study Environmental Science and Geographic Information Systems. This education led to John’s final job (for pay) as a Hydrologist at the US Geological Survey researching water quality, which involved a lot of data analysis. He worked at the USGS for 10 years. (During this time Ellen was working for the US Fish and Wildlife Service designating endangered plant species.)
It takes an uncommonly sharp and elastic mind to navigate and adapt to so many different environments. We are fortunate to have that mind in play for John’s new, far more important position of volunteer employee for the UUCGV.
John’s largest undertaking for the congregation was designing and installing the sound and video system during the remodeling of our amazing new building. He and Ann Litke did hard labor installing new wiring throughout the sanctuary ceiling, floor, and sound booth. The sound and video system in the Sanctuary is still evolving. He enjoys this project because it takes him back to the public television days when he was engineering the sound and video for various shows. Engineering a worship service is a lot like putting on a show.
John has also worked on many smaller projects as head of the Property Team, of which he is still a member. He is also heading up the Long-Range Planning Team, which is currently mapping out the possibilities for the next five congregational years.
Since John retired two years ago he spends more time working on his favorite hobby, as an engineer of a different sort – building a model train layout. But you’ll need to expand your idea of model trains to understand the immensity of the project John is undertaking. It is modeled after the 1950 Denver Rio Grande Railroad in Western Colorado. It has intricate orchards and rivers and an oil refinery, etc. The train is run by a computer. The ongoing project is on his mind wherever he goes. When John and Ellen are out traversing the land in their camp trailer he will see, for instance, a small creek and think “perhaps I could use that in the model”. And when they’re traveling, John and Ellen are always on the look for unique “real” trains to ride. Engineering, construction, history and art are all involved in the project. Not to mention, a gentle loving hand. These are the qualities that John carries with him throughout the moments of his life.
John has also been busy helping Ellen dig and plant in the yard. They are planning more trips in their “newer” camp trailer – as long as they can stay one step ahead of the mountain lion that has visited them recently in Unaweep Canyon.
Life goes on... in endless song…