Marston Doolittle, 75, of North Platte died July 5 in Colorado after a hiking accident a week earlier.
Doolittle operated a farming and cattle operation near North Platte and lived in one of the oldest standing homes in Lincoln County.
Doolittle was injured on June 27 when he and family members were on an outing near Ouray, Colo. They were hiking toward an abandoned mining structure to find his initials that he’d carved there in 1957, according to a report in the Ouray News.
His children said it was a family tradition to go to Ouray and hike to the secluded spot where Marston carved his initials 55 years ago.
“Dad explored the area (back then)… and found several mines and miner dwellings,” his daughter Molly Nightingale told the Ouray News. “Over the years, he has brought numerous friends and family back to hike and explore. At 75, several of his 11 children convinced him to take a break from his farm and ranch for one more trip back to see ‘his’ mines. He was very enthused about this trip, and once there, said he felt up to hiking.”
The hikers had reached their first goal on the way to the old mine and were headed to the next when a falling rock hit Marston on the head.
The Ouray Mountain Rescue Team extricated Marston from the mountain, an extremely challenging rescue that took hours.
The rescuers had to drop into the gorge, cross a river and climb to Doolittle, load him on a litter and make the return trip.
Doolittle didn’t lose consciousness until he was being transported down the mountain, four hours after he was injured.
When the rescuers reached Camp Bird Road, Doolittle was taken by ambulance to a helicopter and then flown to Grand Junction, where he entered St. Mary's Hospital. He remained unconscious and in critical condition until his death.
Molly expressed deep gratitude to the rescue team for their efforts.
“Two of our brothers have died sudden, tragic deaths, so we are very thankful to Ouray Mountain Rescue Team for giving us a chance to be with Dad a little while yet,” she wrote in a letter to the Ouray News.
The family has a webpage at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/marstond where they posted updates about his condition.
“We as a family were so thankful for our chance to all be together, to spend time with him in the hospital, and to say good-bye,” Molly said.
Marston’s grandparents bought the family farm in 1900 and Marston’s father was born in the farmhouse in 1904. The house, built out of local stone in the 1870s, is one of the oldest standing homes in the county.
The farm itself originally belonged to one of North Platte's founding fathers, A. J. Miller, a partner to William S. Penniston, Molly said.
Marston showed his resilience over the years. In 1963, he suffered severe, disfiguring burns from an electrical accident at the farm. Doctors doubted he would survive. But he did, marrying a nurse, Mary Proctor, he met while receiving final facial reconstructive surgery in Denver fire years later.
They raised 11 children.
The family also had two other tragic deaths: a brother drowned in 1996, and another was killed in a farm accident in 2006, Molly said.
Marston's survivors include daughter-in-law Gayla Doolittle, Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania; Molly and husband Charles Nightingale, Madrid; Martin and wife Kim, Madrid, presently serving as missionaries in the Dominican Republic; Minnie and husband Jerry Schmidt; Elkanah and wife Kendra; Miranda and husband Marshall Koehn, all of Madrid; Martha and husband Russell Koehn of Burns, Kan.; Mia and husband Tyson Koehn; Maria Doolittle; Hosmer and wife Jana; and his wife, Mary, all of Madrid; 12 grandsons, 13 granddaughters; one sister, Marilyn and husband Bud Rand of Fort Collins, Colo.; two nieces and one nephew; close friends, Pat and Heidi Kelly of North Platte and Heidi Lucas, Germany.
Funeral services are planned at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 11, at Golden Plains Mennonite Church near Madrid. Burial will be in the North Platte Cemetery, where a graveside service will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Bullock-Long Funeral Home of Grant is in charge of arrangements.