Family of victim becomes benefactor for posse
When Paul Gottlieb and his Montrose Sheriff’s Posse volunteers went to find the body nearly a decade ago, nobody cared about financial implications.
Today, they’re counted in six figures.
“We about fell over in our chairs,” Gottlieb said, speaking of the December surprise receipt of two checks totaling about $140,000 from the estate of late North Carolina developer James Douglas McQueen, who died during a May 2003 climbing expedition in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
The McQueen family’s nearly decade of giving to Montrose will be front and center on Thursday as Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse volunteers are scheduled to break ground on an approximately $200,000, 5,400-square-foot building on an acre of land adjacent to the Montrose County Sheriff’s Department, 1200 Grand Ave.
The building, which initially will be used for equipment storage for the posse, is tentatively targeted for dedication in late June, according to Gottlieb. It will be funded exclusively by McQueen’s estate.
“They just valued what we did,” Gottlieb said. “I don’t believe they’ve been out here since Mr. McQueen died.”
McQueen was climbing with two others in the Black Canyon on May 3, 2003, along a 1,800-foot cliff face known as “Journey Home” when he suffered a fatal heart attack. They were just 400 feet from the rim. When McQueen’s climbing partners determined he had no pulse, they secured his body to the rock wall and climbed out. The Montrose Sheriff’s Posse responded the next day to recover the body.
The recovery effort seemed routine and forgotten until they were contacted six months later by McQueen’s sister, who pledged her intent to help fund a new building for the volunteers. McQueen’s estate intended to sell off various properties.
The first checks started trickling in 2005, which have collected over time in a construction account, Gottlieb said. While the parcel where the new building will stand was purchased in June 2009, the economic downturn nationally had Posse leaders less than optimistic about prospects for reaching the goal of a new building.
“We’d received a letter from their attorney last year basically saying things didn’t look good and properties weren’t selling,” Gottlieb said. “We just figured the building had become a pipe dream.”
That’s why the checks from McQueen’s estate in December were such a shock, he said.
While operating under the authority of the Sheriff’s Department, the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse is a limited liability company funded on the back of grants and community donations. They collect between $17,000 and $20,000 annually from community fundraisers, with the largest single gifts usually averaging about $1,000, Gottlieb said.