ROCK SPRINGS — Margaret Ann Knapp Russell and Kathy Ann Gilbert are Women of the Month as selected by the Remember When Monday Committee of Rock Springs Young at Heart. The two women were honored on Nov. 18 at the center at 2400 Reagan Ave.
MOVER AND SHAKER
Margaret was born on Dec. 21, 1940, in Basin to Chester and Georgia Blankenship Knapp. She was raised in Cody, where her father, who was a “hands-on kind of guy and very creative” was the maintenance man at the hospital. Her parents were from homesteader families near Sundance. Margaret is a sixth-generation Wyoming native. Her parents had eight children — four girls and four boys.
Margaret graduated from Cody High School and attended a business college in Billings, Montana. Her first job was in Los Angeles, California, where her older brother lived. She worked from 1960-62 for O’Keefe and Merritt. She returned to Cody and worked for KODI Radio till 1964. She met and married Leroy Russell, a Worland native. They moved to Rock Springs in 1964, where Leroy, who was a good business man, opened Kelley’s Shoes on North Front Street. They had two children, Bradley who lives in Rock Springs; and Gay Lynn, who lives in San Francisco.
Margaret was a stay-at-home mother until she was 40 — but she had been very busy getting to know and appreciate Rock Springs, which was a wild and wooly place in those days. She especially enjoyed learning the history of this area and was excited about the first International Night, which came to pass in 1926. Not long after becoming a part of the community, with the encouragement of Frank Prevedel, she was elected to the board of Western Wyoming Community College in 1966. The college was in its growth period.
“My greatest accomplishment and what I am most proud of is the establishment of the Childrens’ Center. Women had a difficult time being a student if they had small children. During the first year, women enrolled in classes increased 65 percent. The center serves both students and staff — and it still does,” Russell said in the press release.
When Margaret divorced at age 40, she began her career. Until she retired in 2015, she had 14 jobs. She got her real estate license and did very well as an agent for Pulte Homes. Leroy, who remained a close friend, told her “show them all you got.” She did – and was quite successful in the real estate world.
Success led to her dream job with the Union Pacific Realty Company as manager of land and development, where she was responsible for the regional office in Rock Springs. In 1987, she was transferred to be director of real estate operation in Salt Lake City. There she sold herself out of a job via a satellite worldwide land auction. While in Salt Lake City, she was quite active with Rotary and other community events.
She returned to Rock Springs when she retired at age 52 – but she didn’t retire – as she continued to make an impact on the community in the jobs she had and volunteer activities that have made a big difference in the town. Her career consisted of marketing and promotion in radio, as well as in real estate. She became a “mover and shaker.” Organizations that have benefited from her leadership include the Southwest Wyoming Economic Development Association, Rock Springs Planning and Development; Southwest Counseling, Southwest Wyoming United Way; and Wyoming Real Estate Commission. She is also involved with PEO, Woman’s Club and Epsilon Sigma Alpha, and directs church choirs.
For a number of years, she wintered in San Miguel de Alllende in Mexico with her brother, Tom Knapp and his wife. Tom was a very successful artist in this artsy town with lots of ex-pats, and it became a major part of her creative self. She learned printmaking and jewelry design using old trade beads and by making polymer clay beads. Another major interest had always been anthropology and she traveled with Charles Love to Easter Island. At this time Margaret is very busy with the Actors’ Mission, along with her son, Brad.
“If you can’t do a big thing in your life, do a lot of little things in a big way,” she said.
EDUCATION SAVED ME
Kathy was born on Nov. 24, 1950, in Rock Springs to Hugh “Bud” Ross Gilbert Jr. and Genievive James Gilbert. Bud was a “nice young man from Ohio” who came to Rock Springs with his family and married Genievive, a sixth-generation Wyomingite. Kathy has one brother, Jim, who lives in Rock Springs; and sisters Judy Walker, who lives in California, and Linda Pape, who lives in Texas. Kathy’s great-great-grandmother, Mariah Isabel McMillan, came to America alone from Scotland to marry a Rock Springs coal miner. Bud’s parents moved to Billings, Montana, in 1928 from Ohio and then to Green River, where his father, H.R. Sr., worked for Mountain Fuel, riding the pipelines on horseback.
Kathy married when she was 17 and moved with her military husband to California. The marriage didn’t last, but she has her son, Jay Crofts, from that union. Jay and his wife Janet live in Rock Springs. Her son is the parts manager at Peterbilt. After coming back to Rock Springs, Kathy landed her first job as a waitress in a café in Farson. She worked as a waitress in various places for the next 25 years.
Kathy’s life changed when her husband, Vic Zumpfe, wanted her to become computer skilled so she could help with his business. She first had to earn her high school equivalency certificate – which she did at Western Wyoming Community College in 1988. Then she enrolled in classes and found she had a gift for writing. She left Vic and she and Jay scraped by during those years – but it was worth it, according to the release. She graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor of science degree in Western history and journalism. This was during the early years of distance learning, and she was able to remain in Rock Springs. She had many jobs during this time.
“My most interesting was being a private investigator for a local attorney,” she said in the release. She also worked for WWCC as the public information officer.
Her first job as a journalist was for Sage Publishing at the Douglas Budget. She moved to Rock Springs when transferred to be the editor of the Green River Star. In 2006, she was promoted to be publisher and in 2015, she retired from the Star. Kathy is no longer retired. She saw an ad for a care coordinator for a nonprofit respite company, VIRS Respite Care. She schedules and supervises the care staff who call on clients.
She loves to read and enjoys the Sunday Afternoon Book Club, is an active writer, enjoyis the memoir writing class, and enjoys her family and community connections. Kathy is active with the Actors’ Mission and with the Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency. She has been a city council member and was on the Planning and Zoning Committee.
ABOUT THE REMEMBER WHEN MONDAY COMMITTEE
Sponsors include the Daily Rocket-Miner, Sweetwater County Historical Museum and Rock Springs Historical Museum. Women of the Month nominees must be 60 or older, a Sweetwater County resident and have dedicated lives to service of the community, family, career or church.
Contact Rock Springs Young at Heart with nominations at 307-352-6737.