It was in the summer of 1974 that Roman Halaba left Poland and moved to Colorado. He already knew Theresa, who had moved with her parents back in 1967. She was a student at North High School.
In 1975 they had bought a duplex on 44th and Harlan so they could live on one side while her parents lived on the other. Theresa became a beautician and seamstress while Roman worked in the millwright union, attached to many jobs including the luggage return system at DIA. Theresa talks of Roman traveling to Wyoming for long periods of work. Roman slept in his truck and they both did “whatever it took” to pay bills and provide for their family.
But ask them about Wheat Ridge and they smile. Roman says it’s the best place he’s ever lived in. It was safe, quiet and all the neighbors got along.
I asked them, “Why Wheat Ridge?”
It was Saint Peter and Paul school. All four of their kids attended, three born at Lutheran. In 1985 the Halabas sold their duplex and moved to their present home on Newland. They believe they are the last ones on the street from that era.
Much of their family had left Poland after World War II, but a few chose to go back for the low cost of living. The Halabas lived in Stargard, which had a population of 37,000 at the time. They miss the friendly people and safe neighborhoods, where everyone walked to their destinations. It’s no wonder they fell in love with Wheat Ridge, which had similar characteristics and population: a view of the mountains and safe neighborhoods.
But today as with many, Roman and Theresa speak of the car thefts and the homeless population, but still feel safe here. They both feel that Wheat Ridge is beautiful and quiet. There are not many kids on their street anymore. But asked if he would make the same choice again, Roman answers, “You betcha!”
Roman has been volunteering as a soccer referee and coach. It’s his passion. When we talked about soccer in the ‘70s his eyes were as wide as his smile. Roman’s secret pastime is foraging. I say secret because while he showed me a picture of huge mushrooms he brings home from his trips, there’s no chance in hell he’ll ever share those locations with anyone.
Theresa spoke more about her four kids and two grandchildren. I asked her if she ever volunteered for any city commissions. Her answer was similar to many Europeans that had moved here a while back: the government was not very clear or open to volunteers. But she did go to the rec center and take some yoga classes.
With two of their children living here in Wheat Ridge and the others in Castle Rock and Aurora, Roman and Theresa have no plans to leave. They love the home they’ve made right here in Wheat Ridge.