Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

Familiar Face – Chris Doyle

Series: Familiar Faces | Story 12

September 16, 2020

Courtesy photo

Chris Doyle is this month's Familiar Face. Doyle poses with his wife Teri Rasmussen and their daughter Harriet.

The craziness of 2020 can be quelled a wee bit with the reverent calmness of Chris Doyle's sunset serenades. The long comforting notes of his bagpipe feel like the entire community is taking deep healing breaths. We asked Doyle some questions to learn a little about his life story.

Left Hand Valley Courier (LHVC) – What was your hometown and how did Niwot become home to you?

Chris Doyle (CD) – I grew up on the east side of Cleveland and finished high school in Chesterland, Ohio. I went to Muskingum College in southern Ohio, but dropped out in 1967. The draft wanted me, so I opted for four years in the Navy instead of two years in the Army. I volunteered for Vietnam anyway and was stationed on a spy ship for a year. I did a Mediterranean tour on another ship and finished off the service on an ocean-going tug stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. It was smallish and pretty fun...we spent a lot of time at sea.

I came to Boulder County a month out of the Navy in January 1971 with a friend. He eventually moved on, but I stuck. I'm a builder and was the superintendent for a company that got a project building student housing on The Hill. There was a house on the property that had to be removed and I was living in the trailer park in north Boulder.

I requested two weeks delay of the start of the project so I could move the house. I got a house mover lined up and searched for a place to put it. [My wife] Teri's friend had a lot on Niwot Road and agreed to sell it. It was a pretty busy couple of weeks...we put the house on the property and had to complete the project over the next year. It needed a new foundation, new electrical, lots of work. That was 1982 or '83.

Some years after that I moved a much bigger house from Bird Cliff Way to a location a few miles south and we lived there for 12 years. Eight years ago Teri and I moved back to the Niwot Road house after our daughter Harriet moved out on her own.

LHVC - Tell us about your connection to music and the bagpipes.

CD - My mother's maiden name was McDiarmid. That's the Scottish connection. Her father helped found a pipe band in Ontario, where I was born. So I've been around pipe music forever. Although I took some lessons when I was about 13, I didn't really dedicate myself to learning to play until I came to Boulder.

I've been in pipe bands ever since, first the City of Denver Pipe Band and then the Fort Collins PB. We now call ourselves Northern Colorado Caledonia PB. We're holding together during the current plague and will be ready for competition season when that sort of thing resumes.

I bought a tuba a few years ago and I came to the Niwot Community Band to see if I could get someone to teach me how to play the thing. Biff [Warren] said, "Just come along and play the first note in every bar." Well, that's how it started. So I bumped along quite a while trying not to make too much noise. Things are coming along much better now, however I still say that I really play the pipes and I just own a tuba.

Teri also plays a lot of music. She has a degree in music therapy and plays many instruments competently. We have musical friends in many corners of the world. We've hosted bands from France, Hungary, and other places.

LHVC - What's your day job?

CD - I've pretty much always been a builder. At times I've also been a Housing Rehabilitation Specialist for the Boulder County Housing Authority. I have alternated between carpentry and supervision for other contractors and am still at it, although would like to take on a new challenge.

LHVC - How has COVID-19 affected you?

CD - The COVID plague has not slowed me down much. Getting bored is not an issue. My house and yard always need attention and I'm the general contractor on a house 75 miles away. On top of that I read a lot. Some years ago I got into western U.S. history and have quite a few feet of bookshelf filled with mountain man era books. More recently I have been reading a lot of WWII history.

LHVC - What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?

CD - Last year Teri and I went to Italy to tour with the Black Devils Pipe Band from Helena, Montana. Helena was home to the Army base where the First Special Service Force (FSSF) trained in 1942. They became known as the Black Devil Brigade because of their effective exploits fighting in Italy.

On the tour we visited battle sites, cemeteries, museums connected to the FSSF. We also spent a week in Malta. I wanted to go back there because I was there in 1969 on a Navy ship. It was an ammunition ship so we weren't allowed in the main harbor. They sent us to a harbor a few miles south that we had all to ourselves. Malta is a tremendously interesting place having been occupied by every sailing civilization in the Mediterranean for the last three-to-five thousand years. It even has prehistoric remains. I would rather go back there than go to the usual tourist destinations.

LHVC - What are ways in which you connect with the community?

CD - I'm out and about with my shaggy dog Chester at least a couple of times a day, so I'm sort of recognized by other dog walkers. We get to know many Niwotians that way.

Also, we're members of the Altona Grange. The members don't carry on much of the Grange traditions anymore, but they're dedicated to preservation of the hall as a community resource. It's a great little building that needs a lot of TLC.

Doyle will continue to play at sunset on Wednesdays until the temperature drops below 45 degrees. You will find him in front of the white arbor on Niwot Road just west of Niwot Liquor.

If you have a suggestion for a person to profile as a Familiar Face in Niwot or Gunbarrel, please send a message to Editorial@LHVC.com


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