There was a time when you moved to a new town or city, you could expect to be contacted by an organization known as the Welcome Wagon so they could deliver a welcome basket to your new address. That meant someone would promptly show up with a basket of items; things like a loaf of bread from the local bakery, tickets to the town theater, along with other gifts from nearby merchants. Knowing they shouldn’t wait for the arrival of their basket, Jerry and Mary Persall took it upon themselves to get dialed into the Castle Rock community they have called home for the past 11 years.
“We knew when we decided to voluntarily move from Maryland to Colorado, that there wouldn’t be a wonderful 48-page booklet called Welcome to Castle Rock,” said Persall. “It didn’t exist then and it doesn’t exist now.” However, having grown up with a father who served in the U.S. Army, Persall was accustomed to making the effort to settle into new surroundings.
Luckily his wife Mary, a pastor’s daughter, had a similar upbringing, so together they made the decision to be proactive about getting familiarized with the Town. “You have to take responsibility for making yourself at home in your new place,” he noted.
Shortly after moving, in November of 2005, they heard about a big holiday event called Starlighting. Making the commitment, Persall and his wife decided to go downtown and give it a go. “That year you could actually find a place to park, so we went down to have a chili dinner at the fire station with 200 people that we didn’t know and then walked outside to see the fireworks and watch them light the star,” he recalled.
Still buzzing with excitement from the festivities, on the short drive back, they realized they had started to make a new home for themselves. “We felt like, ok, we are beginning to make roots,” he said.
The next thing they did was find out about the Castle Rock Historical Society. After visiting their office and Town museum, they decided to make another investment in their new home. “If you go out back of the building we have a memorial garden where you can buy a brick for $100.00 and put your name on it,” he said. “So we bought a brick to support the museum.”
But it was a Historical Society bus trip exploring southern Douglas County that was the real catalyst. “That’s where I met Angie DeLeo, Executive Director for the Castle Rock Historical Society,” remembered Persall. “Everyone I know here now, I met 11 years ago then.”
Persall quickly became a regular at monthly meetings and a few years later, the president at the time gave him a call. “I was asked if I might consider becoming the vice president,” he smiled. Accepting the position, a few years later, he stepped in to fill even bigger shoes. “I’ve been the President of the Castle Rock Historical Society since October.”
Since becoming president, he has tried to use his vitality and experience to spark new interest in Castle Rock history. Their most recent project has his team reviving a program that seems to have been forgotten. “We decided to resurrect ‘The Walk,’ said Persall. Formulated four years ago by former President Lucia McConnell, it gives participants a chance to use their phone’s QR reader to learn about historic sights in Town.
“You put your phone reader in front of the emblem on the building so it can pull up a very short story and three or four historical pictures of the property,” said Persall.
Unfortunately, not many people — to his knowledge — have made the effort to take this chance to learn about Castle Rock’s history.
“The problem it that was never heavily promoted,” he added. “So we decided to put together a new brochure with the 20 locations and their names for people to follow.” For those who complete the walk, they can round back to the museum for a pat on the back and documentation of the experience.
“If you came and took the time to go out and walk all 20, we will award you a certificate to hang on the wall and name you a Castle Rock History Buff,” smiled Persall. Again taking the initiative, he thought, what better way to kickstart the program than to walk the walk himself.
“In order, to demonstrate dedicated leadership, I thought it was my job to go out and walk it the first time,” he said. Because he understands that it takes a little effort to feel like you are part of something…something like Castle Rock. “I highly recommend taking ‘The Walk’ to anyone,” he said. “You can learn an awful lot about Castle Rock by doing it!”