Olive Marie Burger ( or “Polly” as we all knew her) was born on April 28, 1915 in Menlo, Kansas. She passed away on July 10, 2014 at Hillcrest in Wray, CO at the age of 99 years and 73 days. Polly was the middle child and only daughter of Earl and Ruth Burger. Polly was blessed with two brothers, older brother, Leslie and young brother, JD.When Polly was born, her brother Leslie was asked what he thought of his baby sister. He replied that as far as he was concerned all babies did was eat, sleep, cry and mess their pants, so he decided that he would rather have a puppy! Fortunately, as Polly grew up, Leslie discovered that she could do lots of other things and was much more useful than he had first thought. Polly was five when her younger brother, JD was born. She love helping her mother take care of JD and he was her baby, a living breathing baby doll to carry around everywhere! Polly attended and graduated from Menlo High School in 1933. She received her teaching certificate from Fort Hays State Teacher college in Hays, KS. Her Bachelor of Arts degree was earned from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO. She worked on her Masters at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO. Polly’s first teaching job was in her hometown of Menlo in 1936.
In that same year of 1936, Polly met the love of her life – Elmer Thiringer. Elmer was the manager of Foster Lumber Company in Menlo and would just happen to be outside sweeping the sidewalk of the business every morning as Polly would pass by on her walk to her teaching job at the Menlo school. When Elmer finally convinced Polly to go out with him, things fell into place and they were married on August 2, 1939. They were scheduled to be the first couple married in the brand new Methodist Church in Menlo. Unfortunately, just before the wedding, the church burned down due to some faulty wiring. All of the plans and preparations for the wedding had to be picked up and moved down the road to Elmer’s church in Herndon, KS. Soon after their marriage, Fosters closed the Menlo lumber yard and transferred Elmer to the Foster Lumber Company in Stratton, CO. Polly was teaching junior high school, so she stayed in Menlo to finish out the school year, and Elmer stayed at a rooming house in Stratton until Polly could move with him. Elmer almost caused a scandal in the small town when he asked Polly to come to Stratton for a town dance, and Mrs. Brown, the lady who owned the rooming house thought he was going out with a beautiful girl in his wife’s absence. Polly hadn’t been able to stay in town long enough to meet Mrs. Brown, so when she returned home to Menlo she received a frantic call from Elmer telling her that she had to come back to Stratton quick! Mrs. Brown was chewing him out and telling everyone in town what a cad he was for taking that beautiful young redhead to the dance. The next weekend, Polly returned to Stratton and put Mrs. Brown’s mind and mouth to rest and assured her that she was indeed Elmer’s wife. While living in Stratton, Elmer and Polly were blessed with a son, Dennis Lee, in January of 1943.
On July 1, 1946, The Thiringer family moved to Wray, CO. They purchased a bulk gasoline business and service station that had been closed during the war. They named it Wray Oil Company and owned and operated it until Elmer retired in 1985. Polly always thought Wray was a great place to live even though it was quite rough in the beginning. When they moved to Wray, the only house available was extremely small, in desperate need of repair and had a yard full of weeds. When they were unpacking their things, Dennis asked his Mother if she had brought a hoe.
In 1948, Polly was asked to teach at the Prairie Vista country school north of Wray. She had 13 students in five different grades. In 1950, she began teaching in the Wray public school system at the elementary school level. She later moved to the high school where she preferred teaching. She taught English, P.E., sponsored pep club, and directed plays in her teaching career spanning a total of 31 years, 25 of those years were spent teaching in the Wray school system. Over the years she directed countless plays and directed her first musical, “Brigadoon”, at Wray High School. She and Mrs. Wanda Maurice started the WHS Thespian chapter as well as the drama club.
In 1955, Polly and Elmer built the house at 932 Paul Street where they lived the rest of their years in Wray. In 1956, they adopted their lovely daughter, Tracy. In addition to her teaching career and keeping up with her active family, Polly was also very involved in community organizations. Polly was a member of the Order of Eastern Star where she worked her way up to serve as Worthy Matron, was a member and past president of the Las Veinte club, a faithful member of the Wray United Methodist church, as was chosen as the “Woman of the Year” by the Wray Business and Professional Women’s club for 1975-76. In June of 2000, Polly was honored with the Distinguished Merit Award from the Colorado Community Theatre Coalition for her lifetime of service and achievement in community theatre.
Polly retired from teaching in 1975 but did not retire from her love of directing and producing plays. She helped care for her father who had become ill until her death. In 1976, she helped Judy Walker produce “I Love America” which was the first of many successful productions to come in Wray. In 1977, the Cliff Dwellers Acting and Singing Society was born with Gene Palmrose, Virgil and Anna Reed, and Polly and Elmer being the driving forces to get it started. Polly served on the Cliff Dwellers Board of Directors for many years with Elmer helping out behind the scenes with tasks ranging from picking up sets late at night in Greeley for a set at the Lions Amphitheatre, to helping build a stage at the Elks club for a dinner theatre production. Polly directed 18 productions for the Cliff Dwellers. Twelve were regular plays and six were musicals. Several of the first musicals were done at the Wray Lions Amphitheatre. Others were done at the Wray Community hall, Wray Elks Club and Kitzmiller Auditorium. Whether a musical, dinner, theatre, or just a play, Polly took each production with energy and experience and even though she had retired from school. she was still teaching!
Preceding her in death were her husband of 54 years, Elmer, son, Dennis Lee, daughter, Tracy, parents, Earl and Ruth Burger, brother, Leslie and wife, Ethel, brother, JD and wife, Virginia, father-in law and mother-in-law, John and Theresia Thiringer, sister-in-law, Helen Thiringer, sister-in-law, Elsie Macfee and husband, Clark, sister-in-law, Mildred Cox and husband, Harlan, brother-in-law, Kenneth Thiringer and wife, Edna, and sister-in-law, Hilda Morthole and husband, Harley.
She is survived by her granddaughter, Amy Dahlseid and husband, Chad, great-grandsons, Aaron and Brett, and a host of nieces, nephews and many good friends. She wished to thank all those friends who called on the phone or came by to visit. Polly wanted to make sure that a special group of caretakers were thanked for their special friendship. Without their love and care she would not have been able to stay in her own home until the last ten days of her life.
I came across this a couple of weeks ago and I think it is very fitting for the way Polly felt about her friends.
Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in you life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile and who love you no matter what.
Funeral services were held Friday, July 25, 2014, 10:00 a.m. at the Wray United Methodist Church in Wray, Colorado with Rev. Norman Stott officiating. Interment was held in the Grandview Cemetery in Wray, Colorado. Memorials may be made to the Cliff Dwellers. Spellman-Schmidt Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.