The Aileen Maxwell Story
Lila Aileen Maxwell was born October 22, 1915 in a little town along the La Plata River called Pendleton, New Mexico which doesn’t even exist today. Her father was Thomas Glennwood Funk and her mother was Mary Roberts Hughes.
Aileen had two sisters, Dorothy Estalena (Tanner) and Gladys Marie (McBee). They moved to La Plata City, CO where their father was a miner at the Tenbrook gold mine. On July 5, 1918 there was an explosion at the mine and Glenn was killed instantly. He was only 24 years old.
Aileen and her sisters, along with her mother, went to live with her grandparents, William and Ida Jane Hughes, at Hesperus, CO. Aileen’s grandfather was a cattleman moving his cattle from his New Mexico ranch in the winter to his Colorado ranch in the summer.
In 1919, Bill Hughes, as William was called, sold his cattle and moved to Durango, CO so Aileen and her sisters could go to school as Hesperus did not have a school. Aileen grew up in Durango, graduating from Durango High in 1932. She married Alfred Clifton Pierce and they had a son, Alfred Glenn Pierce. Aileen trained to be a Physician’s Assistant working for Dr. Darling and later Dr. Elliott.
In 1942, Aileen married Dr. I. E. Maxwell. World War II had just been declared and Dr. Maxwell was the first doctor in Colorado to enlist. Aileen and Glenn went with Dr. Maxwell to New Orleans, LA where Dr. Maxwell was head of surgery at the Port of Embarkation Hospital at Camp Plachett. Aileen also worked at the hospital for the Army at the Ear, Eyes, Nose and Throat (EENT) Clinic. When peace was declared, Dr. Maxwell was discharged as a Major and they moved back to Durango.
At this time, Dr. Richard Speck owned a small hospital in Cortez and he and Dr. Rasor were the only doctors in Cortez. Dr. Rasor’s father was ill and Dr. Rasor wanted to go visit him, and Dr. Speck was needing a vacation from the War years so Cortez needed a doctor and Dr. Maxwell was invited to come to Cortez to take over the medical practice. So Doctor I. E., Aileen and Glenn went to Cortez. When both doctors decided to retire, Dr. Maxwell moved his whole family to Cortez. He had two sons, Elden and Melvin, and one daughter, Wynona, by a former marriage.
Dr. Maxwell opened his “Maxwell Clinic” on February 5, 1946 on Main Street. Dr. Kirking moved to Cortez and joined the clinic as later did Dr. Cliff Parmley, Dr. Paul Doneskey, and Dr. Vince Gardner. Aileen continued working as assistant.
In 1954, Dr. Maxwell sold his clinic to Dr. Doneskey and he and Aileen retired. They had three children, Maridell Aileen born 1954, Marissa Marlene born 1956 and Thomas Lindsey born 1959.
They purchased a Piper Cruiser airplane and both Dr. Maxwell and Aileen learned to fly their own plane. Aileen took lessons from Polly Usher who owned the airport and who had taught the Army pilots to fly during the war.
Dr. Maxwell and Aileen were instrumental in starting a Four Corners Jeep Club and photographing the scenic Four Corners area. Aileen was secretary and later president of the club.
At this time, the Four Wheeler Magazine was just being published and Aileen’s picture of the Club driving down Black Bear Pass into Ouray was chosen as their first cover. She eventually had 11 cover pictures and 4 travel stories featured in the Four Wheeler Magazine. The magazine did a replica of her original cover photo on their 50th anniversary issue. In February the magazine will again honor her and her photography in their 60th anniversary edition. The editor of the magazine said Aileen is a legendary jeeper/photographer and called her photography “timeless” and a jeeping classic.
In 1985, Aileen and her son, Thomas, published their own scenic magazine entitled “Canyonlands of Utah.” Bates Wilson, later Superintendent of Canyonlands National Monument and for whom the beautiful arch between Moab and Monticello was named, has told the Jeep Club of all the beautiful scenery in the Park.
In 1965, Aileen and Dr. Maxwell were divorced and Aileen worked for the Cortez Medical group and Southwest Memorial Hospital.
Aileen was a devout Seventh-day Adventist and became teacher’s aide for the SDA church school. Aileen was always involved in her children’s lives, keeping active in the church youth group. She was assistant leader and later director of this group.
Aileen also was leader of the March of Dimes.
Aileen and her three children spent four years in Angwin, CA where her children graduated from Pacific Union College. Aileen also took college classes and became a phlebotomy tech, taking college classes with her daughter. While in California, Aileen worked for St. Helena Hospital.
When they returned to Cortez, Aileen was employed by Alcohol and Drug Counseling Center where she became the CEO. Aileen retired at age 75.
Aileen loved hiking, photography and writing. She walked to Druid Arch, the All-American Man, Kirk’s Cabin and the Mastodon Petroglyphs in her beloved Canyon-lands of Utah, Needles District. The last time she "jeeped" over Elephant Hill, she was 98 years old.
At 106, she has wonderful memories of her many exquisite photos and a lifetime of adventures and is loved by four generations who will carry on her legacy.
The Family requests Birthday cards for Aileen she will turn 106 years old on October 22, 2021. If you would like to send her a birthday card please mail to:
PO Box 16
Cortez, CO 81321
Aileen, photo taken on her 1ooth birthday