Zeke Little - 1942 - 2022

James “Zeke” Little, a long-time resident of Lyons, Colorado, passed away September 9, 2022 after a recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Zeke loved life and the beauty of the natural world. He was rich with family, friends, and community; music, the great outdoors, and building projects (big and small) were his steady companions. He was born in Clare County, Michigan on May 8,1942 to Jacob “Zeke” and Violet (May) Little. He was preceded in death by his former wife, Bonnie (Makinen) Little, and their eldest son, Jeordan Little. He is survived by his wife Jani (Morrissey) Little; sons Erik (spouse Julia) of Reed City, Michigan, and Joshua (spouse Beth) of Fort Collins, Colorado; daughters Anna of Brooklyn, New York, and Kate (spouse Rob) of Lyons, Colorado; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

When he was growing up in rural Michigan, his mother taught him to hunt and trap. His lifelong love of the outdoors began as a child and he became passionate about fly fishing, bird watching, and horses. He graduated from high school in Barryton, Michigan in 1960 and went on to study mathematics at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. In 1964 he interrupted his studies to teach high school in Weidman, Michigan. At that small school, he taught all the science and math courses and even directed the eighth-grade play. After the 1964-1965 school year he returned to Houghton and finished with a master’s degree in 1968.

His pursuit of further study in mathematics brought him to the University of Colorado in Boulder and later that year. he found work at the University’s Institute of Behavioral Science and was quickly promoted to the director of computing services. In that position, he was continuously challenged to implement computing innovations until his retirement in 2000. He raised his three sons (Jeordan, Erik, and Josh) in Boulder and was proud to call Colorado his home. In wild and beautiful Colorado, he spent as much time as he could outdoors and in the backcountry -- hiking a trail with his fishing gear to a lake or stream inhabited by wily trout, hunting elk with his sons, riding a horse near his homestead, watching the eagles from a seat on his porch with a dog at his feet.

Zeke learned to play the guitar from his father when he was a young boy and playing music remained a central part of his life throughout. In the 1970s he was an active mandolin and guitar player in the bluegrass community as well as a founding member of the Colorado Bluegrass Society. He continued to play guitar, mandolin, and fiddle in many genres including country, jazz, gospel, and folk, and he favored western swing. He shared the gift of music with his wife, children, and grandchildren, and playing and singing together created a loving community across the country and across generations. He was an accomplished luthier and crafted his first instrument (a mandolin) in 1972. He went on to complete over 30 violins, mandolins, guitars, and ukuleles, the majority of which he lovingly crafted for him and his family.

In 1983 he married Jani (Morrissey) Little. Together they built four houses and welcomed a growing circle of friends (and dogs) into their lives. Zeke enjoyed all the components of a building project—design, framing, wiring, plumbing; as an accomplished craftsman, he relished building the cabinetry, staircases, and furniture as well. In 1993 Jani and Zeke moved to Lyons with their two daughters (Anna and Kate) and began their last and current house project, affectionately called “The Blue Mountain Ranch,” northwest of Lyons. For the last thirty years he worked to build a haven where he was able to more fully return to his childhood love of birds, fishing, and horseback riding. He kept horses, which he rode locally and on an annual trail ride in Bell Ranch, New Mexico.

Zeke was very active in the Lyons community. He was elected to the Lyons Fire Board and served as President from 2001-2004. During that time he was able to secure a grant to expand the fire station in downtown Lyons. He was a longstanding member of the Lyons Community Church where he was instrumental in introducing alternative musical traditions to the services including blues, swing, and spirituals. He was a trustee of the church and was always involved in maintaining and improving the building. He hand-crafted the arched gothic doors which have become a showpiece of the historic building on Main Street in Lyons.

He loved music jam camps and was a well-known personality in Stickerville, an annual gathering of musicians from all over the country in Weiser, Idaho who come together every June to pick tunes around the National Oldtime Fiddler’s Contest and Festival. He was a founding member of Weiser Friends of the Fiddle, and for the past twenty years he served as Vice President of the non-profit organization, whose primary purpose is to teach, enrich, and preserve fiddle music traditions. Zeke loved this event and community, it was a highlight every year for him and his family. Donations can be made in his memory at www.stickerville.org/memorials.htm.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, October 1, 1pm, at the Lyons Community Church and will also be live-streamed on Facebook. A reception will follow at the family home.