Miles and miles of heart

Barbara Lawlor

She knew from the moment she met him that she would stay with him forever. There were times it wasn’t easy; once when she left him for a while, but she gave in to his pleas for forgiveness.

Barb Stewart says she will always love her husband Roy because he has the biggest heart in the world, and that is what she sees, day in and day out. Roy says the only reason he is still around is because of her support.

The Stewarts’ own Roy’s Last Shot is a popular mid-Gilpin County restaurant that caters to mountain locals, Harley Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts and people from all over the Front Range who have discovered the world’s largest shot glass collection as well as the most welcoming road side haven in the county.

Much of the restaurant’s charm is due to the Roy/Barb partnership that is apparent as they operate the restaurant/bar together, in tune with the thoughts of each other and their business.

Their romance began when they were teenagers, and since then they have traveled a rocky road that has led to a paved highway in the past 13 years. In recent months, however, they have learned just how much they need each other.

With Valentine’s Day rearing its romantic head next Wednesday, the Stewarts slipped into the past, recalling their whirlwind courting, their marriage and the trek they took together from then until now.

Barb says she was an Army brat. She was born in Germany and grew up in Colorado where her dad was stationed at Fitzsimmons Army Base in Aurora. She remembers wanting to someday be an airline attendant.

“I was very shy and my dad was very strict,” she says.

When she was 15, Barb and a bunch of her friends went to a dance at the army base youth center, where live bands would play on Friday and Saturday nights. It was 1967 and Rock and Roll was king.

As she was watching the crowd, suddenly there was Roy asking her to dance. Both were wearing bell bottoms. He had on a Nehru paisley shirt.

“He walked right over to me and asked me to dance. I though he was cute. I liked him right off the bat, his attitude.”

She didn’t know it at the time, but Roy says he was stoned and didn’t even tell her his real name. He called himself Ray.

When the dance ended she went back to her group of girlfriends, hoping he would ask her to dance again.

Roy was 16 years old, living in the streets of Aurora and had a steady girlfriend. He saw Barb when his girlfriend was not available.

He liked Barb’s steady paycheck from Woolriches, liked that the two of them would go bowling together and play pinball. Roy’s parents were in Germany and when he was eight years old he and his grandmother came to the United States where he had to learn English to get along and obtain his citizenship. It was not a good family relationship.

“But things changed when I met Barb,” says Roy. When she was 17 and he was 18, she became pregnant. “In those days, if someone got pregnant, you married them,” says Roy. “We were both scared, but I felt responsible. Getting married was the best thing I have ever done, bar none. It saved my ass and she helped keep me on the right road.”

The Stewarts were married at the judge’s house on April 1, 1971 for a $25 fee. After the ceremony, they went to her parents’ house and ate cake. For their honeymoon, they spent a week in a motel on East Colfax, behind a drive in.

Soon after that, Roy entered the service. Because he spoke German he was sent to the German border where Barb joined him with their son, Thor. During that time, the couple attended concerts and learned how to get along with each other.

When Roy had his buddies over to play cards, Barb would serve them pancakes; feeding them all.

“Roy made great pancakes. We lived in a basement apartment in a two-story building. He earned money selling hash, thinking he’d be a millionaire someday.”

It wasn’t long before he entered the Veteran’s Hospital for drug addiction. His addiction did not deter Barb from sticking with him.

“I saw the good in him and wanted to turn him into a good guy. He has one of the biggest hearts of anybody I know.”

Roy got a government law firm to represent him and friends put up money. He was 24 years old and the couple was starting over, living in Barb’s parents small cabin on Blue Spruce in Gilpin County.

In 1974 and 1975, Barb worked cleaning the Nederland Elementary School and then got a job at the House of Chandeliers in Central City. Roy worked for Terp’s for $1.67 an hour. He ultimately worked all over Black Hawk and Central City, becoming a sous chef and then managing Crook’s Palace. During this time, the Stewarts were not getting along. Barb was tired of his drinking and she took everything she needed from their house and went to live with her parents.

Roy went off the deep end, begging Barb to come back and ultimately, she relented, unable to be done with him.

In 1978 the couple moved to Las Vegas; Roy thinking this would be his chance. He cooked, Barb worked as a cocktail waitress. They both worked for “gangster types” and eventually they were taken under the wings of a chef mobster who gave the couple the down payment for a house. This was a real break.

In 1984, wanting to get away from the shady stuff that was going on, the Stewarts moved back to Colorado where Barb’s parents let them stay in a cabin on South Beaver Creek. Her dad worked for Gilpin County and her mom, Anna, worked at Eldora and they bought pieces of property in the area.

When Anna bought the Nederhaus in Nederland, Barb and Roy managed it, but after a year and a half, the Stewarts returned to Las Vegas where Roy became a corporate chef at a convention facility. During this time, he ran six restaurants, took over a golf course and then quit it all to go to Cape Cod. By this time, Roy was a restaurant icon. They traveled, following a trail of restaurants with Barb by Roy’s side every step of the way, working where he worked.

“She is the backbone of what I do,” says Roy. “But she will also give me her opinion.”

In 2006, after making land investments and doing well, Roy and Barb returned to Gilpin County, bringing with them 20 sheep, a mastiff and a Scotty, a Manx cat, a herd of goats, chickens and a flock of lovebirds in a caravan of trucks. They found a house on 30 acres of land and Roy returned to his love of painting. In 2007, they purchased Pete’s, now Roy’s Last Shot and settled in to the mountain community.

Roy’s has become the local business that is known for throwing benefits for those in need, that hosts free holiday meals, throws weddings, graduations and birthday parties. The Stewarts feed those who are hungry.

“Heck, we give it all away,” says Roy. “I don’t care. What goes around comes around. We have had tough days, when we were scared that we didn’t have anything to eat, scared about making rent. Barb warns me about giving it all away and then steps right in and helps me.”

Anna, Barb’s mom, who is now 91, also steps right in and helps out when needed. They all know the business inside and out and know each other.

Recently Roy and Barb learned just how much they depend on each other. She injured her ankle and needed surgery, which left her unable to walk for a while, unable to help at the restaurant. She found herself depending on him to assist her with basic every day needs, and he found himself missing her support at the restaurant.

Barb says, “We both realized how much we depend on each other. Now he has to do what I would normally do, ordering the liquor, getting the hay bales. We are each half of the other now. This has been a wakeup call for both of us.”

Valentine’s Day for the couple has always been a day of work. One year, Roy put an ad in the paper telling Barb how much he loves her. He also tells her he is proud of her, that she is a good person.

Barb says staying with him has always been worth it. “I knew from the beginning that he was the one, he’s always been the one. I’m not easy to live with either.”

The Stewart marriage is going on strong after 47 years. When they are not working at the restaurant, they like to watch movies or read on the couch, sitting on either end with their feet up, touching.

“The only reason I’m still here is because of you,” Roy tells Barb.

“I couldn’t imagine life without him,” says Barb.

Barbara Lawlor

Barbara is a reporter for The Mountain-Ear.