by Steven L. Miller,
Office of Communications and Technology
This year’s College of Agriculture Legacy Award winner was born in the Laramie Valley 23 years after the founding of the university, attended UW, married a college alumnus, and ranched near Laramie.
Now living in Arizona, Violet Dinwiddie – mentally nimble at 98 – believes the mission of the college is important. She created a charitable trust in 1998 to fund a scholarship for a student, and in 2004 she established another to support the research and outreach programs in diseases shared between livestock and wildlife.
“I was always interested in agriculture, and my father was very interested in the university,” says Violet, who lives in an assisted facility in Tucson. “I knew he would like to make a donation, and I was interested in the ag department. I felt it was a must. I think we need research in agriculture.”
Violet was born in Laramie to Oda and Mamie Mason and raised on her parent’s ranch on Sand Creek about 18 miles south of Laramie. “I was an only child, and we were pretty well out there,” she says. “I was raised to ride I guess. I was with my dad a lot. I went to a school out there three years and rode horseback the three miles. Dad sold the ranch, thinking he would retire at 45, and we moved to Long Beach, California. We were there one year and moved back to Laramie, where he bought the ranch he retired on.”
That was near Centennial.
She was in the fifth grade when the family moved to California. “I was scared to death when I thought about California, but I got settled,” she recalls. “I was glad to get back to Laramie because, I suppose, I had friends here and Mom and Dad seemed happier here. I enjoyed California, but it wasn’t my cup of tea, even as a little girl.”
John Clay of Cheyenne was raised on an adjacent ranch and has known her 70 years. Since Violet is unable to travel to Laramie to receive the award due to health reasons, Clay will accept on her behalf.
“I appreciate her so much as a friend,” says Clay, a member of the College of Agriculture Dean’s Advisory Board and an emeritus member of the UW Foundation. “She is so deserving of the award.”
Violet lived with her mother in a house in Laramie while attending UW, returning to the ranch on weekends. While at UW, Violet met Jack Dinwiddie, a College of Agriculture student from Texas and a member of the UW Livestock Judging Team. He graduated in 1928. After their wedding, he took her home to the Texas Panhandle for five years.
“After we got hailed out and ‘droughted’ out,” says Violet, “we moved back to Wyoming and went into ranching with my mother and father raising purebred Herefords at their ranch near Centennial.”
They ranched there until 1968, when her parents sold the ranch and Violet and Jack built a house on the east side of Sheep Mountain near Centennial. They remained there until 20 years ago, when they moved to Tubac, Arizona, where they built a house and lived there in the winter and near Laramie in the summer.
Jack died in 1986. She moved into the assisted living facility a year ago.
“I didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want to drive anymore,” she says. “I keep busy with my dog and read a lot. I have very few friends alive who are my age. I didn’t plan on being this age!”
That doesn’t prevent her from socializing. Clay says Violet has always been vivacious. “She’s always been an outgoing person,” he notes. “She’s one of those people who loves entertaining her friends and having people around her. Up until last year, she had friends she’s known for 50 years stay at her home for four or five days. She loves people.”
Says Violet, “I keep busy and I walk as much as I can. I still have lots of company through the year, which is great.”