Antique Vintage 08
Official Obituary of

Gleda May Estes

March 4, 1932 ~ March 30, 2024 (age 92) 92 Years Old

Gleda Estes Obituary

Gleda May Kane was born on March 4, 1932, at the farm home of her parents, Lester and Anna Belle Kane, in Page County, near Clarinda, Iowa. She was the youngest of eight siblings, having had six brothers and one sister who all preceded her in death. She is survived by her husband of nearly 73 years, Vernon D. Estes, and by their daughters Betty Geer, Sharon Estes, and Linda (Dale) Musgrave. Gleda also leaves behind six beloved grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren along with eight step-great-grandchildren and seven step-great-great-grandchildren.

A funeral and burial service will be held with family and friends at the Evangelical Free Church of Canon City, 3000 E Main Street, Canon City, Colorado April 8, 2024, at 11:30 am. In addition, a Celebration of Life in early August will be planned at a time convenient for her many rocket friends. Please see for more about Gleda’s life and opportunities to donate in lieu of flowers.

More about Gleda’s life:

Gleda was born in her parents’ farmhouse near the town of Clarinda Iowa and was raised in the area. Her name, the same as a close friend of her parents, means “one who makes glad.” Living on a farm, she enjoyed being with her favorite animals; horses, cows, and even a pet bat. Gleda attended grade school at a nearby one-room country schoolhouse, where she excelled in all her classwork. One story she liked to tell was of her early school’s spelling bees. Herman, her brother, a few years her senior, was in the same school at the time and chose her for his spelling bee team, even though she was only in first grade. Other students laughed at him for doing so until they were soundly defeated by this young girl. Little did they know that the Kane family played spelling games for fun.  In 1946, Gleda moved to Clarinda, Iowa to attend high school, living with the William C. Hemphill family. She did housekeeping, cooking, and babysitting for her room and board. To prepare herself for a career in nursing, she worked part-time at the local hospital during her senior year in high school. Then, in the fall of 1950, she began her freshman year at Central College in McPherson, Kansas. Looking to further her interest in nursing, Gleda enrolled in first-year chemistry, psychology, and other recommended courses.

It was in chemistry class at Central that Gleda met her husband, Vernon Estes. Much of their courtship involved Vern being the volunteer driver for Gleda and her choir companions as they performed in various locations away from the campus. After a whirlwind courtship, Gleda and Vern eloped and were married on May 16, 1951, in Larned, Kansas. They lived their early married life together in the Denver area where Vern’s parents lived, and where their three daughters were born.    

Shortly after her marriage, Gleda took courses in bookkeeping and accounting before taking on the task of running Vern’s construction office, and later, office functions for Estes Industries as their activities shifted from building construction to mail order rocketry. Vern has often said that without Gleda’s help and support to start Estes Industries, his venture into model rocketry would have never happened. Her dedication was endless. When she was in the hospital in labor with her youngest daughter, between labor pains she was helping Vern compose an article for the Model Rocket News. It was Gleda who did much of the work as they got their small rocket company off the ground. She rolled body tubes, typeset and printed instructions, stitched the first Estes catalogs on her sewing machine, handled the bookkeeping, packed rocket kits, and processed and shipped orders.

Following the 1961 move to Penrose, Gleda managed the largest division at Estes Industries. It was her department that made sure kits got produced and shipped on time. She managed the mass mailings of catalogs, Model Rocket News, and other publications. It was her job to oversee the opening of the mail and make sure each order was shipped out in the afternoon mail. Everyone at Estes knew that when it came to serving the everyday needs of customers, Gleda was the Boss. As Estes grew, so did Gleda’s division of the company. When Estes Industries was sold to the Damon Corporation in 1969, she was managing more than 150 employees.

Upon retiring from Estes Industries in 1972, approximately 35 Estes Industries plant supervisors paid tribute to her with a celebration of her many years of dedicated service to the company and its employees. Following her ‘retirement’, Gleda continued working with Vern in his entrepreneurial pursuits and took on investments of her own from their office in Canon City. She participated in several community economic and social organizations and was especially active in her church’s youth and music programs. 

Gleda accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior at nine years of age, and for most of her life sought to serve Him and others. She said her favorite Bible verse was John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” She helped out with AWANA clubs, sang in the choir, and sang in many groups such as duets and trios. She also contributed to the choir by donating sheet music. She participated in conferences and retreats and supported other church functions.

Gleda was a wonderful wife and mother, who loved her family and was always there for them. Each of her daughters would have much to tell of her wise counsel and instruction in life. She emphasized and exhibited honesty, worshipping God, working hard, responsibility, loyalty, and doing the right thing. She was a beloved grandmother, getting to know and care for each grandchild from nearly the moment of birth, and helping out each of her daughters during that critical new mom stage. Gleda loved joining family and friends at the Estes Cabin near Howard, Colorado, at the foot of the Twin Sisters peaks. There, until the cabin was sold, the family used to enjoy summer hiking and dirt biking, as well as winter sledding, snowmobiling, and games of pool or ping pong.

In addition to juggling work and family life, for several decades, Gleda was active in community organizations within Fremont County, including Calvary Baptist Church, and later Greydene Baptist Church, AWANA Club, TOPS, Fremont County Economic Development Council, Prospectors, various competitive bowling leagues, and a few community acting and choral groups. Gleda was very active in her church during most of her life in Canon City, and in her spare time also enjoyed gardening, sewing, reading, and having coffee with her many friends. She wasn’t one to sit around much.

Gleda enjoyed traveling and experiencing different cultures and customs. She and Vern visited all of the 50 states as well as numerous foreign countries in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Two of her favorite destinations were Israel and Norway. Many of these trips were related to model rocketry and some just for pleasure.

In 2018, a scholarship was established in Gleda’s name through the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) to help start the careers of young women with majors in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Each summer a candidate is selected based on merit to receive $3000 toward their education. Relative to this scholarship, Gleda said, “I would like to see more of our bright & talented young women in rocketry achieve their educational goals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I believe our young women can do exceptionally well in these fields and be very competitive with men in the workplace. I only wish these opportunities had been available when I was young.”

Throughout more than 60 years of the hobby of model rocketry, Gleda attended many rocket events in the US and around the world. She was the first female to compete nationally in model rocketry (won two trophies the first time out and surpassed two Airforce hotshots who thought they were going to take first and second place in the boost-glide competition. Also, she was the first woman to win awards at an international meet.

At the NAR’s annual national research and development contests (NARAMs,) she was known to shout out, “Go Girls Go,” as words of encouragement to young lady participants. And, the girls did go, and she was so proud of them. Gleda always enjoyed attending model rocket-related events with Vern and cultivated a warm relationship with many model rocketeers. She felt like the rocketeers were part of her extended family.

All in all, Gleda lived a life full of lasting relationships, spiritual service and fulfillment, travel adventures, and intellectual challenges. She would be the first to say she wasn’t perfect, that she had flaws. Yet she loved and cared deeply. Those who love her in this life already miss her. Those who share her faith look forward to seeing her again.

Memorial gifts in lieu of flowers may be given to any of Gleda’s favorite causes:

Gleda’s church, Greydene Independent Baptist Church,
333 Greydene Ave., Cannon City, CO 81212

The Navigators,

Samaritan’s Purse,

The Gleda M. Estes Scholarship at NAR Scholarships and Grants - National Association of Rocketry with checks to NAR, address: Gleda M. Estes Scholarship, NAR Headquarters, P.O. Box 260, Middletown VA 22645-0260.

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Funeral Service
April 8, 2024

11:30 AM
Evangelical Free Church
3000 East Main Street
Canon City, CO 81212


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