Saturday, August 8, 2020


Moab, UT

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    COVID-19 strands couple in Castle Valley

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    Ron Drake
    Ron Drake
    Times-Independent Columnist

    The coronavirus pandemic has affected many lives in many different ways. My part-time neighbor, Ric Fornelius, related recently that a family member who lives in Taiwan was visiting him with his Taiwanese wife and child in January before the pandemic hit.

    Taiwan will not let them back in the country until at least August and maybe not even then. If they do go back right now they will have to be quarantined in a government camp for 28 days before they can return to their home in Taiwan. In the meantime they are concerned that the wife’s visitor visa will expire.
    Denis and Florence Wattelez, whose primary residence is in St. Maarten, the lovely island in the Caribbean, find themselves in a similar predicament. They visited their Castle Valley home last January and planned to stay several months, but when the pandemic hit, they found that Princess Juliana International Airport, the primary transportation hub on the island, was closed to everyone. Their stay in Castle Valley was extended for an indefinite period of time.

    Dennis and Florence Wattelez
    Denis and Florence Wattelez have been “stuck” in beautiful Castle Valley due to travel restrictions. Courtesy photo

    The couple planned to return in mid-May but was told by airport authorities that it would open in June then July and now they are being told possibly August. They are enjoying their extended stay but they are staying close to their Castle Valley home so as not to be exposed to the virus. But they did, however, venture out to be part of the Fourth of July parade in their 1926 Chrysler that they enjoy driving from time to time. Their primary residence is on the Dutch side of St. Maarten where they enjoy outdoor activities, but travel to the French side of the island if they want to indulge themselves in fine cuisine at a good French restaurant.
    Denis said that he has loved America since he was a little boy growing up in France and as an adult would come to America every year to visit and explore. He especially liked this area of Utah and had planned to buy a home in Moab but eventually came to Castle Valley to look at property. Land salesman Joe Kingsley showed him several lots on the rim side of the valley and Denis found two lots that he really liked but most of the property was in the cliff with very little flat surface to build a house.
    “Joe, the good salesman we know,” he said, “told me ‘why not build a rock house?’ And here I was, hooked to that idea that I loved immediately. Then I met with Robert Knight who blasted the cave in 1980.” Local contractors Don Tuft and the late Larry Hillis also worked on the interior of the house. The cave home remains a constant 72 degrees in the summer months and with a little gas heater in the winter they can easily maintain that same temperature during the cold months. Since his retirement, Denis and Florence now reside in Castle Valley four or five months every year. But this year, because of the pandemic, their stay has been extended longer and they can enjoy their lovely cave house in beautiful Castle Valley.
    • • •
    “It’s going really well,” Castle Valley Librarian Jenny Haraden stated this week when asked about the reopening of the Castle Valley Library service. The library was opened July 1 on a limited basis with curbside delivery of books, audiobooks, movies and magazines. The first day she had 10 people receiving material from the library and the service has steadily grown since then. In fact, when she picked up her orders from the Moab library last Tuesday, it was the largest order she has ever had.
    People seem to be adapting to the schedule and unique service where people find and place holds on books by using their 14-digit library card then they select their preferred pick-up location by choosing Castle Valley Library. When you receive notification that your items are available, email Jenny to schedule a pickup time in Castle Valley. Your items will be available on a table outside the library at the specified time and when there is no interaction with others picking up their books.
    She misses the interaction with the library patrons because she can’t “chit-chat” with people, but sometimes they wave through the glass door of the library. But in the end, she just wants everybody to have a good library service. If you have questions email Jenny at or call the Grand County Library in Moab at 435-259-1111.

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