The Leavitt’s Long Journey Home
Story by Hannah Fields
After traveling the world, Carmenza and Paul Leavitt have found that there’s no place to call home quite like Greeley.
Paul grew up in the Denver area, but for Carmenza, the road to Greeley was a long one. Growing up in Colombia, she had never even heard of Colorado as a girl. While working as a teacher in her native country in the year of 1971 at the age of 23, she took her first trip to the U.S. to study English in New York, where she lived for a year before returning to Colombia. Later, she decided to return to the U.S., moving to Maryland, where she worked as a nanny. By sheer chance her employer moved to Denver, Colorado, and he was invited to move with them and continue as the family’s nanny. That was in January 1976.
“This was an opportunity to be in a new area of the country I had never been to,” says Carmenza. “So, I said yes.”
Once there she also began the process of transferring her application for residency to the U.S. An outgoing and passionate traveler, she quickly made friends in the community. It was through one such friend that she met her future husband, Paul Leavitt. In April of 1976 she was invited to dinner by a friend, who had also invited Paul without telling her. “She was trying to play matchmaker,” Carmenza says laughingly. At first it seemed like the friend had failed, as the pair were total opposites!” “I’m from Colombia, South America, and he is a very traditional man from Denver who served in Korea during the Vietnam war, Carmenza explained. In fact, the two didn’t speak again until that June, when Paul invited her on a date. The pair hit it off and began seeing each other on the weekends. But for Carmenza, time was pressing: her visa was up in September and her residency application had not yet been processed. In fact, she needed to be out of the country by September 21st. “I started praying saying ‘if he is the one, please send me a sign,” she said of that trying time.
Then in August, she as invited to go on a trip she nannied for. When she returned, Paul was waiting with important news. “He told me, ‘You are not leaving. I will do all the paperwork, you are staying’.”
They got married on September 11th, 1976, ten days before she would have had to leave!
After ten years in Broomfield, Paul’s job with the Department of Corrections took him to Greeley, where Carmenza decided to transfer her educational credits to the University of Northern Colorado, where she pursued a bachelor's in education, emphasis in Spanish, ESL and Bilingual Education, and then a master's degree in inter disciplinary education. Once she’d settled in, Carmenza taught with Weld County School District 6 in various schools, as well as teaching two semesters at UNC in the Spanish department. She retired from the profession in 2009.
With Paul, she raised to children, Paul William, 43, and Mark, 40. Paul William lives in Broomfield and works as the president of a non-profit called Torn Curtain Arts in Denver, he is also the director of operations for Colorado Arts Productions. In his free time, as well as being a singer, worship leader, actor, he is a husband to wife Christa, and a father of Leora Day, 12, and Stella, 16. Paul and Carmenza’s younger son Mark splits his time between working as a realtor in Greeley and leading tours in Anchorage Alaska; he also sculpts in his free time.
Carmenza is heavily involved with her church, Cornerstone Community Church. Through her church, as well as the former Wesleyan Church 9now Generations Church), Carmenza has traveled on many missions to countries such as Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Peru, Ukraine, Russia, and Costa Rica. She also served as a deacon and worked in women’s ministries and has been a youth sponsor during her time here in Greeley.
In their free time, Carmenza and Paul also love to travel. “We try to take a big trip at least every 5 years,” Carmenza explained. Most recently the couple took a breathtaking trip to Alaska, where their son Marked acted as the tour guide. They had a chance to see the Northern Lights and even tried white water rafting! Next time, Carmenza hopes to make it over to China. She explained that “I have many students and teachers from China that would like me to visit there.”
When they aren’t globetrotting, the pair call the Willowood subdivision home. When asked to describe their neighborhood, she said, “This is a great neighborhood, let us help one another because a neighborhood that works together succeeds together for everyone’s benefits.”
Carmenza recalled how, following the heavy snows in March of 2021, when some trees fell in their yard, their neighbors came over with saws and helped to clear them out before they even though to ask! These same neighbors have hosted community BBQs in the cul-de-sac in the past years, and each year some of these families put out luminaries for the whole neighborhood to enjoy.
The Leavitt's have lived there for more than 35 years and love it for its stability and sense of community. Truly they’ve found a place to call home here in Greeley.