In memory of Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the state House

Chief Justice Luis Roveria and Lee Bahrych, the chief clerk of the state House of Representatives in this undated photo. (Lee Bahrych family)
Chief Justice Luis Rovira and Lee Bahrych, the chief clerk of the state House of Representatives, smile for the camera in this undated photo. Bahrych, who died in April, will honored at a memorial service Tuesday. (Lee Bahrych family photo)

Lee Bahrych, who served as chief clerk of the Colorado House of Representatives, retired from the state more than two decades ago but her legacy lives on today.

It was her idea that when a former representative passed away, their families be invited into the House chamber when the memorial was read and adopted. When she realized those touring the Capitol had no where to sit, she designed benches that were placed on all the legislative floors. And she understood long before her peers that technology was going to change the place and chaired a committee to make it happen.

Glee Coffman Bahrych, known as “Lee,” died April 10, 2016 at the age of 90. Bahrych, who began working for the legislature in 1970 and became the chief clerk in 1985, will be memorialized at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the old Supreme Court chamber.

Former Rep. Jeff Schoemaker will deliver the eulogy.

“Lee Bahrych was truly the ‘Lady of House,'” said the current chief House clerk, Marilyn Eddins. “I don’t remember who coined that phrase, but it’s true. Because of her I have loved every minute of my work in this beautiful building.”

Lee Bahrych, center, in this 1970 photo in Gov. John Love's campaign office. With her are Joan Albi, Kay Johnson and Ruth Law. (Lee Bahrych family photo)
Lee Bahrych, center, in this 1970 photo. With her are Joan Albi, Kay Johnson and Ruth Law. (Lee Bahrych family photo)

In Bahrych’s honor, donations can be made to the Capitol Building Advisory Committee fund. Checks should be made out to “The State of Colorado” with “Project Gold Fund” in the memo line.

“Lee had many marvelous traits. At the top of my list were her warmth, respect for process and preservation of history,” said former Rep. Jeanne Faatz of Denver. “We all loved Lee, and she loved us — most days.’

“She loved legislative history. One day I mentioned to Lee I was about to discard a box of newspaper articles written about legislative issues in which I had played a role. Lee made another suggestion. ‘Copy the articles and put them in a binder for your girls,’ she said. ‘They might also be persuaded to donate a copy to the Colorado Historical Society.’ As always, I listened to Lee.”

Former House Majority Leader Norma Anderson of Lakewood recalled how Bahrych made sure the assignables — the aides who filed bills and handled other duties for lawmakers — wore jackets that covered their behinds. That’s because they were always bending over to put something in a file cabinet at a lawmaker’s desk, Anderson said with a laugh. And she said Bahrych never went to a conference without bringing something back for her staff.

Some of Bahrych’s sayings:

PROOF, PROOF, PROOF.

Always leave a paper trail.

Put a smile in your voice when you answer the telephone. You are representing the Legislature.

Let’s do what we can to make this really nice.

It’s not a mistake if it’s corrected before it leaves the House.

That would be nice, but what are the taxpayers getting for their money?

Here are excerpts from Bahrych’s obituary:

Glee Coffman Bahrych was born on Oct. 27, 1925, in Gage, Okla., the fifth child in a family of 10 children. She grew up working on the farm, learning to shoot rabbits with her older brother, Richard, and becoming the strong, self-reliant, hard-working person her family and friends relied on and admired.

Lee Bahrych, third from left, who worked her way up to chief clerk of the state House of Representatives, will be memorialized at a ceremony at the state Capitol on Tuesday. (Lee Chief Bahrych family photo)
Former chief Clerk Lee Bahrych, third from left, will be memorialized at a ceremony at the state Capitol on Tuesday. (Lee Bahrych family photo)

She met her husband, Max, in Tulsa during World War II, and married him after he returned from the war. He was a captain in the Army Air Force. They moved from Oklahoma to Los Angeles, which was a city of orange groves and clear air in 1947, where Max received a graduate degree from UCLA.

They eventually moved to Denver, where they raised their four children at what was then the southeast edge of the city. She loved Denver, often remarking that the “sun always shines in Colorado.”

She retired from the Colorado General Assembly, where she had worked her way up to chief clerk, to care for her husband. As her large family and many friends knew, she deeply loved her husband of fifty-four years, her four children, Lynn Bahrych of Shaw Island, Wash., Teri Bahrych of Englewood, Sharon Bahrych of Centennial, and the late Lawrence Frank Bahrych.

Before she died, she encouraged her daughters, granddaughter, and great-grandchildren to “be good to everybody,” which was exactly what she had done all her long, wonderful life.