“The Fightin’ Granny,” as former Rep. Gwyn Green was known, has died, unleashing a string of memories of the lawmaker, whose first victory in 2004 was so close it led to a recount.
She campaigned in a 1954 Chevy pickup that belonged to a fellow Jefferson County Democrat, Max Tyler, who succeeded Green when she resigned effective June 1, 2009, citing health concerns and a desire to spend more time with her grandchildren.
Among those who paid tribute to Green after news of her death spread was Ian Silverii, now the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado.
He wrote on his Facebook page how in 2007 he packed everything he owned in his grandfather’s 2001 Dodge Intrepid and drove from New Jersey to Colorado, where he managed his first state House campaign, for Green.
“Gwyn taught me everything about being progressive, having integrity, fighting the good fight and never letting up,” he wrote in part.
“I’ll never forget her infectious laugh, her tireless work ethic, and her short temper for injustice. Gwyn Green earned her nickname, ‘The Fightin’ Granny’ and she’s the one who taught me how to fight for what’s right.
“Rest in peace friend, I wouldn’t have this life without your mentorship and your trust in me. The world lost a warrior, and Colorado lost a legend.”
Green died Wednesday at her home in Golden at the age of 79. She is survived by her husband, Dan, their four children, 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
“She was passionate and committed to serving people throughout her life,” her youngest son, Ben, said.
Services are pending.
One thing stands out about when Green’s record is reviewed: her efforts to protect victims, including those damaged by the clergy. She and then Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald in 2006 introduced a bill that would have lifted the statue of limitations on civil lawsuits in cases of sexual abuse. They let the measure die on the last day of the session rather than let it be weakened by opponents, including the Catholic Church.
From Tara Trujillo, who used to be the spokeswoman from the House Democratic caucus:
“Gwyn recalled being at Sunday service when the priest used his sermon to speak out against her legislation. Whether the priest knew it or not, Gwyn was sitting in the pews. Gwyn, who was very active in the church, stood up in the middle of his sermon, fired off a retort in front of the entire congregation and walked out.
“Gwyn was fearless. She never worried about her re-election and the more push back she got for the legislation, the more she stood tall.”
Green also is remembered for some memorable, chuckle-inducing comments.
One overcast day during the 2006 session, she asked for directions to the west steps of the Capitol where a news conference was being held. She explained that unless she can see the mountains to the west she has no idea where she is headed. The headline on the item in the Rocky Mountain News’ “Roll Call:” On foggy days she ends up in Limon.”
That same year she maintained during a debate that the argument that nearly a thousand homes in Lakewood were threatened by eminent domain was nothing but hyperbole. Only she didn’t say “hi-PURR-bo-lee.” She said, “hyper-BOWL-ee.”
Green’s first victory, in 2004, was part of a history-making election, where Democrats won control of both the Colorado House and the Senate for the first time since the 1960 election. Tyler let her tool about the district in his antique truck.
She defeated the incumbent, Republican Ramey Johnson, by 48 votes.
Johnson blamed her loss on her own party, saying the GOP had “prostituted” itself on the issues of school vouchers. One wing of the Republican Party went after Johnson because her vote on school vouchers, and sent an attack letter to voters.
Green was 67 when she first ran for the House. Articles at that time show show the New Orleans native had obtained her master’s degree in social work, and was a member of Member of Citizens Involved in the Northwest Parkway (CINQ), League of Women Voters, National Association of Social Workers and Alliance for Retired Americans.
Her hobbies includes sketching and drawing, and she was holding her artistic tools when she was photographed for the Rocky’s “Citizen Legislator” series.
An emotional Green told her colleagues how much she was going to miss them when she announced her retirement at the end of the 2009 session. Among those who lauded her was House Minority Leader Mike May, a Parker Republican.
“Thank you for the battles, the passion you bring here,” he said.
Silverii’s Facebook post led to a string of tributes.
I loved her and was lucky to sit next to her on the House floor,” former Rep. Diane Primavera said.
“I was always so impressed when she would march up to the well and speak her mind and passion on a bill that was near and dear to her heart and constituents. Thank you for the notice. RIP Fighting Granny!!”