Justin Pilcher: A short life, well lived

Congressman Ed Perlmutter and his wife Nancy, and political consultant Audrey Kline and her husband Justin Pilcher at the wedding of Rep. Brittany Pettersen and Ian Silverii at the Governor’s Mansion in 2017. Pilcher’s memorial service was Saturday. (SOS photo)

A while back I got into a Twitter spat with Audrey Kline, a great young Democrat I’ve encountered over the years, and when we talked in person about our 140-character standoff she explained her reasoning to me:

Rep. Jessie Danielson holds her daughter Isabelle at a reception following a memorial service for Justin Pilcher Saturday. (SOS photo)

Her husband had a rare form of cancer and where would people be without Obamacare.

Justin Spencer Pilcher died Feb. 25 at the age of 33.

It was standing-room only at his memorial service Saturday at Olinger Crown Hill, and as I looked at the sports paraphernalia and Scouts uniform and the videos, all I could think of was the ending of the indelible movie “Brian’s Song:”

Brian Piccolo died of cancer at the age of 26. He left a wife and three daughters. He also left a great many loving friends who miss and think of him often. But when they think of him, it’s not how he died that they remember — but how he lived. How he did live!”

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Inspire Colorado’s work with high school students inspires donors

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams speaks at a fundraiser Monday for Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan group that encourages high students to register to vote and get involved. To his left, in blue, is Donalyn White with Inspire Colorado and to her right, in a white shirt, is Bob Meinzer, a board member with the national Inspire group. (SOS photo)

Twitter is filled with suggestions about motivating young people to vote this year, but the Centennial State is way ahead of that idea, thanks to Secretary of State Wayne Williams and Inspire Colorado.

Over the last three years, Inspire Colorado has worked with schools across the state in a student-led movement to register classmates to vote or get those already registered to pledge to vote. So far Inspire Colorado has signed up more than 7,000 students.

Williams — who got his start in politics in high school — believes it is so important for young people to be involved he established the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award, which the offices hands out to high schools where more than 85 percent of the senior class has registered to vote.

Roxane White, former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose daughter Donalyn White organized the fundraiser for Inspire Colorado. (SOS photo)

“We would not be where we are today in the state of Colorado without the wonderful support of the Secretary of State’s office and Secretary Williams,” said Ryan Drysdale, regional manager for Inspire Colorado.

Drysdale, Williams and Roxane White, the former chief of staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper, were among the speakers at a fundraiser Monday night in Denver to benefit Inspire Colorado, a nonpartisan organization that works with students, teachers and school administrators to talk to classes about the importance of civic engagement.

“I have to say that Inspire Colorado has become my top charity,” White said. “I’m concerned about the growing inequality in America and the growing anger in America and the feeling that we can’t make a difference.”

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Boyz II Men, Colorado politics style

Chase Penry, the son of former state Sen. Josh Penry, and David Brophy, the son of former state Sen. Greg Brophy.  (Brophy photo)

When they were little boys, they lived across the state from each other but occasionally played together at the state Capitol when their dads brought them to work.

These days, Chase Penry and David Brophy live in the metro area and face each other on the basketball court. Chase attends Cherry Creek High School while David goes to Arapahoe High School.

The teens’ dads are former Sen. Josh Penry, who was from Grand Junction, and former state Sen. Greg Brophy, who was from Wray.

“It’s a small world after all,” the senior Brophy said. “As a parent in sports, it really changes the nature of the game when you know and truly like the opposition kids. You want him to play well, but his team to lose!”

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Madison Lee’s Merry Christmas to Secretary Wayne Williams

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams displays the gift and cards he received from Madison Lee and her family. He met them last year when he announced that Madison was Colorado’s Doodle 4 Google contest winner. (SOS photo)

One of Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams’ fondest moments of 2017 was announcing that fourth-grader Madison Lee of Aurora had been named Colorado’s Doodle 4 Google winner, so you can imagine his delight in opening a package from the Lee family.

“Merry Christmas Mr. Williams!” Madison wrote in her homemade card. “Thank you for the work that you do … I’m a fifth grader now, but I’m still not enjoying music or math.”

Then fourth-grader Madison Lee, after Secretary of State Wayne Williams in February 2017 announced that she was the Colorado winner of the Doodle 4 Google competition. (Google)

What Madison loves is art, and that’s how she ended up in her auditorium at Black Forest Hills Elementary last year surrounded by classmates wearing Google T-shirts.

They had no idea that Williams was about to announce that Madison’s drawing had been chosen as the Colorado winner for Google’s annual K-12 nationwide artwork contest for  Google.com. She also didn’t know that her mother, Jungeun Lee, and her father, Kyungjoon Lee, were standing the back of the gymnasium.

In addition to Madison, the Lee family sent a Christmas card to the secretary, thanking him for making the announcement at the school assembly. “It was an amazing, phenomenal moment for us and we appreciate your time,” the Lee family wrote.

“This is just incredible,” Williams said, as he read their cards and unwrapped a box of Lindt truffles. “I had the honor of recognizing Madison as the winner almost a year ago, in late February, and to get notes from the family about what it meant to them — and still means to them — is so touching.”

Voting and vocation at Denver’s Arrupe Jesuit High School

“I think voting rights is about human rights.”

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams sits with seniors at Arrupe Jesuit High School Monday morning before handing out an award to the school for its effort in registering eligible students to vote. (SOS photo)

In a ceremony filled with prayers and promise, Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams on Monday recognized Arrupe Jesuit High School for its efforts in getting students registered to vote.

The north Denver Catholic school serves the economically disadvantaged and one of its goals to empower graduates to continue their education and return to their communities as leaders. The 420-member student body is 93 percent Hispanic and 77 percent qualify for free and reduced lunches.

Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, students at Arrupe Jesuit High School who encouraged their classmates to register to vote. (SOS photo)

During a senior assembly, Williams singled out two students, Ashley Simpson and Jesus Baez Tapia, for their efforts in working with the group Inspire Colorado to get their classmates inspired to register to vote.

Simpson and Tapia’s efforts led to the school receiving the Secretary of State’s Eliza Pickrell Routt award, which is given to high schools where more than 85 percent of eligible seniors register to vote.

“You’re going to graduate from high school soon. You’re going to be part of the community, and what happens in this community is up to you,” Williams said. “That’s the great thing about the democratic republic in which we live. There is no ‘the man” who makes the decisions for us. We get to make those decisions.”

Also addressing the seniors was state Rep. Dan Pabon, who represents the neighborhood, and Ryan Drysdale with Inspire Colorado.

“Our faith tells us we are working for the least amongst us,”  Pabon said. “I think voting rights is about human rights. ‘Democracy’ can be a controversial word in the world. There are some people who don’t want to have the people control their government because, God forbid, they might actually do something that helps the people.”

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