Larimer County’s Irene Josey: a treasurer — and a treasure

Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey sits in the the newly remodeled lobby in her office in Fort Collins. The wall of historic Larimer County photos were reproduced and framed by John Clarke Photography. Clarke was a Larimer County commissioner from 1995 to 1999. (Treasurer’s photo)

Here’s to Larimer County Treasurer Irene Josey for bringing back a bit of history to her office: a 2,500-pound safe that left the courthouse in a front-end loader in the 1970s and now graces her lobby.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan recently ran an intriguing story about Josey’s role in getting the safe back.

“The safe was built by the Mosler Safe Co. of Hamilton, Ohio, in the 1890s. In its day, it probably held money, bonds and other important documents,” the newspaper reported. “The original floral-print carpeting still covers its floor. Pasted to the inside of the safe are ‘service tickets’ from when its time lock received maintenance. The earliest dates to 1899.”

Local Realtor Sean Dougherty told Josey in March 2016 he saw the safe in a house for sale. It was built into a wall with “Larimer County Treasurer’s Office” painted above the safe door. Josey did some research and learned the safe was used in the original Larimer County Courthouse, which opened in 1887. It stayed in use until a new safe was purchased in 1964.

Read more

A good sendoff for a good man

Peter Blake's passions were on display at the reception after his funeral, including his life as a newspaperman -- and a darned good one.
Peter Blake’s passions were on display at the reception after his funeral, including his life as a newspaperman — and a darned good one.

I didn’t know that the late journalist Peter Blake’s middle name was Carson until his funeral Saturday, but how appropriate because it made me think of a quote from Carson the butler on Downton Abbey: “The business of life is the acquisition of memories. In the end that’s all there is.”

At a reception after the funeral, a room was filled with mementos of Blake’s life: journalism awards, family photos, a pennant from his beloved Philadelphia Phillies and plenty of baseball memorabilia.

Blake died Dec. 7 after being diagnosed in October with a fast-moving tumor. Up until that point, the 80-year-old was still working as a journalist and breaking stories.

When news broke of Blake’s death, a number of his former colleagues at the Rocky Mountain News remarked, “Pete was 80?” He was an ageless kind of guy.

Read more

Journalist Peter Blake, 1936-2016: The end of an era

Journalist Peter Blake has died at the age of 80. (Rocky Mountain News/Ellen Jaskol/Denver Public Library)
Journalist Peter Blake has died at the age of 80. (Rocky Mountain News/Ellen Jaskol/Denver Public Library)

When former Rocky Mountain News reporter Peter Blake got up on his roof in mid-October to take care of the air conditioner, his wife Sandy scolded him.

“Peter, you’re 80,” she said. “You shouldn’t be walking around the roof.”

He told her he was fine, but unbeknownst to Blake, he wasn’t. He had no trouble with the roof, but by Oct. 19 he couldn’t throw a baseball and his speech was slurred. He checked himself into a hospital on Oct. 20, where he was diagnosed with a fast-moving brain tumor.

“We were in Palo Alto at the CU-Stanford game and he didn’t even tell us until the game was over because he wanted us to enjoy it,” Sandy said, recalling the visit with her son.

Peter Blake, an avid baseball fan, political insider and smokejumper, died at Denver Hospice on Wednesday. He is survived by his wife, two sons, other family members and a legion of admirers who admired the plain-spoken and tough but fair  journalist.

“Peter was a ‘high-alert’ guy,” said former Gov. Dick Lamm, noting that when his press secretary said Blake wanted an interview “you knew something was up.”

“He was always respectful, but you knew it was not going to be an easy interview. He would dig in places and come up with questions and you needed to be prepared.”

Services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 1401 E. Dry Creek Road. A reception will be held afterward at the church.

Read more

Howard Gelt, 1943-2016: The go-to guy, the unsung force

Howard Gelt, in this family photo, circa 1988, died Friday after decades of making his mark on Denver and Colorado.
Howard Gelt, in this family photo, circa 1988, died Friday after decades of making a difference in Denver.

Howard Gelt, the kid who got kicked out of military school and continued a rebellious streak for years, left his mark on Colorado in a number of ways, from politics to transportation to the arts.

A pioneer for women’s rights, he helped found the Colorado NARAL chapter.

At 6-foot-5, he appeared like a giant when he crashed an IOC meeting in Japan in 1972 to let members know Colorado wasn’t that excited about hosting the Olympics.

He once faked a southern drawl to get an environmental bill through the North Carolina legislature.

Gelt died Friday after battling with esophageal cancer. Gelt was 73, although he always let out his trademark big grin when people commented he looked younger.

“He had such a will to live. He had so much grit,” his son, 35-year-old Ben Gelt, said Saturday. “He was a character and just a great guy.”

The family is holding a private funeral Wednesday, but will later announce a public memorial service for Gelt, who was chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party in the early 1990s. Before that, he was key to Dick Lamm and Roy Roy Romer’s elections for governor.

Gelt and his wife, Sandy Vanghagen Gelt, had just celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary on June 1.

His death comes the same week as Republican Bill Armstrong, a former U.S. senator from Colorado. “An era is coming to an end,” said Mary Alice Mandarich, a lobbyist who visited Gelt in the hospital last week.

The thing about Gelt, she said, is he had an enormous impact on Colorado but in a behind-the-scenes, give-someone-else-the-credit way.

That sentiment was echoed by Gelt’s former wife, Susan Barnes-Gelt, who served on the Denver City Council.

“Howard’s impact on the civic and political life of this city was as big as the great outdoors,” she said. “It was entirely unsung, but he was such a force.”

Read more

Former Sen. Bill Armstrong: The guy who went from saying “no” to saying “maybe”

U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and and U.S. Bill Armstrong of Colorado in 1984. (Armstrong family photo)
U.S. Rep. Jack Kemp of New York and and U.S. Bill Armstrong of Colorado in 1984. (Armstrong family photo)

As Congress was fighting the debt ceiling in 2013, Dick Wadhams, Colorado’s political historian, passed on a New York Times story he knew I would enjoy: a 1983 feature on U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong and his brand of conservatism.

“In one sense the Senator is a missionary, preaching the gospel of fiscal rectitude to the heathens on Capitol Hill. But, in another sense, he is a pragmatist who knows how to count votes and when to accept a deal,” the newspaper wrote.

“I’m relatively inflexible on principles,” the Colorado senator told the Times, “but I’m flexible on the details.”

I reprinted the articled in the Denver Post’s award-winning political blog, The Spot, and it’s worth rereading. Armstrong died Tuesday at the age of 79.

“Have I changed in my inner self?” he said in the 1983 Times article.

“The answer is yes. Some. I’m very comfortable now with people whose political views are very different from my own, and that was hard for me 10 years ago. Until you’ve had some of the rough edges knocked off, it’s awfully easy to be brash, and feel like you’ve got all the answers. But as you gain more experience, you realize nobody has all the answers, and that fosters a degree of intellectual humility.”

Read more