Honoring “The Lady of the House”

Former Sen. Dottie Wham, former Capitol staffer Mary Sharon Wells, Sen. Pat Steadman and lobbyist Charlie Hebler at the memorial tribute for Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the House, Tuesday at the Colorado State Capitol. (SOS photo)
Former Sen. Dottie Wham, former Capitol staffer Mary Sharon Wells, Sen. Pat Steadman and lobbyist Charlie Hebler at the memorial tribute Tuesday at the Colorado State Capitol for Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the House. (SOS photo)

Lawmakers past and present showed up Tuesday to pay tribute to Lee Bahrych, the former chief clerk of the state House who loved the Capitol as much as she despised the pranks rowdy lawmakers were prone to pull.

Former staffer Donna Acierno recalled how Bahrych once got so annoyed with Rep. Scott McInnis she grabbed the lawmaker’s ear and made him sit down in his seat.

“That was before Scott was in leadership,” Acierno said, with a laugh.

Chief Clerk Marilyn Eddins and former Rep. Jeff Shoemaker at a tribute Tuesday for the late Lee Bahrych. (SOS photo)
Chief Clerk Marilyn Eddins and former Rep. Jeff Shoemaker at a tribute Tuesday for the late Lee Bahrych, former chief clerk of the House. (SOS photo)

McInnis, who went on to become the House majority leader, a congressman and now a Mesa County commissioner, was present at Bahrych’s tribute in the old Supreme Court chambers at the Capitol. Afterward, guests were invited to have strawberries and pound cake — in honor of Bahrych’s tradition of serving strawberries to her staffers once the session ended.

Bahrych, who died in April at the age of 90, had worked at the Capitol from 1970 to 1994.

“I thought it was a beautiful tribute to a great lady,” said the current chief clerk, Marilyn Eddins. “Lee was there when I was interviewed and hired in 1982. I had not been employed in 16 years and was very nervous. She put me at ease and I have never forgotten her kind words and encouragement. That encouragement never stopped.”

Eddins became emotional when talking about Bahrych.

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Mike McPhee and Dana Crawford: Chronicling the woman who saved “the soul of a city”

Dana Crawford with retired journalist Mike McPhee, who wrote a book on the visionary and preservationist, at their book signing Tuesday at Union Station. (Lynn Bartels)
Dana Crawford with retired journalist Mike McPhee, who wrote a book on the visionary and preservationist, at their book signing Tuesday at Union Station. (Lynn Bartels)

When I moved to Denver in the summer of 1993 to work as the night cops reporter for the Rocky Mountain News, my editors occasionally dispatched me to an abandoned flour mill where hobos had started yet another fire.

I already found the streets around downtown confusing and the poor Denver Fire Department would take my calls and try to guide me to the location in the dark, where I would finally arrive only to find that police had already shooed away the transients.

You can imagine my shock in 1997 when preservationist Dana Crawford announced she was turning the flour mill into condominiums.

I wasn’t the only one who thought the idea was “just shy of insane,” as author Mike McPhee says in his new book, “Dana Crawford:  50 Years Saving the Soul of a City.”

“In the late 1960s, it was shut down, emptied of most of its heavy steel machinery and left to the pigeons, the homeless and the graffiti artists,” he wrote of the mill. “Dana’s close friend and colleague, Jeff Shoemaker of the Greenway Foundation, attended the press conference announcing the project and fell into disbelief.

“This is completely non-salvageable. No one will live down here. I’ll buy the dynamite  and I’ll push the plunger,” he told her.

The condominiums were a huge success.

Read moreMike McPhee and Dana Crawford: Chronicling the woman who saved “the soul of a city”