2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Time capsule a gift to future residents of Colorado Springs’ Old North End

    Fri, July 25, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The dining room table of former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese is covered with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors for inclusion in a time capsule, made of PVC pipe, in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The dining room table of former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese is covered with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors for inclusion in a time capsule, made of PVC pipe, in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The dining room table in Vic Appugliese’s Old North End home is covered with the history of the neighborhood north of downtown Colorado Springs.

    There are dozens of photos and typed stories of neighbors past and present.

    Former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese holds a time capsule that he is filling with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule, made of PVC pipe, will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese holds a time capsule that he is filling with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule, made of PVC pipe, will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    On the floor, by the table, is a six-foot-long PVC tube that Appugliese is filling with similar photos and stories.

    On Saturday, the tube will be sealed inside a stone pillar that is part of a new entry sign being unveiled at 5:15 p.m. by the neighborhood.

    Written on the tube are instructions that it should not be opened for 100 years, after July 26, 2114.

    The time capsule and the rock-and-steel sign, erected on North Nevada Avenue at Lilac Street, are just a couple examples why I admire the folks of the Old North End.

    Every neighborhood could learn a lot from this neighborhood, bordered by Uintah Street on the south, the old Rock Island Railroad ditch on the north, Monument Valley Park to the west and Wahsatch Avenue, roughly, to the east.

    I think it’s great they are erecting entry signs. (This is the second sign they’ve built.) A lot of neighborhoods display their pride and sense of place with similar signs.

    But what’s unique about the signs of the Old North End is that they added PVC tubes with artifacts and photos and histories of the residents and homes and even their pets to create a treasure for future residents.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association built this entry sign in 2013 at Nevada Avenue and Uintah Street. A new entry sign, several blocks north at Lilac Street, will contain a time capsule filled with the photos and family histories of neighborhood residents. File photo.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association built this entry sign in 2013 at Nevada Avenue and Uintah Street. File photo.

    The first sign contained one tube and the sign being unveiled Saturday will contain two history tubes.

    This bunch really thinks ahead.

    And it has been doing so since 1957 when the neighborhood first organized its association.

    Over the years, the neighbors have united to fight wholesale invasion by developers who threatened to change the character and charm of the neighborhood, which boasts wide, tree-line streets and century-old homes in a wide range of sizes on large lots.

    Neighbors have worked with Penrose Hospital to prevent its expansion from overwhelming and ruining the neighborhood’s north edge. Same for Colorado College on the south border.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association has battled with the Colorado Department of Transportation over the widening of Interstate 25 to protect residents of noise, to lobby for rubberized asphalt and to negotiate for replacement of hundreds of trees removed during construction a decade ago.

    (The neighbors say CDOT still owes them hundreds of trees and they still want rubberized asphalt, by the way.)

    The dining room table of former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese is covered with photos and family histories submitted by his neighbors for inclusion in a time capsule, made of PVC pipe, in this July 23, 2014, photo. The capsule will be inserted in a new neighborhood entry sign erected on North Nevada Avenue and to be unveiled Saturday evening. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese displays an artist’s rendering of a new sign.  Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And now it’s preserving its history for future residents.

    Appugliese is a great example of why the neighborhood association has been able to stay relevant all these years.

    He’s a former soldier, a Gulf War veteran, who has a passion for history and his neighborhood.

    Since moving to the Old North End in 1999, he has volunteered on committees and even served as president of the association four years.

    Today he remains active to the extent he spent the Fourth of July holiday with a couple neighbors building the sign.

    “This is a great community of people of all sorts of backgrounds,” he said. “People here share a passion for our neighborhood. It’s an old-fashioned community and we hope it always will be.”

    Besides writing his own history for the time capsule, Appugliese prepared a history of past association presidents.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association has championed the neighborhood north of downtown Colorado Springs and led efforts to add distinctive touches such as these historic street signs it began erecting in 2011. File photo.

    The Old North End Neighborhood Association has championed the neighborhood north of downtown Colorado Springs and led efforts to add distinctive touches such as these historic street signs it began erecting in 2011. File photo.

    “These are people who stepped up and made a lot of personal sacrifices on behalf of the neighborhood,” he said. “They faced a lot of challenges and worked hard to keep neighborhood momentum going. We want to honor them.”

    Also included is a copy of a “Presidential Order No. 17” that Appugliese signed on Feb. 1, 2013, symbolically banning fracking in the Old North End.

    “I wanted to make a statement,” he said, unapologetically.

    The neighborhood school, Steele Elementary, is well-documented along with beloved Fire Station 2, which carries an Old North End logo on its truck.

    And there are photos of houses decorated for Halloween and Christmas and of several of the Old North End’s dogs of the year. That’s right, they annually elect a “dog of the year.”

    I asked Appugliese what he hoped would happen to the time capsule in a century.

    “I hope they will open it and then fill it with their own stories,” he said.

    Several volunteers, including former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese, Ed Rinker and Chuck Martin, spend much of the Fourth of July building a new neighborhood entry sign on North Nevada Avenue. It will be unveiled Saturday evening. It was built using grates salvaged from a historic neighborhood home and rock similar to that used in homes there. Courtesy the Old North End neighborhood.

    Several volunteers, including former Old North End Neighborhood Association president Vic Appugliese, Ed Rinker and Chuck Martin, spend much of the Fourth of July building a new neighborhood entry sign on North Nevada Avenue. It will be unveiled Saturday evening. It was built using grates salvaged from a historic neighborhood home and rock similar to that used in homes there. Courtesy the Old North End neighborhood.

    ___

  • Side Streets readers grant Peggy Shivers’ birthday wish

    Fri, July 11, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Peoples United MethodistHallelujah for Side Streets readers.

    You made Peggy Shivers‘ 75th birthday one to remember.

    Let me refresh your memories.

    On June 6, I asked readers to give Peggy a birthday present to thank her for all she and her late husband, Clarence Shivers, have done for Colorado Springs.

    Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo. He posed with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988 honoring the black Air Force squadron of World War II. He trained with the squadron. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

    Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo posing with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

    Clarence was part of the famed Tuskegee Airmen black pilot fighter squadron in World War II. He was also a painter and sculptor.

    Peggy is a classically trained opera soprano.

    After the couple moved to Colorado Springs in 1979, they became active in the community.

    In 1993, they established the Shivers Fund to buy books and reference materials by and about African-Americans for the Pikes Peak Library District. The fund led to creation of the Shivers African-American Historical and Cultural Collection with an inventory exceeding 1,000 and an endowment of $100,000 or so.

    The collection chronicles the achievements of blacks in history, culture and the arts. And the fund distributes scholarships of $3,000-$4,000 to young people interested in studying the arts.

    Peggy Shivers in a March 2013 photo. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Peggy Shivers in a March 2013 photo. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Clarence and Peggy also launched the Shivers Celebration of music and the arts, hosting jazz and classical concerts by world-famous musicians along with workshops and master classes for young musicians every other year.

    Clarence died in 2007 and Peggy has carried on their work. This past Thanksgiving she announced she would no longer host the celebrations.

    It made me think it was time to thank her.

    So with her 75th birthday approaching, Peggy told me she didn’t want any presents but she’d love for her friends to join her for church services June 29 at Peoples United Methodist Church on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs.

    I asked you, Side Streets readers, to grant her birthday wish.

    And I’m tickled to report you made me proud.

    More importantly, you made Peggy incredibly happy.

    On a riverboat in Budapest, Hungary, I received an email from Peggy, who sounded ecstatic.

    Here’s what she wrote:

    “Just wanted to let you know that my birthday was WONDERFUL!! The church was packed with standing room only. It was FANTASTIC. Thanks again for helping to make my wish come true.”

    Her email made my day.

    So when I got back, I called Peggy’s pastor, Bill Gamble, to get the details.

    Pastor Bill Gamble preached to a standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014, as people filled it to help celebrate Peggy Shivers' 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    Pastor Bill Gamble preached to a standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014, as people filled it to help celebrate Peggy Shivers’ 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    “It was exciting,” he said. “It was successful in a big way. We typically get 50 people for Sunday services. We prepared for over 100 and we had more than 140 that day.”

    Many were friends of Peggy’s but some were strangers who simply wanted to say thanks.

    City Councilwoman Jan Martin was there. Same for longtime community leader Mary Ellen McNally.

    There were other pastors and chaplains who attended, Gamble said, and folks of other denominations who never had visited the 111-year-old church, which was founded by freed slaves who came to Colorado Springs with the daughter and son-in-law of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

    “It was very multi-cultural,” Gamble said. “It blossomed like a rainbow. It was a great worship experience.”

    A few even promised to come back and Gamble hopes they do.

    “I had a couple Catholics come up after the service and say they enjoyed it,” Gamble said with a laugh. “I said God is here, too.

    “Hopefully, they will come back. We were glad to have them.”

    Peggy was glad, too.

    Peggy Shivers, standing in center, thanks the standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014. People filled the church to celebrate Shivers' 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    Peggy Shivers, standing in center, thanks the standing-room-only crowd at Peoples United Methodist Church on Sunday, June 29, 2014. People filled the church to celebrate Shivers’ 75th birthday. Photo courtesy Maui Davila Photography.

    Overwhelmed, actually, Gamble said.

    And flattered, she told me.

    “It was just wonderful,” she said. “It was just everything I wished for and more.”

    In an email, she again stressed how happy the turnout made her.

    “I greatly appreciated each and everyone who came being there,” Peggy said. “I TRULY LOVED SEEING EVERY SINGLE PERSON that attended.”

    I was sorry I couldn’t be there.

    But I’m so proud of all of you who filled the pews. Thank you.

  • A bike-sharing program would make Colorado Springs as cool as Budapest

    Wed, July 9, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    In case any of you were wondering, I spent much of the last two weeks in the Old Country, touring Europe by riverboat (imagine Huck Finn with a gourmet chef and flat-screen TV) and traveling within a few hundred miles of my grandfather’s village in Slovenia.

    I have so many stories to tell, but most will have to wait for a Life & Travel piece I will be writing.

    Bicycle sharing is an inexpensive and popular way for residents of Vienna, Austria, to get around the city. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles. Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, selected a bike from one of many solar-powered bike stations in the city in this June 26, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    Bicycle sharing is an inexpensive and popular way for residents of Vienna, Austria, to get around. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and  pay a deposit on the bikes. Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, selected a bike from one of many solar-powered bike stations in the city in this June 26, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    For now, I want to share a revelation that my wife, Cary, and I experienced in Vienna, Austria, and again in Budapest, Hungary.

    Bicycle sharing isn’t a fresh idea, I know.

    It’s been working rather well in Denver since then-Mayor John Hickenlooper oversaw the rollout of the nation’s first large-scale program in 2010, according to friends there.

    But it would be new to Colorado Springs, and I think it would work well if the powers that be can figure out funding.

    Bicycle sharing is an inexpensive and popular way for residents of Vienna, Austria, to get around the city. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles. In this June 26, 2014, photo, Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, cruised through a Vienna city park on a bike rented near a subway station. She rode it an hour before returning it to a solar-powered bike station several blocks away. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    In this June 26, 2014, photo, Cary Vogrin, a Gazette editor and wife of Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, cruised through a Vienna city park on a bike rented near a subway station. She rode it an hour before returning it to a solar-powered bike station several blocks away. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    As we toured Vienna, Cary and I kept noticing racks of bicycles parked at various places — in the heart of the city, around parks and retail corridors, and along the main routes leading from the Danube River, where our cruise ship was docked.

    With the help of an English-speaking Austrian, we registered, rented two bikes with a credit card and launched ourselves on a thoroughly enjoyable exploration of Vienna.

    Dodging cars was no problem as Vienna has well-defined bike lanes along its network of sidewalks.

    Dodging other bikes was another issue. Riders zoomed past us at dangerous speeds. At one point, I thought we’d stumbled into the peloton of the Tour de Austria.

    Once we adjusted to the pace, it was great. Best of all, when we were done sightseeing, we simply followed the bike lane toward the river. About three blocks from the Danube, we found a bike station, parked our bikes in the locking racks and walked the rest of the way to our ship.

    What an adventure.

    Gleaming new bicycles await riders in Budapest, Hungary, as the eastern European city prepares to launch its new bike sharing program. Solar-powered bike stations with kiosks were built at key locations thoughout the ancient city on the Danube River, offering residents and visitors an inexpensive way to get around. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles, which can be returned to any station in the city, as seen in this June 29, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    Gleaming new bicycles await riders in Budapest, Hungary, as the city prepares to launch its new bike sharing program. Solar-powered bike stations with kiosks were built at key locations thoughout the ancient city on the Danube River, offering residents and visitors an inexpensive way to get around. Users register at kiosks or online, using a credit card to pay the annual fee, the hourly rates and hold as a deposit on the bicycles, which can be returned to any station in the city, as seen in this June 29, 2014, photo. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette.

    We saw dozens of gleaming new bikes in similar racks stationed around Budapest.

    But we could only admire them because that ancient city’s program is still in the testing phase.

    All we could think about was how great it would be if Colorado Springs had a bike sharing program for commuters and tourists.

    Of course, it would require better bike lanes and greater connectivity of the existing bike trails.B-cycle

    When I got home, I researched bike sharing programs and was surprised to find how common they are in the U.S. I was aware that Denver had a B-cycle program with 700 bicycles scattered across 80 stations.

    And I was not stunned to learn it exists in Boulder as well. But there’s a long list of cities, many I consider less outdoor-oriented than Colorado Springs, with bike sharing programs.

    Susan Edmondson, president and chief executive officer, Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs

    Susan Edmondson, president and chief executive officer, Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs

    So I called my friend Susan Edmonson, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, to ask about prospects for bike sharing.

    She is a huge supporter of anything that enhances the quality of life in the Springs and has sponsored and promoted events such as fun downtown rides.

    Edmonson gave me hope but was honest about the challenges facing urban bikers in the region.

    First, she noted the city has hired a bicycle transportation coordinator to work on things such as trail connectivity and bike lanes.

    “For a bike sharing program to be successful, we need good bike infrastructure,” she said.

    That also means more pedestrian bridges and tunnels at intersections to keep cars and bikes safely away from each other. What’s important is that people are studying these issues and looking for solutions.

    Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler

    Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler

    One of the folks leading the conversations is City Councilwoman Jill Gaebler, who is pursuing a B-cycle program for the Springs because of all the benefits that spin off from a community that embraces pedal power.

    People who bike generally are healthier. Bikes don’t pollute or use fuel or sit and idle in traffic jams. But there are reasons cities such as Fort Collins have bike sharing programs and we don’t.

    “I live in the Patty Jewett neighborhood,” Gaebler told me. “My goal is to bike downtown twice a week. But it’s not as safe a ride as I’d like it to be. We need to make it safer to ride bikes on our streets.”

    So she’s attacking the issue on several fronts. For example, she and her advocacy group are working with city traffic engineers to identify core routes to be improved.

    “If you ride, you know there are 10 to 20 little junctions that need to happen to make this a really rideable city,” she said. “We need to get the inner-connectivity piece done well so they are safe and comfortable for people.”

    Gaebler also is looking at the best structure for a ride share program.

    “Our goal is to create a nonprofit organization to oversee it,” she said.

    Then there is the basic funding question: rely on user fees or find grants and sponsors to finance the program?

    “Relying totally on user fees just doesn’t work,” she said. “I think we’ll need sponsors who will sponsor a bike station, for example.”

    The advocacy group, which met Monday night, includes Allen Beauchamp, who describes himself as a diehard local cycling advocate. He came on board as a skeptic, but he talks like a believer.

    Beauchamp is a card-carrying member of Denver’s B-cycle program because he loves being able to drive north, park, get on a bike and take a 20-30 minute ride to his destination.

    But he worries if Springs residents will embrace the concept and pay say $50 a year to get access to the bikes.

    “It would be really nice for people working downtown to hop on a bike at lunch and take a ride without giving up their parking spot,” Beauchamp said. “Or to hop on a bike to ride to a meeting that is just beyond walking distance. Or to go to lunch.”

    The Denver program offers four options for access to the bikes: $8 daily, $20 weekly, $30 monthly and $80 annually. Members of the program then can ride any bike free for 30 minutes and pay only $1 for an hour.

    Rates for a Springs system are one of the things the group is discussing. Gaebler envisions a community conversation about the program once her group’s work gets further along.

    B-cycle 2But already it has identified logical routes to link key parts of the city.

    Bicycle enthusiasts hope to start by connecting downtown with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the North Nevada Avenue shopping district as well as Colorado College, the Penrose and Memorial hospital campuses, the Ivywild neighborhood to the south and Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs to the west.

    I’d add Garden of the Gods along with a route east to The Citadel mall area.

    How convenient would it be to rent a bike at Woodmen Road, ride it downtown, drop it off at a rack and know that another bike would be there when you want to leave?

    We’d be as cool as Budapest! 

    _______

  • Colorado Springs native, recent Pulizter Prize winner, heads to New York Times

    Wed, June 18, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, left, and Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, pose in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum before a portrait of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin, left, and Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, pose in the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum before a portrait of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Today, just two months after we gave Dave Philipps a champagne toast in the newsroom to celebrate winning the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, we are honoring him again.

    It’s his last day at The Gazette.

    He is leaving us to join the New York Times, where he’ll start on Monday.

    Gazette Managing Editor Joanna Bean, Dave Philipps and photographer Michael Ciaglo pop champagne in April to celebrate winning the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Mark Reis / The Gazette

    Gazette Managing Editor Joanna Bean, Dave Philipps and photographer Michael Ciaglo pop champagne in April to celebrate winning the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Mark Reis / The Gazette

    I applaud Dave, 36, for reaching what I consider the pinnacle destination in our profession. He deserves it as much as any reporter I’ve ever known. And in my 20 years at The Gazette, I’ve seen some good ones.

    Dave is proof of what I used to tell prospective reporters when I was hiring as City Editor.

    The Gazette is a place where you can do great work because it has an atmosphere that encourages reporters to think big. This attitude has produced two Pulitzer Prizes, national military writing awards, national religion writing honors and prestigious prizes for photos and designand our Lifestyle and Sports sections. I’m confident there will more accolades in our future.

    But today we are bidding farewell to Dave, who bounced into our old newsroom on South Prospect Street in 2002 as a brash intern ready to show all us oldtimers how this journalism thing is done.

    I didn’t know it at the time but Dave grew up here, on the campus of the Fountain Valley School where his late father, Glenn, taught history for years.

    His mother, Peggy, still lives in Colorado Springs after retiring as an elementary school teacher.

    He arrived at The Gazette after stints doing construction work (he’s skinny as a 2-by-4!) and as a ski bum, er ski instructor.

    “I can get down the hill OK,” Dave said modestly.

    His first day should have been an omen . . . it was the day the Hayman fire erupted near Lake George. He came armed with an environmental studies degree from Middlebury College in Vermont and a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York.

    It was immediately obvious he was confident in his abilities and unafraid to push boundaries.

    “I just wanted to write,” Dave said. “Journalism is a way to engage people and connect with people. It’s not an academic practice.”

    By the time his summer internship was over, Dave felt ready to jump right in as a fulltime employee.

    But he had to wait for an opening about six months later when we hired him as a outdoors writer specializing in hiking, skiing and other fun pursuits.

    “It was a dream job,” he said. “They were going to pay me to have fun in the Rockies.”

    Dave threw himself into the job.

    “I wanted it to appear to readers like it was totally awesome, which it was,” Dave said laughing.

    I remember resenting this skinny kid who we paid to play.

    Then I started hating him when he became our food critic. (It wasn’t enough he specialized in recreation, we had to feed him too?)

    But I couldn’t ignore his talent. His early writing taught me about hiking and biking and camping and skiing with thoroughly researched stories that always included entertaining turns of phrase.

    Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, studies an exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum on June, 17, 2014, about the life of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Dave Philipps, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, studies an exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum on June, 17, 2014, about the life of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And soon he was revealing his appreciation for the history of The Gazette, of Colorado Springs and, of course, founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer. How could I dislike someone who shared my passions?

    He loves to cite the trivia of The Gazette.

    “The Gazette building was the first school, and the first firehouse and the first two-story building in the city,” Dave said, repeating one of his favorite sayings.

    “And we’re the oldest surviving non-taxpayer funded institution in the city. That’s really cool. We get up each morning and have to figure out how to keep the lights on.”

    I wondered where he got his love of history.

    “My dad was a history teacher,” he said. “We spent every summer in an orange Volkswagen bus touring history sites.”

    Then he started producing cartoons to tell stories. I began looking forward to see how Dave would surprise me next.

    The biggest surprise would come in 2009 when Dave dove into an investigation of post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, among returning combat troops at Fort Carson.

    In just about any newsroom it would be an audacious move for a skiing writer/food critic to grab a hard news story. But Dave didn’t care.

    He’d been watching the headlines we were churning out about soldiers coming back from combat tours only to wreak havoc at home in a series of violent crimes and murders.

    Dave Philipps and Joanna Bean at the Pulitzer Prize award banquet June 17, 2014, at Columbia University in New York.

    Writer Dave Philipps and Gazette Managing Editor Joanna Bean at the Pulitzer Prize award banquet May 28, 2014, at Columbia University in New York.

    Hanging out with his wife, Amanda, whom he met in college and was a public defender, and her friends, Dave gained a different perspective on the soldiers and their crimes and, with the encouragement of his editor, Joanna Bean, he started digging.

    “I felt there was a real need to explain what was going on,” Dave told me. “We needed to take a step back and consider the bigger forces at work. We owed it to these guys, who are the kernel of why this community exists. These soldiers.”

    His research produced the “Casualties of War” series that uncovered PTSD and traumatic brain injuries among our troops. The series was a runner-up in Pulitzer voting in 2010. He later wrote a book “Lethal Warriors” based on his stories.

    Dave was not a one-hit wonder.

    Remember his stories about the bogus psychiatrist?

    Or his exposé about wild horses being rounded up and shipped to Mexican slaughterhouses despite promises from federal officials they would not be harmed?

    Or his investigation of Colorado Springs Utilities’ questionable investment of millions in ratepayer money in unproven scrubber technology?

    And I haven’t even mentioned how Dave convinced sources to talk on the record about El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa and produce hundreds of sexually charged emails, even a half-naked selfie, he is accused of sending to women he supervises.

    And I think he could have won many awards for his reporting last fall that uncovered a secret snitch squad among cadets at the Air Force Academy.

    Of course, the biggest prize came in April for his three-day series “Other than Honorable,” which examined how wounded combat veterans were being discharged from the Army and stripped of benefits for offenses likely caused by their war injuries.

    His stories reveal a reporter who is fearless and dedicated to standing up to those in authority and those in power on behalf of the helpless. Exactly what the best reporters, editors and newspapers should be. It’s what The Gazette has been doing during my 20 years.

    He’s also a fun guy to hang out with at lunch or after work. I’m going to miss him.

    But I have hope that maybe we haven’t seen the last of Dave.

    Deep down I harbor a feeling that Dave, Amanda — a graduate of the University of Colorado law school — and their kids might be back someday.

    After all, Dave’s a hometown boy.

    Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette, is seen in a photo exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, a Civil War hero and railroad baron who also founded The Gazette, is seen in a photo exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And his beloved Gen. Palmer is here. Always will be. And we all know how much Dave loves the founder of Colorado Springs. He can’t just leave Gen. Palmer behind forever, can he?

    “I will miss Gen. Palmer deeply,” Dave said.

    Heck, he came back twice already. Remember, he left for college. Then he left the Gazette in 2011 to attend a journalism fellowship at CU in Boulder. But he returned in October 2012 and immediately picked up where he’d left off . . . reporting about those in authority who were not doing the right things.

    But for now, I’m just wishing him the best as he heads to Gotham City and the Times, which counts among its prestigious ranks ex-Gazetteers including sports writer Lynn Zinser, sports copy editors Greg McElvain and Melissa Hoppert and 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning sports writer John Branch.

    I’m proud of all of them. Like Dave, they are all really great people. And I miss them all.

    So good luck, Dave. I know you’ll kick some butt.

    As a parting gift, he bestowed on me his local history book collection.

    Thanks, Dave. I appreciate it. I’ll mine it for columns. And I’ll take good care of it so it will be around for years.

    Until you return.

    Dave Philipps

    Dave Philipps

  • Disaster strikes Chestnut Street Bypass as Colorado Springs women predicted

    Fri, June 13, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    A car careened around curve on the new Chestnut Street bypass, jumped the sidewalk and crashed into the concrete wall that separates Parker Street from the bypass. Residents at the end of Parker predicted such disasters when the bypass was proposed. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    A car careened around curve on the new Chestnut Street bypass, jumped the sidewalk and crashed into the concrete wall that separates Parker Street from the bypass. Residents at the end of Parker predicted such disasters when the bypass was proposed. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Next-door neighbors Ruth Wagner and Phyllis Smith predicted this would happen.

    They warned Colorado Springs officials the Chestnut Street bypass would be a disaster.

    Now, just six months or so after the new bypass opened with its stamped concrete privacy wall, an out-of-control motorist has struck the wall.

    Careened over the sidewalk and crashed into the corner post right in front of the Wagner home, leaving a trail of skid marks on the sidewalk, car parts in the gravel and cracked concrete and a wobbly post in its wake.

    The midnight Sunday wreck is the fulfillment of everything Ruth and Phyllis knew would happen. And, they believe, it’s a precursor of things to come. Perhaps next time the driver won’t walk away and the car won’t be stopped by the wall.

    Ruth Wagner describes how  cars roar around the new Chestnut Street bypass. Her home is directly behind it. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Ruth Wagner describes how cars roar around the new Chestnut Street bypass. Her home is directly behind it. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “This is the first time and it won’t be the last,” Ruth said as she picked a wheel cover out of the gravel next to the smashed post.

    “They use this bypass as a racetrack out here,” she said as, on queue, a stream of cars loudly accelerated around the curve. “This is just what we said was going to happen.”

    The bypass was the city’s solution to a troublesome intersection a block east of where Chestnut Street, Fillmore Street and Interstate 25 exit/entrance ramps all converged.

    But rather than route Chestnut in a tunnel under Fillmore to simplify the intersection, as engineers preferred, the city chose the cheapest solution of rerouting it west, to where Parker Street met Fillmore. In the process, Parker was turned into a long dead-end street.

    Motorists ignore the signs and speed up Parker Street only to confront the wall separating the Chestnut Street bypass. Most cars whip U turns and race back down, creating a dangerous situation, neighbors say. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Motorists ignore the signs and speed up Parker Street only to confront the wall separating the Chestnut Street bypass. Most cars whip U turns and race back down, creating a dangerous situation, neighbors say. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Two gas stations and several homes on Chestnut were bought and razed along with a handful of homes on the east side of Parker Street, leaving those on the west side isolated behind an ugly wall.

    The final product, Ruth and Phyllis agree, is worse than they ever imagined.

    Instead of a quiet street where they socialized with neighbors all around, today Ruth and Phyllis sit at the end of a dead end road which, despite obvious signs, attracts a steady stream of oblivious drivers who speed up Parker until they slam on their brakes when confronted with the wall and whip U turns.

    No longer do Ruth and Phyllis look at trees and homes across the street. Today, they look at the wall and cars on Fillmore and at the new gas station across the street and on the interstate beyond.

    Rather than having a peaceful place to raise kids, they have a dangerous racetrack where cars roar around the curve. Or the cars sit and idle, producing clouds of exhaust and an obnoxious mix of engine noise and pounding bass from ridiculously loud car stereos.

    Parker Street Bypass Z“It’s horrible,” Phyllis said, waving her arm at the cars lined up 10 deep waiting for the light to change.

    “This is why I wanted the city to buy me out, too,” said Phyllis, who is 83 and lived in her home 55 years.

    Both women wanted the city to take their homes when they bought out neighbors’ homes as part of the $7 million bypass project.

    I wrote about them several times over the years and their pleas to be spared from the bypass.

    I never understood why the city thought it was OK to block their access to their homes, take away their street parking and replace it with a wall.

    I wrote that the city would never dream of building such a monstrosity in a more affluent neighborhood where homeowners with political clout and money would make their lives miserable.

    It seemed obvious to me the city should have ponied up the extra bucks to remove them from a nasty situation the city was creating.

    Actually, Ruth and Phyllis began begging the city and the Colorado Department of Transportation to buy them out beginning in 2002, when plans first surfaced to rebuild the entire Fillmore/I-25 interchange.

    Even then they sensed trouble. They knew the only way to make room for a massive new $50 million interchange would mean removing lots of homes and businesses in the modest, 1950s-era Mesa Springs neighborhood.

    It was obvious the gas stations and small houses on Chestnut were goners. But it wasn’t clear if Parker Street, the next block west, would be affected.

    Then the interchange project was put on indefinite hold. So the city decided in 2010 it could wait no longer to fix the troublesome Chestnut intersection. That’s when the bypass was proposed.

    But the city said there wasn’t enough money to buy the homes of Ruth and Phyllis. They’d have to live behind the ugly wall and deal with the inconvenience of lost access and parking.

    This is how Parker Street appeared in 2011, looking north.

    This is how Parker Street appeared in 2011, looking north.

    Construction lasted much of 2013 and it took just six months after the bypassed opened in December for the first motorist to plow into it late Sunday night.

    Both homeowners would love to sell and get out.

    This is how Parker Street appears now with the wall.

    This is how Parker Street appears now with the wall.

    But they believe no one will buy their homes now for what they were worth before the bypass.

    “I really want to move,” Phyllis said. “But after what they did to us, my real estate agent says I’ve lost $30,000 from the value of my home.”

    And Ruth believes her family will be stuck in its home for eternity.

    “Who in their right mind would buy our home?” she said. “We’ll never be able to sell.”

    I think it would be fair for the city to pay them the difference between what their houses were worth before the wall and what they can get for them today.

    But in the absence of such an offer, both Ruth and Phyllis sit and stew.

    They are waiting for the contractor to come repair the concrete and steel-reinforced wall, as city engineer Aaron Egbert promised will be done in a couple weeks.

    And they are hoping to get the weeds cut and trash collected from behind the wall, which Egbert also promises will happen. And they hope to get some new landscaping to replace the bushes that have died already.

    Otherwise, Ruth and Phyllis sit, with windows closed, even on hot days, to avoid the noise and fumes.

    And they worry about the next car to miss the curve.

    And they curse the city that would leave them in such a shameful mess.

    Ruth Wagner and Phyllis Smith want weeds cut in the lot behind the Chestnut Street bypass. They also say trash like liquor bottles and drug paraphernalia collect behind the wall. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Ruth Wagner and Phyllis Smith want weeds cut in the lot behind the Chestnut Street bypass. They also say trash like liquor bottles and drug paraphernalia collect behind the wall. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

  • Colorado Springs pediatric eye surgeon spreads her talents around the globe

    Sun, June 8, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Dr. Ingrid Carlson, a pediatric eye surgeon, spent two weeks in April teaching pediatric ophthamologists surgical techniques, consulting with patients and observing surgeries in Myanmar and Vietnam with a group from the Hawaiian Eye Foundation. Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    Dr. Ingrid Carlson, a pediatric eye surgeon, spent two weeks in April teaching pediatric ophthamologists surgical techniques, consulting with patients and observing surgeries in Myanmar and Vietnam with a group from the Hawaiian Eye Foundation. Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    It started with a newspaper photo of a cross-eyed boy sitting on Santa’s knee.

    When pediatric eye surgeon Ingrid Carlson saw the photo in a local paper during a Caribbean vacation in December 2011, she was inspired to act.

    A 10-year-old boy, Kemon, suffered "woefully crossed eyes" and was bullied and teased at school in Grenada. Dr. Ingrid Carlson performed surgery in December 2012 to correct his vision during a humanitarian visit to Grenada.

    A 10-year-old boy, Kemon, suffered “woefully crossed eyes” and was bullied and teased at school in Grenada. Dr. Ingrid Carlson performed surgery in December 2012 to correct his vision during a humanitarian visit to Grenada.

    What has transpired since — including in the past few weeks — is pretty amazing.

    Dr. Carlson, who practices at Mountain View Family Eye Care in Colorado Springs, knew she could help the boy and spent months figuring out how to put together a medical mission.

    It took her six months of planning and coordination to clear bureaucratic hurdles, assemble a team of three nurses and an anesthesiologist, and acquire and ship a lengthy list of donated medical supplies along with her own surgical instruments.

    Then, two days after Thanksgiving in 2012, the team flew to Grenada for an intense week treating children with crossed eyes, glaucoma, cataracts and assorted other issues. They saw 114 patients and performed 12 surgeries before the team returned.

     

    Dr. Ingrid Carlson, a pediatric eye surgeon, showed slides of her medical mission trip to Grenada in this December 2012 photo. She led a team of three nurses and an anesthesiologist who treated 114 patients and performed 12 surgeries. Since then, Carlson has expanded her medical mission work to training surgeons in Southeast Asia. Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

    Dr. Ingrid Carlson, a pediatric eye surgeon, showed slides of her medical mission trip to Grenada in this December 2012 photo.  Since then, Carlson has expanded her medical mission work to Southeast Asia. Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

    I told her story a few weeks later.

    But Carlson wasn’t content with that solitary humanitarian effort. She was determined to do even more.

    Almost immediately she began planning to return to Grenada, a tiny island nation of 110,000 mostly poor people in the far southeast Caribbean Sea. She had learned there are no pediatric ophthalmologists between Miami and Venezuela and she was determined to fill the void.

    I caught up with Carlson last week to find out the rest of her story.

    Dr. Stephen Maher

    Dr. Stephen Maher

    It was even better than I expected.

    No longer do children of Grenada rely only on Carlson to fly to Grenada. She has recruited two colleagues, Dr. Steve Maher of Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver and Dr. Michael Gray of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, to take turns treating children there.

    “I called a couple buddies and convinced them to go in my place,” she said. “I’m making sure somebody is there once a year if it is not me.”

    Dr. James Barad

    Dr. James Barad

    Thanks to another colleague, Dr. James Barad of Eye Associates of Colorado Springs, she no longer has to ship her surgical instruments in advance. Barad donated an entire set of older instruments that were shipped to Grenada for permanent use by visiting surgeons.

    Still, Carlson was not finished.

    She made a presentation of her Grenada experience to her colleagues attending the 2013 International American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus meeting in Singapore.

    Dr. Michael Gray

    Dr. Michael Gray

    After her presentation, Carlson was approached by the director of the Hawaiian Eye Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has spent 30 years taking eye surgeons on humanitarian trips to Pacific island nations. Since 2006 the foundation has been training eye surgeons in Southeast Asia.

    From the beginning, Carlson had hoped to train pediatric eye surgeons in the Caribbean so they wouldn’t have to rely on annual visits from U.S. doctors. But she learned there were no eye doctors to teach her surgical techniques in the region.

    So she was intrigued by the Hawaiian Eye Foundation’s teaching trips and agreed to help.

    And that explains how she spent much of April . . . teaching pediatric eye surgery, treating patients and observing surgeries in Myanmar and Vietnam.

    Dr. Ingrid Carlson, a pediatric eye surgeon, spent two weeks in April teaching pediatric ophthamologists surgical techniques, consulting with patients and observing surgeries in Myanmar and Vietnam with a group from the Hawaiian Eye Foundation. Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    Dr. Ingrid Carlson, a pediatric eye surgeon, spent two weeks in April teaching pediatric ophthamologists surgical techniques, consulting with patients and observing surgeries in Myanmar and Vietnam with a group from the Hawaiian Eye Foundation. Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    “Whenever possible, I think it’s better to go train people in their own country to perform the surgeries rather than show up as the rich, white American, cure everything and then leave,” Carlson said.

    “Instead of seeking local medical attention, people wait for the big ship to arrive once a year and it undermines the fabric of local medical care.”

    Carlson said Vietnam enjoys far more advanced medical care than Myanmar, an emerging democracy after a coup in 2011 freed the country formerly known as Burma from a half century of military dictatorship.

    A man holds his daughter as she awaits surgery on a tumor behind her bulging right eye. Pediatric eye surgeon Dr. Ingrid Carlson spent two weeks in April teaching pediatric ophthamologists surgical techniques, consulting with patients and observing surgeries in Myanmar and Vietnam with a group from the Hawaiian Eye Foundation.Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    A Myanmar man holds his daughter as she awaits surgery on a tumor behind her bulging right eye. Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    “Myanmar was behind the Iron Curtain,” she said. “There was so much more need there than Vietnam.”

    In fact, Carlson said her team of nine was introduced as the first Western doctors to ever conduct training in Myanmar.

    So what’s next for the globe-trotting medical missionary?

    For starters, she is recruiting an anesthesiologist to join her Grenada team.

    “We need somebody who is intrepid and willing to work with old equipment in uncertain circumstances for long hours and no pay,” she said.

    And she’s still rounding up medical supplies —sutures, eye drops, instruments, surgical drapes — for future trips to the Caribbean.

    Patients awaiting surgery in Myanmar. Pediatric eye surgeon Dr. Ingrid Carlson spent two weeks in April teaching pediatric ophthamologists surgical techniques, consulting with patients and observing surgeries in Myanmar and Vietnam with a group from the Hawaiian Eye Foundation.Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    Patients awaiting surgery in Myanmar. Pediatric eye surgeon Photo courtesy Ingrid Carlson.

    Beyond that, she’ll see what inspiration brings.

    “This is a God thing,” Carlson said. “We didn’t plan any of this. We’re just following what God puts in front of us.”

    Amen to that!

  • Let’s shower Peggy Shivers with birthday presence.

    Fri, June 6, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Peggy Shivers in a March 2013 photo. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Peggy Shivers in March 2013. She and her late husband, Clarence Shivers, gave many gifts to Colorado Springs after they moved here in 1979 including creating an endowment at the Pikes Peak Library District to chronicle the achievements of blacks in history, culture and the arts. Clarence, an Air Force pilot, also was an artist and he painted “The Man in Prayer” seen hanging behind Peggy Shivers. Christian Murdock / The Gazette

    Peggy Shivers is coming up on her 75th birthday and to mark her milestone, she doesn’t want your presents.

    But she would love your presence.

    Don’t know Peggy Shivers? Wondering why you might want to observe her birthday?

    Consider all the presents she and her late husband, Clarence, have bestowed on Colorado Springs over the years.

    First, a little about the Shiverses.

    Clarence was an Air Force pilot who trained with the famed Tuskegee Airmen black pilot fighter squadron in World War II. He was also an artist . . . a painter and sculptor.

    Peggy is a singer . . . a classically trained opera soprano. She became his business manager after they married in 1968.

    Clarence retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1969 and the couple moved to Madrid to allow Peggy to pursue her singing career.

    The couple moved to Colorado Springs in 1979 and became active in the community. They saw a need to raise the profile of black artists.

    So in 1993, as part of their 25th wedding celebration, Peggy and Clarence established the Shivers Fund, which started as a few thousand dollars earned by Clarence from one of his art shows.

    Today, the fund stands as a $100,000 endowment. It was used to establish the Shivers African-American Historical and Cultural Collection at the Pikes Peak Library District.

    The collection boasts more than 1,000 books, audio books, reference materials, DVDs and CDs by and about African-Americans. The collection chronicles the achievements of blacks in history, culture and the arts.

    Besides expanding the library’s collection, the fund grants scholarships of $3,000-$4,000 to young people interested in studying the arts.

    In addition, the fund makes regular donations to local arts organizations.

    Clarence and Peggy also started another tradition 20 years ago when they hosted a Thanksgiving week party for their family and friends, who traveled to Colorado Springs from around the world to attend.

    It was so popular, they made it a biennial event: the Shivers Celebration of music and the arts. It included jazz and classical concerts by world-famous musician as well as workshops and master classes for young musicians. There was a large Thanksgiving dinner and church celebration as well as other activities.

    On off years, a simple concert series substituted for the larger celebration.

    Proceeds from the shows went directly into the Shivers Fund.

    Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo. He posed with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988 honoring the black Air Force squadron of World War II. He trained with the squadron. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

    Clarence Shivers is seen in a June 2004 photo. He posed with a bust of the Tuskegee Airman statue he sculpted in 1988 honoring the black Air Force squadron of World War II. He trained with the squadron. The statue stands outside the Chapel at the Air Force Academy. Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette.

    Peggy carried on after Clarence’s death in 2007. But she decided the 2013 celebration would be the finale of the series. However, the more simple Shivers Concert Series will continue and feature concerts by classical and jazz musicians.

    I met Peggy a year ago. She had just tracked down a painting Clarence created in 1966. It it was the first painting Peggy saw after she met Clarence and almost immediately, she fell in love with both.

    (Here’s a link to my March 2013 column.)

    But Clarence sold the painting, not knowing how Peggy felt about it. And for 46 years, it was in a private collection.

    Today it hangs at the East Branch of the library with a portrait of Peggy and Clarence detailing their contributions to the community.

    It’s a nice thank you to the Shivers.

    I think it would be great to honor Peggy on her upcoming 75th birthday by doing something special.

    Grant her the wish she expressed recently to her friends in an email.

    Here’s what she wrote:

    Dear Friends,

    June of this year will mark a special milestone for me. I will reach the grand old age of 75. When I think of the many friends who have passed on long before reaching this age, I feel immensely blessed to still be around and enjoying the wonderful gift of life God has made possible for me.

    To help me celebrate, I am writing to make a very special request of you.
    I am a member of Peoples United Methodist Church. We are a very small but loving congregation.

    As I thought about how I would like to celebrate my birthday on this momentous occasion, I kept thinking of the many Sundays I have sat in church and wished that all the pews were occupied.

    I decided that to see that wish fulfilled would be the best birthday gift I could receive.

    So I am writing to ask you to please join me for our church service on Sunday, June 29, and help me celebrate my 75th birthday.

    I do hope that you will join me. No need to RSVP. And of course no gifts.

    Your Presence is the best gift I could receive.

    Love to you all.

    Peggy

    I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to be in a pew at Peoples, 5110 Tamlin Road, 80938, east of Marksheffel Road, with Peggy’s many friends.

    Maybe some of you will join her and make her 75th a special day like all of the special days she has given us.

    Maybe you want to just mail or drop off a card.

    Since I can’t be there, I’ll just have to be satisfied with offering her this wish:

    Happy birthday, Peggy!

  • Historic re-enactors featured in historic chapel of Colorado Springs’ Evergreen Cemetery events

    Wed, June 4, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The marble angel atop the Ferrand family headstone in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was toppled in 2005, breaking the right hand off at the wrist. The Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society hopes to raise enough money from its Historic Speaker series and Lantern tours to pay for the estimated $2,400 repair. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The marble angel atop the Ferrand family headstone in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was toppled in 2005, breaking the right hand off at the wrist. The Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society hopes to raise enough money from its Historic Speaker series and Lantern tours to pay for the estimated $2,400 repair. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    If you are dying for some historic fun this summer, pencil in the Evergreen Cemetery on your itinerary, starting with a sneak peek Thursday evening.

    In hopes of raising money for restoring damaged headstones and other preservation work at the 143-year-old cemetery southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, the Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society has several events scheduled to attract history buffs.

    For the first time, the society will host a “Historic Speaker” series. Participants pay $10 to spend an evening with folks in costumes who re-enact historic figures, speaking in character.

    The speaker series replaces the walking tours the society hosted the past 12 years.

    Evergreen cemeteryInstead of hoofing it around the 220-acre cemetery to visit speakers standing at graves, the new speaker series will anchor the re-enactors in the beautiful Evergreen Chapel.

    At 6 p.m. Thursday, the re-enactors will gather at the chapel for a free preview of what paying guests will enjoy when the series officially gets underway June 15 with a talk by Theodore Roosevelt.

    And that signals another change from the walking tours, which featured only folks buried at Evergreen.

    This year, historic speakers will include national figures like Teddy and his cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    Queen Palmer, wife of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, is buried at Evergreen Cemetery with her husband.

    Queen Palmer, wife of Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer, is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, behind the chapel, with her husband.

    There will still be local luminaries like Helen Hunt Jackson and Colorado Springs founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer and his wife, Queen Palmer.

    The walking tours were interesting, but I think the logistics of hiking around posed a challenge, especially in heat or changing weather. I know I worked up a sweat when I toured last spring with Dianne Hartshorn, co-director of the society.

    The new format will give people more opportunity for questions and answers with the speakers, Hartshorn said.

    And I love the setting in the stone chapel, built after the crowds at Gen. Palmer’s 1909 funeral had nowhere to get out of the weather.

    The upstairs is a classic chapel with stained glass windows, wooden floors and a small stage.

    As a bonus on Thursday, the basement will be open for tours. Typically, it’s only open for tour during lantern tours.

    It’s worth seeing and it really creeps me out.

    The chapel in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was built in 1909 for $10,000 after hundreds of mourners followed the funeral procession of town founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer and were left in the cold with nowhere to escape cold weather. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The chapel in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was built in 1909 for $10,000 after hundreds of mourners followed the funeral procession of town founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer and were left in the cold with nowhere to escape cold weather. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    It has rooms where corpses were stored for services or when the ground was too hard to allow burial.

    There is a casket wagon and casket elevator and rooms with what resemble bunks that held remains.

    There’s even some bloat balls used in the embalming process. (Enough about them.)

    But the speaker series isn’t the only thing happening at Evergreen every other Sunday and Thursday this summer through September.

    The basement of the chapel at Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, includes rooms with bunks where corpses were stored as well as a coffin elevator, seen here, and bloat balls. (Don't ask.) Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The basement of the chapel at Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, includes rooms with bunks where corpses were stored as well as a coffin elevator, seen here, and bloat balls. (Don’t ask.) Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    If you like to walk, check out the Lantern Tours planned for each month. For $10, guests will be guided to significant graves by guides who will talk about historic people buried there, Hartshorn said.

    And for folks who want a free, self-guided tour, there’s always the Story Board Project. Each year, the society picks an assortment of important graves and marks them on a map available at its website. Information is then posted on each of the dozen or so graves explaining their significance.

    I think these are great opportunities to learn a little about Colorado Springs’ history and help a good cause.

    Money raised from the Historic Speaker series and the Lantern Tours will pay for things like repairing the lifesize marble angel — assuming angels are the same size as humans — over the grave of a woman who died in 1890.

    In 2005, the angel was knocked off her pedestal and her right hand was broken off at the wrist.

    The marble angel atop the Ferrand family headstone in Evergreen Cemetery, southeast of downtown Colorado Springs, was toppled in 2005, breaking the right hand off at the wrist. The Evergreen Cemetery Benevolent Society hopes to raise enough money from its Historic Speaker series and Lantern tours to pay for the estimated $2,400 repair. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “There’s no one in the . . . family left to take care of it,” Hartshorn said. “We had it inspected and the estimate to repair it was $2,400. It includes hand-carving a new piece out of matching marble. It’s very expensive.”

    There’s plenty of other work that needs to be done at the cemetery, which is owned by the city but not supported by taxpayers.

    So get out to the cemetery, learn some cool history, see some fascinating tombstones, and help preserve it for the next generation when, maybe, they’ll be coming back to learn about you!

  • Journey ends for Watergate conspirator, once Colorado Springs’ most famous resident

    Fri, May 30, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in an undated file photo

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in an undated file photo

    You don’t need to be an American history buff to be interested in the recent death of Watergate conspirator Jeb Stuart Magruder.

    Many longtime residents of Colorado Springs no doubt nodded at the news May 11 that Magruder had died in Connecticut of complications from a stroke.

    Twice, Magruder called Colorado Springs home.

    Some probably recall his surprising decision to move to Colorado Springs in 1975 after he was released from prison for his pivotal role in the political scandal that ultimately forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency on Aug. 9, 1974.

    Named in Watergate affair are from left to right: G. Gordon Liddy, White House Counsel John W. Dean III, Former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and Former Deputy Canpaign Manager for Nixon's Re-election Jeb Stuart Magruder. (AP PHOTO)

    Named in Watergate affair are from left to right: G. Gordon Liddy, White House Counsel John W. Dean III, Former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, and Former Deputy Canpaign Manager for Nixon’s Re-election Jeb Stuart Magruder. (AP PHOTO)

    After all, life in the shadow of Pikes Peak is a long way from the intense media glare of Washington, D.C., where Magruder was a key White House operative and Nixon aide who, as deputy director of the Committee to Re-elect the President, was involved in efforts by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt to bug the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., in 1972.

    Jeb Stuart Magruder, a White House aide, testified in June 1973 at a congressional hearing into Watergate. Credit George Tames/The New York Times

    Jeb Stuart Magruder, a White House aide, testified in June 1973 at a congressional hearing into Watergate. Credit George Tames/The New York Times

    Magruder later denied, under oath, his role in the burglary, and he was charged with perjury. In August 1973, Magruder pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to wiretap, obstruct justice and defraud the United States. In May 1974, he was sentenced to 10 month to four years in a federal prison.

    As he later told The Gazette (then known as the Gazette Telegraph), Magruder served “seven months, eight days and eleven hours” in the Allenwood Prison Camp in Pennsylvania and a safe house in Maryland with fellow Watergate figures Charles Colson and John Dean.

    Jeb Stuart Magruder Gets in a taxi in Washginton D.C. on May 2, 1973, as reporters pursue him. Courtesy The Washington Post.

    Jeb Stuart Magruder Gets in a taxi in Washginton D.C. on May 2, 1973, as reporters pursue him. Courtesy The Washington Post.

    Magruder, a Staten Island, N.Y., native, had no local roots when he came to take a $20,000-a-year job as vice president of administration and communications for Young Life, the international Christian youth ministry based here.

    A lifelong Christian, Magruder was apologetic and contrite as he admitted making “terrible ethical and legal errors in judgment,” which landed him in prison. And he said he’d been “born again” in his faith while serving his sentence, making Young Life’s ministry a perfect fit.

    A 1978 newspaper story about Jeb and Gail Magruder and the stress the Watergate scandal put on their marriage.

    A 1978 newspaper story about Jeb and Gail Magruder and the stress the Watergate scandal put on their marriage.

    Magruder and his wife, Gail, moved their four children into a house at 1915 Wood Ave. Their two oldest kids, Whitney and Justin, went to the Fountain Valley School. Their only daughter, Tracy, attended the Colorado Springs School while their youngest, Stuart, attended Steele Elementary School.

    bookBesides working at the ministry, Magruder wrote a book, “From Power to Peace,” in which he alleged Nixon envisioned a perpetual Republican presidency, and he would choose his successors based on their ability to destroy Democratic opposition.

    National news media sought him out for interviews over the years, such as when David Frost broadcast extensive interviews with Nixon in 1977. Magruder told the Gazette Telegraph the sight of Nixon gave him flashbacks to the scandal.

    Magruder also took classes toward a master’s degree in divinity.

    Those who knew him here say he was nothing like the Washington power broker they’d read about and seen on television network news shows.

    Some recall Magruder and Gail attending school functions at Steele, for example, and listening quietly at meetings, blending in like other parents and never trying to take over the room.

    Neighbors recall him as warm and energetic and an avid biker.

    Colorado Springs businessman Mike Hassell met him in 1976 through Young Life and found him to be intense, engaging and caring about others.

    “He was always smiling and building relationships,” Hassell told me. “He was a game-changer in my life. He had a huge impact on me business-wise, spiritually and in my marriage.”

    Hassell said they bonded immediately and started riding their bicycles together.

    “We’d meet every day at 5:30 a.m. to ride a 25-mile loop,” Hassell said, describing how Magruder loved to race downhill. “Then we’d go to his house for coffee and breakfast. We talked about everything.”

    He said they talked about life and religion and current events. He described Magruder as an avid reader and devoted family man.

    And Magruder, in news interviews, talked of his love for the mountains, hiking, biking, river rafting and skiing.

    Within weeks of arriving, Magruder began giving public talks to church and library groups and at fundraising events for Young Life on topics including “The Imperial Presidency,” lamenting the moral decay of the nation.

    And he spoke to Gazette Telegraph reporters from time to time. In an April 29,
    1977, story, Magruder praised the community for its welcoming attitude.

    “People have been great to us,” he said. “Everybody has been kind, pleasant and open.”

    Gail was active in the Junior League, among other civic groups, and wrote her own book: “A Gift of Love.” She spoke publicly as well, describing how Magruder grew distant as he rose in power at the White House and became immersed in the dirty tricks and illegal activities of the Nixon administration.

    In the 1977 interview, Magruder said he turned down lucrative salaries from New York firms because he was done with corporate life and politics.

    “They could offer me three times the salary and I still wouldn’t go to that city,” Magruder said in 1977. “I have enough money. Back there in New York, that isn’t the real world. The real world is here.”

    Friends said that attitude was authentic. They say Magruder truly was a changed man who never turned bitter from his Watergate and prison experiences and the infamy he endured.

    The family’s time here ended in the summer of 1978 when Magruder left Young Life to attend Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey, where he wrote a thesis on ethics and earned a master’s of divinity.

    In a final Gazette Telegraph interview in 1978, he talked about his desire to restore ethics in the corporate world, which some mocked, given his past.

    And he gave a surprising Watergate retrospect: “In a sense, it was a great experience. Negative situations can turn out to be very helpful learning experiences.”

    Hassell said that revealed Magruder’s true character.

    “That quote would hold true to the end of his life,” Hassell said, describing how they remained close till Magruder’s death.

    “He was not a tragic figure. His life was not as tragic as it sounds. He was giving and bright and insightful. Even when things were bad, he’d be smiling.”

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in 1995. The Associated Press

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in 1995. The Associated Press

    After Magruder moved to New Jersey, his marriage to Gail ended in divorce. He went on to serve as a pastor at churches in California, Ohio and Kentucky during a 20-year career in the ministry. He was honorably retired from the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in 1998 and became a consultant to a Dallas company that helps churches develop growth plans.

    While serving at a church in Columbus, Ohio, in 1984, he met his second wife, Patti, and in 1999, they bought a townhome in the Broadmoor neighborhood and returned to Colorado Springs.

    In the next few years, Magruder helped raise money for the Colorado Springs School and taught classes on ethics and other subjects at First Presbyterian Church. His name showed up in Gazette society columns as a regular at wine tastings and fundraising events.

    About 2002, he moved back to Ohio and started making headlines again, this time for bizarre behavior.

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in 2008. The Associated Press

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in 2008. The Associated Press

    In 2003, he claimed he had overhead a phone call in which Nixon personally approved the plan to bug Democratic headquarters, a shocking and somewhat unbelievable revelation, according to Watergate historians.

    That same year, he was arrested in Grandview Heights, Ohio, after being found passed out on a sidewalk and refusing to get up. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

    Then in 2005, he was charged with drunken driving by Ohio state police who stopped him 40 miles outside Columbus. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless operation.

    Finally, in 2007, he was accused of causing two wrecks and leaving the scene of an accident on a Columbus expressway after his car rear-ended a motorcycle and struck the rear of a truck before speeding away.

    A witness said Magruder’s car was going at least 90 mph as it left the scene, according to police reports. News reports later attributed his erratic driving and wrecks that day to an apparent stroke he suffered while driving.

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in  2008. The Associated Press

    Jeb Stuart Magruder in 2008. The Associated Press

    He was cited by police with misdemeanors of failing to maintain a safe distance and failure to stop after a wreck.

    Details of the subsequent seven years are thin. Friends say he moved to Connecticut to be near his daughter.

    Magruder was 79 and is survived by his four children and nine grandchildren.

    It was quite a journey for a complex man who, for a few years, was the most famous resident of Colorado Springs.

  • Conviction of Colorado Springs man in brutal crime shocks family, friends

    Sun, May 18, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    El Paso County Sheriff's Department booking photo of Benjamin Michael Poynter after his arrest in June 10, 2013.

    El Paso County Sheriff’s Department booking photo of Benjamin Michael Poynter after his arrest on June 10, 2013.

    Ben Poynter turned 29 in prison today.

    He likely will turn 39 in prison, too, after being sentenced to 18 years for attempted murder of his girlfriend in a drug and alcohol-fueled rage last June. He also was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated animal cruelty.

    At sentencing May 5, prosecutors described Poynter as a monster who brutally attacked his girlfriend and tried to choke her to death, abused her 4-year-old son and tortured their little dog.

    They called him evil and compared him to serial killer Ted Bundy — a sadistic sociopath who convinced those close to him that he was a nice guy.

    They dismissed as “in denial” his family and friends who voiced support and requested a reduced sentence, citing his diagnosis of bipolar disorder aggravated by self-medication and substance abuse and the lack of affordable mental health treatment available. The family argued he needed help for his mental illness and addictions, not years in a prison with limited treatment opportunities.

    In 30-plus years as a journalist, I’ve covered a lot of cases like this.

    Often I wondered how anyone could stand behind a relative or friend accused and convicted of such a violent crime. I shook my head when supporters testified that mental illness or substance abuse was to blame. I wondered how they could be so fooled by an obviously dangerous person.

    Well, call me a fool.

    Today, I’m shaking my head at myself.

    I’ve known Poynter for more than seven years. I’ve been his friend and trusted him to work alongside my wife and kids. He had the keys to our family business and access to the safe and cash register.

    Count me among those who never could have imagined Poynter being capable of the things he did. I don’t recognize the man prosecutors described as a monster.

    Don’t get me wrong.

    I’m not doubting one word of the arrest warrant signed and sworn by a district attorney investigator.

    I’m not challenging a thing the victim or witnesses said happened.

    It was a terrible crime and I make no excuses for Poynter’s behavior. Clearly, he deserved to be convicted and punished.

    Still, I’m shaking my head.

    I like to think I’m a pretty good judge of character. I quickly recognize con artists, liars and thieves.

    Ben Poynter in an undated photo. Courtesy Joy Harper.

    Ben Poynter in an undated family photo. Courtesy Joy Harper.

    Could I have been completely wrong about Poynter, a stocky man who loved to ride his bicycle, play guitar and who was known to family and friends as Gentle Ben?

    Was I blinded by his good nature, his warm smile and willingness to help others.

    Maybe I was in denial because I’ve known his mother, Joy Harper, for years as a colleague at The Gazette.

    Or was he mentally ill and able to hold everything together at work by managing his mood swings through alcohol and drugs until the wrong cocktail triggered a rage that nearly cost an innocent woman her life?

    For help sorting it out, I contacted Vince Bruno, a licensed professional counselor and state certified domestic violence treatment provider.

    Bruno doesn’t know Poynter and commented in general based on the facts in the case, the personal interactions I described and the history provided by Harper and her husband, Michael Poynter.

    Harper told me her son was diagnosed as bipolar after he started drinking and getting into alcohol-related trouble in middle school. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic-depression and is a mental illness characterized by episodes of mania followed by severe depression.

    According to medical websites, about 3 percent of the population is bipolar. The extreme mood swings can cloud a sufferer’s judgment and impair his ability to function.

    In extreme cases, the mood swings can last months and lead to erratic, impulsive behaviors and distorted thinking that results in a break from reality and full-blown psychosis.

    “People with bipolar disorder swing from fairly serious clinical depression to a manic phase where they exhibit narcissistic characteristics and are capable of making decisions that are grossly inaccurate and dangerous,” Bruno said.

    They tend to cycle between the phases, often seeking medical help to lessen the highs and lows.

    Benjamin Michael Poynter in a Colorado Department of Corrections photo posted May 16, 2014.

    Benjamin Michael Poynter in a Colorado Department of Corrections photo posted May 16, 2014.

    Harper said the family tried to get treatment for her son after he took the family car, at age 17, got extremely drunk and went driving wildly through Teller County, crashing into things until he flipped the car and had to be airlifted to a hospital in Colorado Springs.

    That’s when, Harper said, he first revealed he had struggled for years with low self-esteem and had been drinking to silence the “demons in his head.”

    “We brought him home and tried to get him help,” she said. “He voluntarily submitted himself for inpatient evaluation at Cedar Springs. Doctors diagnosed bipolar disorder and alcoholism due to his attempts to self-medicated.”

    Poynter then agreed to check himself into an in-patient treatment facility in Pueblo. But Harper said doctors never found a medication that seemed to work.

    When prescribed medications failed, Poynter turned to alcohol and illegal drugs for help.

    “He would find his balance and then an episode would hit and he couldn’t cope,” she said.

    Bruno said that when someone with bipolar disorder layers on alcohol and drugs the results can be shocking.

    “They are capable of doing things wildly out of character,” he said.

    I wondered why someone diagnosed as bipolar would ever touch alcohol or drugs.

    “They are fighting their own brain chemistry,” Bruno said. “When they are manic, they might use alcohol thinking they will cut it a little bit. Or use depressants to moderate their mood.”

    Instead, however, they can flip a switch in the brain and trigger dangerous behaviors.

    “You really can’t predict, no matter how well you know the person, how they are going to react,” Bruno said. “When you introduce that wild card of alcohol or drugs, there’s no way to predict how someone might behave.”

    Still, Harper struggles to accept that her loving son is capable of such horrible behavior.

    “You live with this person all their life and you don’t see that in them,” she said, quietly crying at the thought. “This is not the person I ever knew. Ben has always gone out of his way for every living thing —person, animal, whatever. He’s funny, intelligent, loving and kind. He’s not a freak. I can’t reconcile the person they describe with the Ben I know. It’s like a completely different person.”

    That’s exactly what alcohol and drugs can do to a bipolar sufferer, Bruno said.

    “They can go for years, cycle slowly and cover it with self-medication until they reach that perfect storm of stress and self-medication,” Bruno said. “They have no way capacity to manage their mood and it can result in this kind of rage.”

    He compared it to people who have a few drinks and start shooting off their mouths or acting in ways they would never consider when sober.

    “In my experience, people who are mentally unstable will do all kinds of things completely out of character,” Bruno said. “They get depressed and angry enough to lash out and hurt someone.”

    Perhaps I didn’t misjudge Poynter. I never saw him drinking or using drugs. He worked hard, generally showed up on time and stayed late if necessary. He wasn’t perfect — and neither am I — but he certainly wasn’t a monster.

    And Bruno bristled at the use of that word to describe anyone with mental illness.

    “This is a sad story,” Bruno said. “It’s really unfortunate to hear this happened and in such a way that Ben has such a huge consequence to pay. But it’s inappropriate to call him a monster. We don’t have a diagnosis of monster.”

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