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Remembering Denny Clifford, an Evergreen pulmonologist who succumbed to lung cancer

Written by Greg Dobbs on .

This is about an Evergreen friend. A thinker. A philosopher.

He wasn’t formally trained that way. He was trained as a doctor. A lung doctor. Which is what’s so ironic. Three years ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Unjust, for a man who spent most of his life at Lutheran Hospital and saved others from the disease. And never once put tobacco between his own lips. Lung cancer usually comes from smoking, but not always. Not for Dr. Dennis Clifford.

I never smoked cigarettes myself but despite my wife’s warnings that cigars are even more poisonous, occasionally on working trips overseas I smoked them. Until the night I got home from a rough trip to the Middle East. We went out to eat at Tuscany Tavern and just as I was sheepishly saying that my only treats on the trip were Cuban cigars, Denny walked in. When he came over to say hello, my wife told him what I’d just told her. This tall, bearded, cerebral man looked down at me and said seven simple words: “I thought you were smarter than that.” They didn’t come from a book. They came from his heart. I never touched another cigar.

When Denny began to die, he began to write. About life. And about death. He posted dozens of engrossing essays, tens of thousands of words, on a website called CaringBridge.org. It’s a place where people share stories, whether spirited or sad, about their health.

He could always see the bright side. Like this excerpt from last year, after thinking all was lost: “I am so grateful to be able to write to you today. Last summer this certainly would have been a fantasy, but I have been given a second life for some mysterious reason and I plan to ride this wonderful wing of well being as long as it lasts.”

And sometimes he was lighthearted, writing posts in the voice of his black standard poodle named Kayla. “I've been trained to see the signs of pain in Denny’s face and how he holds his body when he says the ‘pain gremlin’ has gotten ahold of him. I don't know what a pain gremlin is; and believe me, I looked very carefully for one to chase him away because that's my job, but I never saw one.”

Denny also wrote in his own voice about that “pain gremlin,” titling one post “The Hateful Friend”: “Always there upon awakening, ready to start gnawing with its sharp weasel teeth, ready to take away your breath with a sudden sharp stab of astonishing intensity.” He recounted one particular procedure: “Imagine filling your chest cavity with gasoline and lighting it on fire. Pain that chases any consciousness from your brain until you are consumed by it.” To endure such pain is one thing. To describe it is another.

In one post profoundly titled “The Thief of Life,” Denny lucidly described his disease: “When it touches close, it smothers anything it possibly can without remorse or hesitation. It lies. It is cunning. Sometimes it knows it is going to win and toys with us dangling hope, only to snatch it away.” This Lutheran Hospital pulmonologist had seen lung cancer beat others. Now it was beating him.

One day, reading some of Denny’s overpowering posts, I was struck by something significant. Many “comments” on the pages were written by people who began with something like, “Dr. Clifford, we’ve never met, but…” The “but” always led to testimonials about how Denny was giving them the capacity to cope with their own staggering challenges, how his strength was strengthening them.

What that told me was, the posts ought to become a book. There already are books out there along these lines, like Mortality, The Last Lecture, When Breath Becomes Air. Each is unique. Denny’s would be too and would evince insights the others don’t.

So with his and his wife’s collaboration, and help from Hearthfire Books’ Kappy Kling, I wrote about it to agents and editors. But I struck out. One wrote back asking, “What does this cover that the other books don’t?” When Denny read that, it was the only time in his incessant illness that I saw some pique: “Just because others have experienced dealing with cancer doesn't mean they have the same lessons any more than each of us experiences the process of dying in the same way.” But alas, there is no book.

Early this month, Denny wrote his final post: “Cancer in the end always wins. Slowly, inexorably, mercilessly.” All treatments having failed, he was entering hospice.

Eighteen days later, his family added one more post: “Dying is hard but in the end there is peace.” Denny Clifford was gone. His death was the world’s loss. His eloquence, and his inspiration, were the world’s win.

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John D. "Andy" Anderson obituary

Written by Anderson family on .

12/24/1926-5/21/2017

John David Anderson died peacefully on Sunday, May 21st, attended by his wife. Andy was born on Christmas Eve to William E. Anderson, an agricultural chemist, and Norma C. Anderson, a social worker. He grew up in New England.

During WWII, he trained as a Navy pilot and attended St. Mary's and Trinity Colleges. After the war, he attended Harvard, graduating in 1949 and obtaining a Masters from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1952. But more importantly, he married Florence Van Dyke ("Flodie"). He and Flodie then went west, driving their car "Horrors" to Denver, where the fast-growing city presented both architectural opportunities and a place to raise a family with a fabulous mountain backdrop.

In 1960 he struck out on his own, founding Anderson Architects, and began to design buildings around the mountain West. The firm eventually became Anderson Mason Dale in the early 1980s.

A strong proponent of energy conservation and sustainable design (even prior to the coining of the phrase), his firm designed Front Range Community College, the largest solar-heated building in the world (at the time) in the early 1970s.

He appeared as a lecturer and panelist on sustainable building design throughout the United States and in the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, and Finland. He was also a delegate to the World Energy Congress in New Delhi in 1983.

Andy was the long-time chair of the Lower Downtown (LoDo) Design Review Board, overseeing the renewal of this historic district in which his office was embedded, a block from Union Station. For over 40 years, he was a leader in the architectural community both locally and nationally. He advocated inclusivity in the profession, supporting women in architecture, and leading by example.

He became a fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1980, was awarded the AIA Western Mountain Region's Silver Medal in 1984 and was named AIA Colorado Architect of the Year in 1987. In 2001, Andy was elected President of the AIA, and traveled extensively advocating for sustainable design and modernizing the role of architects in society.

Andy and Flodie forged a remarkable partnership over 66 years of marriage. Flodie supported the firm as secretary in the early years. Through the League of Women Voters, she became involved in transportation issues in Denver and Colorado. In 2004, Andy and Flodie jointly received the Dana Crawford Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation. They traveled to global destinations but were most proud of climbing all of Colorado's 14ers together. The feat culminated with a climb of Capitol Peak in 1990 in the company of family and friends.  Their collaboration and lifetime partnership in all things is a model to all who knew them.

Andy is survived by Flodie, their two sons Robert (Suzanne) and David (Nanon), four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. All will miss him dearly for his humility, gentle humor, and his clear-eyed support. He was a gentleman in all ways, a model human being. Andy himself summed it best recently, raising his baseball cap and stating, "it's been a wonderful life".

His life will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 31st. A service at Park Hill Congregational Church, 2600 Leyden St., Denver 80207 (one of his first buildings) begins at 1 pm for his family, co-workers, and friends. This will be followed by an informal public reception at the Denver Botanical Gardens from 3:30-6:30 pm, where all are encouraged to attend. Light refreshments will be served.

In lieu of flowers, the family would suggest contributions to the Architectural Education Foundation AIA Colorado (AEF) (specify the John Anderson Scholarship), or a favorite charity.

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Gavin Arneson singled out by the National Honor Society for its highest honor

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Gavin Arneson of Clear Creek High School was singled out from 26,000 applicants nationwide to receive the National Honor Society Scholarship April 27, 2017.  His picture graced the front page of the The Denver Post on Sunday, May 14th, labeled "from bottom to top."

Not only will Gavin graduate as valedictorian of his class later this month, but he's risen to the top in so many ways, including community service and leadership roles on the student council and with service clubs.  His integrity and respect are often cited when people talk about him.

But what makes this a real story is that Gavin was homeless twice in his 18 years, dealing with his parents' alcoholism.  He and a brother lived with his mother in a homeless shelter in Nebraska for awhile; six years ago they moved in with their father near St. Mary's Glacier.  

Determined not to become a homeless boy who would grow up to be a homeless person, Gavin applied himself at school and became involved in numerous extra-curricular activities, channeling his energy into helping others.

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Jane Carlson obituary

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Jane Carlson of Evergreen, passed away suddenly on May 13, 2017 at age 71. She was born Jane Marie Aubart in Cornell, Wisconsin on November 14, 1945 to Roy and Loretta Aubart.

In the late ‘60s and into the mid-‘70s, Jane owned two retail businesses in Wisconsin: a fabric store in Racine called Jane’s Petite Boutique and later the Warp & Woof in Milwaukee where she sold fabric and custom clothing.

She met and married her husband, Ken Carlson, in Milwaukee; they relocated six times before settling in Evergreen, Colorado.

Jane’s strong artistic talent was directed toward the creation of stuffed bears and various styles of cloth dolls, which she displayed and sold through arts and craft shows and in various stores as well as directly through her business, KenJa Designs. She was active in various bear and doll groups and was recognized through various organizations and magazines.

In retirement Jane continued her artistic endeavors through acrylic painting, Zentangling, drawing, stamping, coloring and making cards.

She suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and undiagnosed cancer.

Jane is survived by her husband of 44 years, Ken, as well as six sisters and four brothers.

A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date. Memorials may be sent to Evergreen Christian Outreach, PO Box 1515, Evergreen 80437 or donated online at evergreenchristianoutreach.org (click on “Donate Now” to be directed to the Colorado Gives site). Be sure to note donations are in memory of Jane Carlson.

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Dr. Richard Powell retires

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Dr. Richard Powell is retiring from his dental practice after 56 years in Evergreen.  The Kansas native is a proud alum of the University of Kansas but is in the midst of selling his business to a graduate of rival Kansas State University.  Dr. Alex Roberts will take over the practice on Buffalo Park Road shortly.