Former Colorado state senator Joe Shoemaker died on Aug. 13, his 88th birthday.
Richard Lamm honored Shoemaker at a memorial service in Confluence Park by quoting the eulogy of London’s architectural master, Sir Christopher Wren.
“They said, ‘If you seek his monument, look around you,’” Lamm said. “The same can be said of Joe Shoemaker.”
Shoemaker sat as a senator in Colorado from 1962 to 1976, and was known to friends and opponents as a powerful force who got things done.
“One of the things I learned from Joe was to get it done. Even if it meant reaching out to the other party, he would do it,” said Morgan Smith, former Colorado state representative. “He had a dream that reached way out into the future.”
Albert “Bert” G. Melcher, a retired engineer who has worked with RTD and the Sierra Club, remembers Shoemaker as a true bipartisan.
“People liked working with him because they knew he would get things done,” Melcher said. “If he couldn’t win you with politics, he would win you with charm.”
One of Shoemaker’s dreams was to clean up the Platte River, which had become a waste dump for local factories. In 1969, environmental cleanup wasn’t a great concern for Denver’s residents.
“Unfortunately, it was a little too early for the rest of Denverites to realize how important that was,” Smith said.
Shoemaker was not one to give up, though, and in 1974, then-Mayor Bill McNichols appointed him chairman of the Platte River Development Committee. From this experience, Shoemaker founded the Greenway Foundation, an organization that aims to “advance the South Platte River and the surrounding tributaries,” according to its website.
“I mean, the guys was a visionary, and he was action-oriented, and he was focused on getting things done and he did,” US Representative Ed Perlmutter said. “And we all benefit from it.”
Shoemaker’s other great accomplishment was the establishment of the Auraria Campus, which houses CCD, UCD, MSU Denver and the largest student body in Colorado.
Former US Senator William Armstrong read from a statement by former US Senator Hank Brown who was not able to attend the memorial service: “Joe literally remodeled Denver. While many helped with Auraria, Joe made it happen.”
Brown went on to say that the Auraria project reshaped Denver and created one of the nation’s largest education centers.
“The idea of creating an educational complex in Denver was always on Joe’s mind,” Armstrong said. “He wanted to do something for Denver because it was a place barren of educational opportunities at the time, and today, it’s one of the greatest educational venues in America.”
Denver city council member Chris Nevitt believes that Shoemaker would be proud of what he’s left behind.
“When somebody does something great like Joe and then someone comes along behind them and does something just as great, I think that’s a double testament to the value of someone’s legacy,” Nevitt said.