Current, former governors honor Vanderhoof during memorial event at Capitol

DENVER — The Colorado Legislature, two former governors and the current governor joined together Monday to honor a colleague, former Colorado Gov. John Vanderhoof.

The longtime Grand Junction resident, who died at age 91 on Sept. 19, had served in the Colorado House for 20 years, eventually rising to the level of speaker of the House.

In 1970, he was elected lieutenant governor the same year Gov. John Love was re-elected to his term as the state’s chief executive. When Love left office three years later to join the Nixon administration, Vanderhoof took that job.

During his time as a public servant, Vanderhoof became known under the Capitol dome for maintaining civility, believing that it was the best way to serve the state, said former Gov. Richard Lamm.

“The House had been a pretty tumultuous place ... there were fist fights actually on the floor of the House,” Lamm said in the Colorado Senate, which, like the House, approved a memorial resolution honoring the former governor. “Johnny Van would have none of that when he was there. He wanted a dignified place with decorum to get the people’s business done. And he did.”

Vanderhoof served in the House from 1950 to 1970, spending three of his last four terms as speaker in the 1960s.

Though born in Rocky Ford in southeast Colorado, he chose to make Glenwood Springs his home after getting out of the Navy after World War II, where he earned numerous honors.

After his brief stint as governor from 1973 to 1975, he retired from politics and became president of Club 20, moving to Grand Junction to run that nonpartisan group.

He was briefly in the news in 2010 when it was discovered he still had possession of a moon rock that was presented to every governor at the time by former President Richard Nixon.

Bill Ritter was governor at the time when NASA was trying to track down those rocks.

“I just called Governor Vanderhoof to ask if he had any recollection, and he said, ‘Well, yeah. It’s here. It’s hanging on my wall,’” Ritter said. “He thought it was a personal gift as governor. He said, ‘I’ve been trying to give it away to universities, but universities won’t take it.’ I said, ‘Don’t do that. The state’s going to take it because it’s worth about $5 million.’”

The rock now is on display at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.


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