John Vanderhoof, R.I.P.

For those who weren’t in western Colorado during much of the latter half of the 20th century, it’s difficult to understand what a force John Vanderhoof was in this region and the state.

He was a businessman, legislator, speaker of the House, governor, director of Club 20 and, finally, elder statesman for his adopted home. He was also a decorated war hero, but that may have escaped the attention of many because Vanderhoof rarely mentioned his World War II service as a fighter pilot.

Vanderhoof died Thursday in Glenwood Springs. He was 91.

Although a native of Colorado’s Eastern Plains, Vanderhoof became a permanent Western Slope resident following the war, when he was treated at a Navy hospital in Glenwood Springs. He was involved in several businesses in that city prior to being elected to the Legislature and serving 20 years there, including two terms as speaker, the most powerful position in the House. He was elected lieutenant governor, then became governor in 1973 when Gov. John Love left to take a position in the Nixon administration.

Vanderhoof returned to western Colorado and eventually became executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope promotional and lobbying group. He served in that post during the 1980s oil-shale boom and bust, and was instrumental in giving the organization and the Western Slope a greater voice in both Denver and Washington, D.C.

Throughout his life, he remained an amiable, courteous man, able to work with people of very different political views.

The Western Slope needs more leaders like John Vanderhoof. He will be greatly missed.


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