It was an honor and privilege to call Percy Conarroe a friend and confidant. If you’ve read this website or its earlier versions you saw that he was a contributor of great value. He passed away recently at the age of 86. In true Percy fashion, he didn’t want flowers but instead requested that you write a letter to the editor about something you care about. I’ve tired of the local paper turning down my opinion pieces while they let far worse through, so being the editor of this website I’ll write here about something I care about – or in this case someone I cared about, Percy Conarroe.
I believe it was former Times-Call employee Travis Henry who suggested I get in contact with Percy quite a few years ago. I had always read and enjoyed his Open Forum letters, and always agreed with them. One day out of the blue, Percy called me at home. This would become the first of many such phone calls in which he was overwhelmingly supportive of what my wife and I were up to at the time. I didn’t know the titan of newspaper publishing I was speaking to, and once I did I was humbled that he thought so highly of me.
Once we made contact, he would send me opinion pieces and I’d post them on whatever website I was running at the time. He’d call to pick my brain about what I thought of the current or upcoming political season, or he’d email me with some thoughts on what was going on. While with my wife Brigette at one of our Vote!Longmont events, his wife Carolyn approached us and was sad Percy didn’t attend as he was a big fan of ours. Again, very humbling.
We only actually met once, and that was last year at his house by his request. Friend and fellow contributor Dave Larison and I paid him a visit and talked for a little while. Of all things for him to give us was his resume’, which I’ll share below as it shows what a full and interesting life Percy led. I’ll miss his contributions, but more so I’ll miss his endless words of support and friendship. We should all be so lucky to live such a life and leave such a legacy.
Chris Rodriguez, July 4th, 2013
Percy Allen Conarroe (Retired editor/publisher of Colorado small-town newspapers)
Jan. 1948, started newspaper career with weekly Calhan News, announced by George S. Heaton as one of the youngest editors in Colorado. Pay: $35.00/week but also got to learn the printing trade. The Calhan News was merged with the Simla Sun (also owned by Heaton) in 1949 to become the Pike View Farmer at Simla, now Ranchland News. Joined Calhan Lions Club in 1948.
March 1950, planning on getting married, landed better-paying job ($50 a week) at the Salida CO Daily Mail-Record. Wanted to learn more about newspaper business. Stayed there until 1952. Salida daily is now The Mountain Mail. Served as secretary of Salida Jaycees while living there.
July 15, 1950, married Carolyn Jeanette Morris in New Carlisle, Ohio, without whom a great deal of the following would not have been possible.
1952, publisher Heaton took ill and put his Simla Pike View Farmer on the market. The Conarroes wanted to get into the newspaper business but had no money, so arranged a lease-purchase agreement with Heaton involving his building and equipment with part of the lease-money to be credited as down payment. Moved from Salida to Simla, a town of 450 people, took over the Pike View Farmer on May 1, 1952. Doubled paid circulation to over 1,200.
1954-1960, served as trustee, then as mayor of Simla. Volunteer fireman.
Feb. 1965, after 13 years, sold the Pike View Farmer to George Kobolt, publisher of Castle Rock Douglas County News and Kiowa Elbert County News.
April 1965, bought Louisville (CO) Times from Art and Della Hobson, moved from Simla to Louisville and took over May 1, 1965. Served as secretary to downtown business group prior to forming Chamber of Commerce.
1969, worked hard behind scenes to bring Storage Technology Corporation to Louisville. Lobbied Boulder County Commissioners’ chairman Jack Murphy to change county’s zoning on STK’s proposed site near Louisville from Agricultural to Light Industrial. Murphy finally cooperated despite heavy Boulder pressure. City Administrator Leon Wurl, fresh on the job in 1972, annexed the site via flagpole into Louisville. The part that the Louisville Times played landing STK won an award in a National Newspaper Association contest honoring community newspapers for spurring economic development. STK eventually employed 5,000 locally and for two decades was Louisville’s biggest contributor (one-third) to its property tax revenues. (Source: City records.)
1972-73, served one term on the Louisville Planning Commission.
1974, with publisher Wilbur Flachman of Westminster CO as partner, re-established the defunct weekly Lafayette Leader newspaper in Lafayette, CO, naming it the Lafayette Times. Conarroes assumed full ownership in 1975, renamed it the Lafayette News with Cynthia Conarroe Murphy as editor.
1974, politics, ran unsuccessfully for seat in Colorado House of Representatives on Republican ticket. (Snowed under, a bad year for the GOP.)
1979, 1987, 1989, winner of Colorado Press Association sweepstakes awards for excellence in editorial writing among all of Colorado’s 110 weekly newspapers. Over the years, Conarroe publications enjoyed a long history of prize-winning content in nearly every category.
1981, elected president of Colorado Press Association. Personally visited nearly every CPA-member newspaper in the state on own time and dime. Named honorary lifetime member of CPA. (One of nine total so designated.)
1983, established a weekly in Boulder, The Boulder Courant, Mark Stodder, editor. Not enough ads, discontinued publication after one year.
1992, named Colorado Newspaper Person of the Year.
1992, Percy & Carolyn announced semi-retirement, turned business over to son Doug Conarroe and daughter Cynthia Conarroe Campbell with oldest son David, a teacher at Aspen High School, on board of directors.
1996, started two weeklies, the Erie Review and Superior Observer, both became paid circulation newspapers as were the Times and News.
1997, sold all newspaper assets to Lehman Communications Corporation of Longmont CO; Percy remained on payroll for a year as adviser and editorial writer.
1998, officially retired after 50 continuous years as a newspaperman.
2005, author of book, CALHAN – Life in a small town on the plains of eastern Colorado, comprised mostly of newspaper columns about growing up in a community of 350 people. 142 pages, self-published, first edition of 100 copies quickly sold out. One reprint. Available, Longmont Public Library.
SERVICE TO NEWSPAPER PROFESSION
Some of the more illustrious graduates of Percy’s Imperfect Newspaper Training School, having either interned with or worked for Conarroe-owned newspapers and at last report:
Bryan Welch – CEO of Ogden Co. publications, Topeka KS
Carl Cannon – Washington Bureau Chief, Readers Digest
Mark Stodder – VP Business Info, the Dolan Co., Minneapolis
Vyto Starynskis – Chief photographer, Rutland VT Daily Herald.
Russ Arensman – Sr. Writer, Loomis Co., San Francisco
Greg Johnson – Editor, Castle Rock (CO) newspaper group.
Matt Lubich – Editor/co-publisher, Johnstown (CO) Breeze.
FAVORITE COLUMNISTS: Chas. Krauthammer, syndicated. Daniel Henninger, WSJ
FAVORITE BOOK: Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition.
HOBBIES: Jazz music; best song and band Artistry Jumps, Stan Kenton. Pocket billiards. Seriously into chess in late 1950s before being obliterated by Grandmasters Sammy Reshevsky and Larry Evans, each of whom played 20 boards at a time, rarely surrendering even a draw. Awesome.