DURANGO — Mike McLachlan would have loved the memorial service he planned for himself, down to the date, the food and the location. He probably wouldn’t have minded that most of the people he chose to talk violated his rule about speaking no more than two minutes. 

After all, there was so much to say about the former Marine, lawyer and lawmaker who represented southwest Colorado in the legislature for two years. McLachlan died June 23 at the age of 75.  

Former state Rep. Mike McLachlan, 1946-2021

Former state Rep. Mike McLachlan, who died June 23, 2021 in Durango.

Cocksure. Funny. A tough adversary. 

Growing up, he couldn’t complete a pass as his school’s quarterback on an Air Force base in Zaragoza, Spain, but once during an egg fight he hit a friend’s sister in the back of the head from 50 yards. He loved to sing Broadway musicals. He rowed a canoe as slow as he drove. 

The one thing McLachlan couldn’t select was the weather, but it was perfect Saturday night as family, friends and fans gathered outside the Powerhouse Science Museum in downtown Durango. 

McLachlan died after a lengthy illness that included a two-week coma. When he came out of it, his first words were about President Trump’s lawyer. “Has (Rudy) Guilliani been indicted yet?”

The stars of the memorial service were McLachlan’s wife, Barbara, who now serves in the House seat her husband once held, and their two children, Kate and Brian, who made the crowd alternately laugh and cry with their stories.

Former state Rep. Mike McLachlan dies, age 75

“Hello, you aging white liberals of Durango,” Kate said.

In his final days, she told her father that he was her best friend. He told her she was in his “Top 5.” 

“He was a really good dad,” she said. “He told us he loved us every day of his life.”

Brian said his dad once told him, “I know you’re my son because you inherited my worst flaws.” 

“I hope I can have a life as meaningful and impactful as my dad,” he said. 

Barbara McLachlan cracked up the crowd when she said after hearing all the wonderful things people said about her husband she wished she had been nicer to him. It was only a joke — Mike McLachlan often said when he married Barbara he won the lottery. 

A number of House members who had served with Mike McLachlan or now serve with his wife attended the memorial, including former House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, former Rep. Mike Foote, and Sens. Brittany Pettersen, Faith Winter and Jessie Danielson. 

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Lynn Bartels thinks politics is like sports but without the big salaries and protective cups. The Washington Post's "The Fix" blog named her one of Colorado's best political reporters and tweeters. Bartels, a South Dakota native, graduated from Cottey College in 1977 and Northern Arizona University in 1980 and then moved to New Mexico for her first journalism job. The Rocky Mountain News hired her in 1993 as its night cops reporter and in 2000 assigned her to her first legislative session. The Gold Dome hasn't been the same since. In 2009, The Denver Post hired Bartels after the Rocky closed, just shy of its 150th birthday. Bartels left journalism in 2015 to join then Secretary of State Wayne Williams's staff. She has now returned to journalism - at least part-time - and writes a regular political column for Colorado Politics.

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