Former Colorado state Sen. Richard “Dick” Soash of Steamboat Springs passed away in Florida on Oct. 1.
A Democrat, Soash, 78, was first elected to the state Senate in 1976 and served until 1984, when he threw his cowboy hat into the primary race for the 3rd Congressional District.
Soash was a rare Democrat elected from northwestern Colorado and the last Democrat to represent the area for 28 years, until then-Rep. Diane Mitsch-Bush was elected in 2012. During his time in the upper chamber, Soash sat on the ag and business committees, as well as on transportation and local government.
But it’s his years after elected office that people most talk about. Soash was part of the daily lobbying crowd at the state Capitol, as a lobbyist for the city and county of Denver, Rag American Coal, Phelps Dodge, Intermountain Rural Electric Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Freeport Moran, among many.
“He was a big-time Democrat and big in unions,” said his son Nick.
Scott Meiklejohn and Soash were lobbying partners for years. He called Soash "a fixture at the Capitol."
“Everyone knew him and respected him,” said Meiklejohn, whose father, Al, was a longtime Republican.
“Dick was a Western Slope common-sense kind of guy,” who focused on problem solving and figuring things out, Meiklejohn added.
Soash was born on Aug. 3, 1941, in the old house on the Soash ranch near Steamboat. He graduated from Steamboat Springs High School and later earned a degree in English and German (in which he was fluent) from Colorado State University. He was a lifelong Catholic and attended Mother of God Catholic Church in Denver, and a lifelong Broncos fan, according to his son Nick.
“He had season tickets” throughout his adult life, Nick said.
He was an old-school farmer and rancher, said his daughter, Stacey Poulsen. “But he always wanted to be a famous politician,” she told Colorado Politics. She recalled that when she was a child, she’d listen to her dad practicing speeches on the tractor.
“I had to listen and critique them,” she said.
Soash was married three times. His first marriage produced four children: Curtis; William; Richard, Jr.; and Josephine. Marriage number two created a blended family with Stacey, whom he adopted. Son Nicolas soon followed. The third marriage, to Suzy, ended with her death in 2013. He is survived by his children, numerous grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
Nick, who cared for his dad for his final five years, told Colorado Politics his dad was “a hell of a cattleman” who loved working on the Soash Centennial ranch. (A Centennial farm or ranch is a state designation signifying 100 years in operation.)
Nick also recounted his dad’s legendary sense of humor. He once put a bunch of traffic cones in the governor’s parking spot at the Capitol after a night out, Nick said. Dick also liked rewriting songs, especially Johnny Cash songs, which Nick said were hilarious. Dick was even mistaken for Cash on the train to a Broncos game about five years ago, Nick added.
Poulsen, in a tribute to her dad on Facebook, wrote that “he bought me the coolest, and I mean COOLEST, cowboy boots in the world at Harwigs in Steamboat when I was about 8. ... And I rocked those two-tone boots until I outgrew them. I would do just about anything for those old boots.”
The two shared a love of English, culture, foreign language and travel, beginning with a trip to Mexico when she was a child.
“I remember how we listened to his favorite singer, Don Williams, and other old cowboy crooners on the radio and dusty old cassette tapes. I still listen to those old guys. Oh and the time I put rattlesnake rattles in his lunchtime salt shaker because I wanted it to be extra special,” she joked.
Then-Mayor Wellington Webb hired Betty Neal to work the Republicans and Soash “to work the cowboys,” added former state Rep. Miller Hudson, now a columnist for Colorado Politics. Soash served with then-state Rep. Wilma Webb, the former mayor noted.
Webb told Colorado Politics that Soash, whom he dubbed “the Cowboy" (to Soash's amusement), was a straight-shooter with an ability to analyze issues, as well as the politics of those issues. Dick’s value extended to his ability to understand city issues, and then explain them to rural legislators.
“His loss is a real loss for the state," Webb said.
Dick was part of a continued loss of a generation of people who have made a significant difference in Colorado, including continuing in public service after they’ve left the legislature, Webb added.
A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 19 from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. in Steamboat Springs at Big House Burgers, 2093 Curve Plaza. Following that memorial, his ashes will be scattered on the ranch.
Colorado Politics columnist Lynn Bartels also contributed to this report.