By now many of our readers are probably aware that Ed Quillen, the founder of Colorado Central Magazine, passed away in early June. Ed was 61 years old and died of a heart attack while enjoying one of his favorite pastimes, reading a history book. His musings were a staple of this magazine and his columns in The Denver Post were enjoyed by many in Colorado and beyond.
At a recent memorial service held in Salida, I was visiting with Ed Marston, founder of High Country News who had known Ed for many years. We got on the topic of how Ed was referred to by many in the media as a “curmudgeon,” which both of us considered an inaccurate label. Merriam-Webster describes a curmudgeon as; A crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man. Ed may have considered himself this way, possibly wearing the moniker with pride, but he was hardly crusty and ill-tempered, and at only six years my senior, not an old man.
In fact, Ed was one of the more gentle people I’ve known, showing vast amounts of patience with me during the process of transferring ownership of this publication, for instance. If I ran into problems with the database or the bulk mailing report, he would offer assistance without complaint. Even when speaking of those he disagreed with, it was without spite or malice, unlike so many blowhards who pass for so-called “pundits” in today’s media landscape. As to being “crusty,” well … on occasion Ed did have unidentifiable bits lodged in his beard or on his t-shirt.
I do have several favorite “Ed” stories, including the following.
He and I were invited on the “media train” celebrating the first passenger rail service over La Veta Pass in sixty years. Along with us was Virginia Simmons McConnell as well as a bevy of Front Range reporters, cameramen, and other “very important” media types. When the train arrived in the town of La Veta we were greeted by a sea of red t-shirts in the spirit of the occasion. I got off the train quickly in order to take photos and watched as many of the dignitaries debarked. Suddenly, off came Ed, with his long white beard and shuffling manner. It may have been my imagination or just coincidence, but the crowd suddenly let loose a welcoming roar which Ed seemed to take in stride. I looked around for any other possible source of the crowd’s exuberance but came up short. I kidded him about that on the entire return trip.
Part of the transfer of this magazine involved an old IBM laptop computer which contained the subscription database. He pulled it off the shelf in his rather dark and smoky office one day, brushed off some stray tobacco leaves from the lid and booted it up. Suddenly the strains of “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones began to emanate from the machine. Ed liked Mick and the boys a lot, so he programmed this bit of rock ‘n’ roll into the machine. I never got rid of it.
In late-May, I wangled Ed into speaking at a tribute to pack-burro racing held at the Salida Steam Plant theater. We heard plenty of great stories told by the racers themselves but when Ed’s turn finally came to speak, he stood and faced the audience and quickly had them in stitches while recounting his own experiences with burros and other jackasses. It was likely his final public speaking engagement and he did not disappoint.
In the pages that follow, we’ve compiled a series of tributes to Ed Quillen from current and past contributors to Colorado Central as well as his friends and family. Together they tell a tale of a man who was greatly talented, observant, admired and who influenced many. He left us much too soon, but left behind a vast treasure-trove of writings, most of which can be found at www.edquillen.com. – Mike Rosso
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