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Holly Coors: Colorado's golden lady.

She's been called the President's cheerleader; a tireless, roll-up-her-sleeves kind of volunteer, as comfortable manning a phone bank for charity as chatting long distance with the man in the Oval Office.

A string of impressive titles trails after Holly Coors' name. Depending on the hour, the event or the place, she might be introduced as the two-time state chairman of the Colorado campaign to elect the Reagan-Bush team; a member of the Air Force Academy's board of visitors; a member of the board of regents for CBN University; woman of the year for the American Lung Association of Colorado; vice chairman of A Christian Ministry in the National Parks; Colorado state coordinator for the Fiftieth American Presidential Inaugural; mother of 5; grandmother of 20; and the list goes on. And on.

She's an elegant example of a growing number of women who make a difference, volunteers who prefer a charged life to a charmed existence, social activism to active socializing. Her civic involvement dates back nearly as far as her marriage to the businessman Joseph Coors, president of the Adolph Coors Company, of Golden, Colorado.

She gasps at the realization that at least one title, that of Mrs. Joe Coors, has been hers since 1941. "Forty-four years in April," she says with disbelief. "That seems impossible; but it's been wonderful."

They met on Nantucket Island, that posh summer haven patronized by the socially correct. She was 19, had dabbled in modeling and was preparing to launch a career as a fashion designer. Her flair for style had been evident since childhood, when she sketched "originals" for her collection of paper dolls. Somehow she had convinced her parents to sanction a hiatus from college and had secured a job in New York City. She was about to realize a dream.

"But that kind of went out the window after I met Joe," she jokes today. The marriage proposal meant not only saying good-by to the long anticipated fashion career but also to her home on Philadelphia's Main Line. The choice actually was no contest: "I would have followed him anywhere," she recalls simply.

After World War II they left the East Coast for Colorado with two little sons and one on the way. "Oh how I missed the ocean!" she says. "It took me seven years of homesickness and tears to realize the mountains have their own splendor. Now I love the West and Colorado is truly 'home.'"

Part of her restlessness as a young wife and mother was due to her abrupt shift in roles. She had always been an intense person--"a black-and-white person rather than gray; a right is right and wrong is wrong person," she explains. As a schoolgirl she had been the editor of the student newspaper and the author of its "flaming" editorials. Once married, she felt she must put aside such soapbox activism and settle into a low-profile role. Coors tradition had always encouraged female family members to work behind the scenes, anonymously if possible, and to avoid high visibility.

He early volunteer work revolved around her five sons: Joe, Jr., Jeff, Peter, Grover and John. She jokes that she was involved with Cub Scouts for so long that she was nearly issued a blue-and-gold uniform. "I never told our last boy there was such a thing as Cub Scouts," she admits with a laugh. "So he survived without the benefit of that wonderful organization."

She struggled with the question of what direction her life should take. She knew lacked fulfillment and questioned if her lifestyle, which she likened to a social whirl, shouldn't have some deeper meaning and spiritual purpose. "I wanted so much to help others," she recalls. "I knew there had to be more to life than high fashion and living the good life."

Although she had grown up in the church and had attended Quaker schools as a youngster, her spiritual knowledge was superficial at best. She began enrolling in seminars and retreats in an attempt to find her answers. "I suppose I was ripe; I was ready for it," she says. "I had searched for so long. I'd ask my friends, 'What is it that makes us tick? Why are we here?' That was all part of my identity search. Even as a child I remember entering different churches and thinking, Maybe the answer is in this building; it must be here. But it wasn't. I never understood that it had to be a personal relationship. Until I could make that total, not just intellectual, commitment to God, something always would be missing."

She made her commitment in 1961--she recalls vividly the day, the hour, the circumstances--and a sense of contentment settle within her. "A lot of things changed, including my temperament. I didn't have the same desires for fashion and material things. They just didn't seem as important. My depression was gone too. I didn't have time for it!" Holly exclaims. "Teaching Sunday school became an important part of my life. One special girl that I remember with fondness was Lisa Nelson, who when she grew up became the wife of Tim Robertson, son of Pat Robertson."

She joined an effort to establish a volunteer program at a large local hospital and spent hours helping in the intensive-care unti. She supervised the gift shop and assisted the chaplain. "As president of St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary, which boasted 700 'pink ladies,' I saw america's hallmark of volunteerism at its best. The dedication of those women to come through rain, snow and ice to help others permanently impressed me. Volunteerism is uniquely American and one which President Reagan soundly endorses. We share this volunteer effort with Great Britain, where my friend, Barbara Shenfield, has organized a quarter of a million volunteers to serve throughout her country," she says.

As Holly stepped up her involvement in charitable activities, she was delighted to meet many Christians who, like she, opted for volunteerism over more self-indulgent pastimes. She attended a worship service at the sprawling estate of the Texas oilman Bunker Hunt and felt the common bond that exists when blacks, whites and Hispanics pray together. She enthusiastically lent her support to the STEP Foundation (Strategies to Elevate People), a national group of concerned Christians dedicated to helping the needy in America's inner cities. By example, she influenced others from her circle of friends to get involved. She explains:

"I feel that many people want to lead more meaningful lives, but the frustration is in not knowing how to do it or which groups to support. But," she adds, "more and more of these wonderful people are being motivated to help in various ways. It's mind boggling how much needs to be done. I feel in these years a greater responsibility to help the less fortunate. When you see poverty or need, you just can't ignore it."

During a hospital stay, Holly experienced the truth found in Nehemiah 8:10: "The joy of the Lord is your strength," which added a new dimension to her life. This resulted in the writing of a booklet during her convalescence, a booklet she titled Joy Is the Promise. "His joy makes all the difference in our lives," she says.

Inspiration came from a trip to the Holy Land to develop the Scripture Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Holly's research and ideas coupled with the expertise of the Denver Botanic Gardens' staff ultimately bacame a reality with a gift from the Coors family. This flourishing garden, which thousands visit, has created a mutual bond of understanding through the Biblical plants grown in both of our countries.

Another garden Holly takes a great deal of pride in is on the banks of Clear Creek, which runs through the Coors company plant in Golden. Because of the growth of the company, there seemed less and less room for the employees to have a pleasant outdoor place to enjoy a lunch break. "I bugged my husband and our sons until after several years they let me have my way! Now it is a little treasure by the banks of Clear Creek, where no doubt Indians and pioneers refreshed themselves in the past just as Coors employees do now," she says. On the day of the dedication she was surprised and delighted to see a pink-and-white tent and even an ice carving of Holly on the refreshment table, and to her astonishment the park has been named "Holly Park."

Her husband, Joe, not only has applauded her volunteer efforts but has lent advice whenever she wrestles with a tough decision. "I always seek his wisdom because he has the most wonderful way--perhaps many businessmen do--of cutting right through all the red tape and the hassle in my mind and getting to the point," she says. "Men have to make decisions all day and they can't waste time. Women tend to deliberate more, procrastinate and look at the various sides of things. Perhaps we make a nice balance, though; I like to think I can bring to him a more temperate view, while he gives me the soundest advice I could get from anyone. He's a friend and counselor as well as a wonderful husband."

The couple became even closer when Helly's interest in politics was rekindled. Each had strong, patriotic roots, instilled by parents and grandparents who revered American freedom in a way only immigrants do. Holly's father, a paper manufacturer, had been penniless when he arrived from Sweden, and Joe's grandfather, a native of Germany, never forgot his gratitude to the United States.

"Now, instead of taking a back seat politically, I'm attending meetings with Joe and playing a more active role. It's been exciting to share this interest; I can't imagine anything worse than being married to someone who isn't on the same political wavelength," she says. She admits that she's been approached by persons who would like to see her as a candidate for office, but her rephy is adamant, usually softened by a grin: "I do not choose to run."

Her appeal as a candidate or as a supporter is obvious. At 5'9", she's a stately beauty whose charisma is increased by her mixed bag of interests. She's an aristocratic populist, a gracefully mature woman with little-girl qualities, a world traveler whose feet are firmly planted in the grass roots. She lists her role models as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Pat Robertson but also lauds the people--particularly the women--who make contributions behind the scenes.

"Women make such a difference because they add a certain dimension," she says. "I think of women as being like thermometers in the home. When they're up and feeling good the whole family is up. When they're down, the family is long-faced. By their nature women take time to find out more about other persons; they have a certain caring, compassionate part to them. I hope they won't try to compete so much in the world that they lose that special God-given touch."

She keeps her priorities by making time for her ever expanding family, even if it means rising at 6 a.m. to get a head start on the day. Long hours are spent in her downtown office, far from her fashionable hilltop home. Weekends are reserved for the family, all of whom live in Golden. The five boys are employed in the family business, so Coors reunions are frequent. When her son John temporarily relocated in Germany to pursue his education, Holly was a welcome visitor.

She jokes that she is sometimes embarrassed to tell the number of grandchildren she and Joe have, especially when many young marrieds are opting for the "three's a crowd" philosophy. In truth, she's proud of the clan and particularly of the happy marital matches of her sons.

Her own 44-year partnership has served as a good example. "Of course all marriages have ups and downs, but when you love someone you love him at all times of the day and night, and you aren't thrown a curve by a wrinkle. You just smooth it out and start again. Marriage means long-term commitment; it has to be weathered," she says.

Hers has matured to the point that she and Joe often travel in separate directions, according to their obligations and interests, and regroup and rejuvenate frequently in the quiet of their Arizona casita or on the slopes near their Aspen ski lodge. After the rigors of the 1984 presidential campaign and inauguration, Holly opted for two weeks in Germany to visit her son John and to spend time with the group she calls her main source of inspiration, the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, in Darmstadt. "I feel I've been really blessed to have a husband who has encouraged, not just tolerated, my efforts to develop my abilities. He's never tried to put me on a shelf, so to speak. I've enjoyed the blessing of being a little independent while acknowledging that Joe's the head of our home," she says.

Occasionally she frets that the demands of her volunteer work limit the time she can spend with her family and in more traditional church work. "But you can't go to Bible class all your life," she concludes with a shrug. "You've got to get out and do the things you are led to do. That's the transition I've been in, and I feel very comfortable that this must be the direction He wants me to follow, because I have so much energy and momentum."

Whenever she hints at curtailing her rigorous schedule for a less frenzied pace, she's reminded of a group of favorite volunteers she met when she served on the Presidential Peace Corps Commission. Each was more than 80 years old and each had signed on for yet another tour of duty. "All of us need to somehow be involved in the life around us, or we can become very shallow," she says. "If only people could know how needed they really are."

She knows, and she responds by doing more than her share to help. Burnout has never been a problem, and retirement is out of the question. She flashes a how-could-you-suggest-suchan-idea grin and adds, "You see, there's so very much to do."
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Author:Miller, Holly G.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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