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Robert Welborn

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Robert Welborn Obituary

Welborn, Robert Floyd "Bob" Robert Floyd "Bob" Welborn died peacefully on May 24, 2011, at age 91. He is survived by his favorite companion and wife of more than 65 years, Salty (Frances Newton) Welborn. They knew each other from childhood. Bob's parents, Jesse and Ada Baker Welborn, had a large farm (part of which is now Colorado Academy) in the Bear Creek Valley, and the Newton family lived on the farm across Pierce Street. They were such a part of each other's lives that the term "Bob and Salty" is a term of art in the lexicon of their family and friends. Bob is also survived by his four children: Jeff (Martha) Welborn, Robin (Bruce) Smith, Robert (Rhonda) Welborn, and David (Ellen) Welborn; his eleven grandchildren: Rebecca Welborn, Liz (Andy) Rockmore, Matthew (Jenny) Smith, Bruce (Terry) Smith, Abigail (Matt) Miller, John Welborn, Jessica Welborn, Lucas Welborn, Robert Welborn, Hannah Welborn, and Samantha Welborn; and his six great grandsons: Benjamin, Patrick, William, Sam, Finn and Eli. Bob was born in Pueblo on June 14, 1919 and grew up in Denver. He began his formal education at the Corona School (now Dora Moore) and graduated from East High School in 1936. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1940 and completed his first year of law school at C.U. in Boulder. His legal education was interrupted when he enlisted in the Navy in 1942 to serve as a naval officer in the Pacific during World War II. His war experiences remained vivid and haunting throughout his life. After the war, Bob returned to Denver where he and Salty were married in December 1945. He graduated from DU (now Sturm) Law School in 1946, and his first job after graduation was with the Grant, Shafroth & Toll law firm in Denver. Always self-effacing, Bob often said that he wasn't employable and that he was eternally grateful to the three principals in that firm for taking a chance on him and giving his legal career a start. In the late 1940's Bob formed a Denver law firm with Floyd Haskell and John Tippit. In 1960, he and Phil Dufford left that firm to start Welborn & Dufford, and then in 1993 Bob and others from that firm formed Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley, an association that gave him a tremendous amount of support and pleasure. He remained in a Counsel role with that firm until his death. Much of his law practice involved water law, and he became a recognized expert. The importance of water in this semi-arid environment was ingrained in Bob largely because of growing up in the Bear Creek Valley and being dependent on what came down the Warrior Ditch to keep the Welborn farm productive. He had a key role in drafting much of the water rights administration legislation that is in force in Colorado today. He represented the State of Colorado in a cross-border water dispute with the State of New Mexico, a case of original jurisdiction in the US Supreme Court. Appearing before that tribunal in Washington was an experience that he remembered and cherished, even in later years when other memories were not so clear. In addition to the law and his family, Bob's passions were music (primarily Bach and Beethoven), animal welfare, and the natural environment. He wrote extensively on these topics turning out volumes of essays that combine his great ability to think and reason logically with his deeply spiritual belief that God speaks to Man through music, living creatures and the natural environment. Bob was an accomplished, but private, pianist and a great lover of classical music. He served on the boards of the Lamont School of Music and the Aspen Institute and worked hard for those organizations in their early days when they needed hard work. He was on the Steering Committee that got the new Colorado Symphony Orchestra up and running in 1989. He loved to listen to good music. For many years Bob and Salty routinely traveled to Boston to hear the Handel and Haydn Society's annual production of The Messiah. In later years, his hearing gone and refusing that "unnatural" hearing aid, he enjoyed watching videos of performances of Bach's St Matthew Passion, seeing the musicians play and hearing and feeling every silent note in his head much the way the deaf Beethoven must have done. In 1964, Bob and Salty purchased a farm in the Russellville Valley in Douglas County, and they moved there to live in 1970. The unique, complex natural beauty of that farm and valley gave Bob the strength and incentive to pursue two more passions, animal welfare and the impact of chemical farming on the natural environment. The farm became a model of non-chemical productivity, and a haven for all of Bob's creatures. He was literally tortured by what he knew about the inhumane treatment of animals especially in the food industry. He served on the Board of the Humane Society of the United States and worked actively in support of animal welfare legislation often taking unpopular positions in defense of creatures that he felt have few advocates and more right to be on this planet than human beings do. An additional passion for Bob was education. Most of his education came through hard work and experience. His family lost their assets during the Great Depression. This left an indelible mark on him, and it convinced him that an education is the only safeguard against the forces we can't control in life. He instilled that belief in his children and grandchildren both in word and deed. He served on the committee that formed the Cherry Creek School District in the 1950's and was its first school board president. He was a Trustee of Colorado Academy and was active in helping that school during its formative years at the former site of his family farm. Not long ago, in what was to be the last time he spoke publicly, he said to a group of CA students, "It's a matter of great accomplishment that certain people stood strong in difficult times with vision and commitment to bring about this beautiful and fulfilling place for education." Standing strong in difficult times was Bob's specialty. Bob and Salty's family will gather at his farm in Douglas County for a private memorial. They ask that those wishing to remember Bob do so through a donation to Colorado Academy (www.coloradoacademy.org), the Dumb Friends League (www.ddfl.org), The Humane Society of the United States (www.humanesociety.org), or the Bessemer Historical Society in Pueblo, Colorado http://www.steelworks.us/.

Published in Denver Post on June 5, 2011
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