Donna Marie McEncroe

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  • - Mary Sewell
  • "Donna Marie 'Zipprich' McEncroe was ever changing, strong,..."
    - Susan Wilson
  • "I will miss our highly entertaining conversations over ..."
    - Pam Gharabally
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    - Regina N
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Obituary

Donna Marie McEncroe's rewarding and wide-ranging life came to its end on Aug. 14, 2019. The many fortunate people who came to admire her abiding strengths will not be surprised to hear that, consistent with a life characterized by independence and self-reliance, she died while traveling, pursuing discovery. It was greatly comforting to learn that her passing was peaceful, during an afternoon nap.
Growing up, her fondest memories were of the freedom she enjoyed during summers in and on a Wisconsin lake. This was followed by an avidly pursued education in early childhood at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. (Gamma Phi Beta).
Her real loves, though, were writing and travel. An early manifestation of this was her designation as the first female travel writer for the Denver Post newspaper. But before her recognition from the Post, her future travels as a participant and observer were seemingly ordained.
Soon after marrying Paul McEncroe in 1950, Donna found work as a runway and print model, and somehow managed to found a family with four children. An ad campaign was initiated in southern Wisconsin featuring her as their spokesperson, "Polly Prim."
As young children we would see her on billboards as we drove around Milwaukee, naturally assuming all moms were on billboards. This persisted after a move to Colorado, where we would occasionally catch her on TV representing Safeway. Otherwise she represented her folks' restaurant as a hostess at El Rancho.
With her four children getting on in school, Donna returned to school herself, initially taking poetry classes at Regis University in Denver but also hospitality-related curriculum like event-planning with Meeting Planners International.
Mexicana Airlines had the foresight to take advantage of her accruing promotional skills and offered a public relation position coinciding with its inaugural venture into Colorado. This afforded wider travel and writing opportunities.
Subsequent travel to Mexico and a burgeoning interest in folk art created the initiative for the formation of an import business. This initiative found fruition as an outlet in El Rancho restaurant, called "My Shop," where she and Paul had become owner/operators.
They, in turn, sold the restaurant, moving from the foothills of the Front Range to Lower Downtown Denver. Donna had anticipated the allure of a rapidly revitalizing area in the urban center of Denver. She believed the coming changes in an often-neglected part of town coincided with their own changing needs as they considered retirement.
The area targeted for redevelopment soon became known as Lo Do and the 16th Street Mall, and the McEncroes became active participants. Donna's explorations of the changing environment became the impetus for her first published book "Off the Mall: Step by Step."
Thomas Noel, a history professor at the University of Colorado Denver, noted in his forward to the book, "Donna is a poet and a travel writer, she brings a wide range of experiences and interests to this first guidebook to our new downtown. As one of the walkers, I have found this a needed love song to the new city."
A second book followed in the early 90s. Approach-ing 800 pages, it is a detailed history of urban renewal in Denver from 1958 to 1986. "Denver Renewal" remains the go-to reference for urban planners in the region.
Sadly, soon after its publication and after 42 years of marriage, Donna's husband Paul was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. This development initiated another chapter in Donna's life, that as a fulltime caregiver. The recognition of the need for a workbook giving aid to the aid-givers soon followed. This resulted in another guidebook "The Alzheimer's Workbook: Charting a Course Through Uncertain Territory."
Following her husband's death, 52 years of marriage, and amid developing lung issues, Donna was compelled to leave the Mile High City. She relocated to sea level but was gratified by re-establishing her innate connection to being on the water. Many of you have known and supported her on both the West and Gulf Coasts, and are aware of her ongoing love of travel.
Close friends recently received a compendium (several of whom aided in its formatting and revisions) of her insights from a life of discovery and reflection. That her life ended in the process of exploring would surprise exactly no one who knew her well; she would have deemed it "as only appropriate."
When recently asked "Any regrets?" Donna replied: "Yes, I deeply lament the too early passing of too many friends." Well, Ma, you have gone to join them, and they will be thrilled to see you.
Published in Canyon Courier on Aug. 21, 2019
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