Josh Comfort (born Joe Robert and known as Joe Bob through his young adult years) embodied creativity, curiosity, and generosity throughout his seventy-seven years of life. In the wake of his unexpected passing, all who loved him remember his adventurous spirit, passion for art and design, commitment to social justice, and extraordinary ability to make conversation with absolutely anyone about absolutely anything.
Born in 1943 in Nashville, Tennessee, Josh moved multiple times with his parents (Richard and Winona) and three siblings (Hugh, Beverly, and Marilee). He attended Amherst College in Massachusetts; studied in Puerto Rico; served in the Peace Corps in Brazil with his first wife, Randy Lee; and obtained a master's degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania before making Denver his home in 1970. He and Randy raised their children (Megan, Justin, Mathew, and Loren) in Park Hill in a house filled with tutus, an assortment of musical instruments, boisterous wrestling in the basement, and a continual parade of dogs, guinea pigs, and other cherished pets.
Josh Comfort Architecture was established in 1991, just in time to play an important role in Denver's growth during the economic boom. Josh's love of - and expertise in - the restoration of historic buildings made him ideally suited to help spearhead the blossoming of the lower downtown area. His key projects included the Ice House and Acme Lofts, the Sugar Building, and the renovation of the Lowenstein Theater into a new home for the Tattered Cover bookstore. Right until June 2021, Josh was actively involved in various design and arts efforts in the city that he loved, serving as a commissioner on the Denver Commission of Cultural Affairs and as a board member of the Downtown Denver Business Improvement District. He also volunteered for the Rape Assistance and Awareness Program and helped create the Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy Society's Walk and Roll to Cure FSHD fundraising event.
1991 was an auspicious year for Josh, as this was also when he met Kate Culligan, who went on to become his beloved companion of 30 years. They married in 1994, with Kate's children Emmett and Mollie alongside Josh's in the wedding party. Josh and Kate's love only grew stronger over the years as they traveled off the beaten paths in Europe, South America, and Asia; supported the arts in Denver and Taos, New Mexico (their adopted second home); renovated an array of houses; mentored young people; threw parties at which the food, drink, and conversation abundantly flowed; and enjoyed each other's company so deeply that even after being confined at home for over a year during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of their favorite activities in 2021 was to curl up on the couch together. A highlight of Josh and Kate's travels was their 2019 trek on the Camino de Santiago in Portugal and Spain, during which they walked 116 miles of the sacred route.
In addition to family, conviviality, art, and architecture, Josh will be remembered for his love for music. He played the trumpet and French horn in high school and led the marching band as drum major. As an adult he transitioned to singing, taking voice lessons, joining a quartet wryly named The Fourgone Conclusion, and performing in many Opera Colorado productions, including Aida, Don Giovanni, and Sweeney Todd. Kate and his children never tired of listening to him sing - or of teasing him about his elaborate makeup and costumes when he performed.
Unsurprisingly, Josh turned to music for solace during the pandemic: he took video lessons to learn to play the cello, practicing on the same instrument played by his grandfather. His characteristic resilience came through as he faced the challenges of 2020: he delighted in "visiting" museums and "attending" performances virtually, partook in Zoom cocktail hours and parties, hiked in the mountains, and even participated in an outdoor, week-long stone carving workshop in Taos. As soon as they were vaccinated, he and Kate went to Brooklyn to see their grandsons and then travelled to Hawaii, where Josh had never been. Undeterred by a global pandemic, Josh's final months and days were filled with laughter, connection, exuberance, and a determination to live every day to its fullest. He brought a sense of affirmation, possibility, and boundless compassion to every interaction, and we miss him beyond words.
A Celebration of Life will be held in August. To honor Josh's memory, his family will be commissioning a work of public art. To receive details about how to donate to this effort, please contact [email protected]
To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store
Published by Denver Post on Jun. 27, 2021.