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Anthony James “A.J.” Pettrini: 10/20/1921 – 4/4/2016


At eulogies, it’s customary to say nice things about the departed and how great of an influence they were on our lives, and maybe later, at the reception, less savory stories from a wild past may arise. But for A.J., there is nothing else to say except nice things, exceptional things – because that’s all he was. It’s hard to put into words what “Papa” meant to me and my family. He was a truly humble, loving, strong man; who lived for those around him more than himself. That’s who he was and every story about A.J. has a streak of this in it.

He lived a grand life, which began in Detroit in 1921. He was one of five children, born to Italian immigrant parents, on the poor side of town, but he was always surrounded by love. By the time A.J. graduated high school, he had lost his mother and several siblings to illness. He was an outstanding student and while he waited to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he worked factory jobs alongside his father in the heyday of Detroit’s automobile boom. He went off to The War in 1943, undergoing rigorous training to be a B-17 pilot.

During his service in WWII, A.J. flew 35 successful missions, three on D-Day alone. He never lost an aircraft or suffered a casualty to his crew. This was something he was always proud of, but never boasted aboutThat’s how my grandfather was.

He had a million great stories, but he always kept them under his hat, never bragging, but he had all the right to do so, especially after we heard this particular story.

One day while flying from their base in Kimbolton, England, a general decided to join my grandfather and his crew for that day’s mission. A.J. and his boys were a tight group, highly efficient at their job and I assume having a general on board was an honor to them but nothing to get tense about. They had a job to do and they were going to do it, regardless of who was tagging along.

They got into a scrape with enemy fire on their way out, but carried on and made it to their target site. They dropped their bombs and turned back for home, but not before getting shot up a few more times. They lost one engine in the fray and were still far from home. They ran into more enemy fire, and dropped a second of their four engines. The general was squirming by now, but A.J. remained focused, even after losing power to the third engine. They were low on fuel and shot up pretty bad with still a ways to go before they got back to base.

It was about this time the general said to A.J., white knuckles clinching his seatbelt, “Don’t you think it’s time we get out of here?” The thought never crossed A.J.’s mind, and he turned his head to the side, his steely gaze on the general now, and said, “You’re more than welcome to jump sir. I’ll have one of my boys open the side door for you, but I intend to take this plane back home.” A.J. turned his head back and resumed the flight – and the general sat back into his chair.

They did indeed get back home all right, exhausted but in one piece as always. A.J was woken up only a few hours later – to test fly the plane after the mechanics had repaired the engines and bullet holes. He flew it; it was good; and he racked up a couple more hours of sleep before being woken up again. It was time for another mission.

A.J. was strong enough to get the job done and he made sure he took care of those around him. That’s what he did that day and that’s what he did his whole life.    

He returned to the States and completed his service as a test pilot in Amarillo, Texas. It was here he met his future wife Anne Troth. They soon fell in love, and married on August 14, 1946. They attended college together at LSU in Baton Rouge, and moved up to Casper in 1949. They would be married for sixty years, before Annie’s passing in 2006.

They had three children, Tom, Elree and Valarie, and raised them in their beloved home of 35 years on Milton Avenue. It was a sanctuary for family and friends to gather and enjoy each other’s company. Everyone remembers those fabulous backyard parties and tradition still goes on. Papa was out there enjoying himself just this past summer.

A.J. began his professional career at Casper National Bank and later with Lee Townsend in a private insurance company. He continued to fly planes recreationally and as a private pilot for the Dutch Warner Airline Co.. A.J. later established his long-running and well-known accounting and real estate firm: “A.J. Pettrini & Co.”

In 1960, he purchased several acres in the mountains outside of Pinedale, Wyo. and built a magnificent cabin that continues to be a cherished family destination. In his typical generous nature, A.J. first helped build his neighbor’s cabin, who co-invested in the land, before beginning work on his own property.  Simply knows as “The Cabin,” we travel there often to for great family trips.         

In life, A.J. was a renaissance man, a go-getter. He was always working on projects. Us grandkids nicknamed him “Do” because he was always doing something. He had friends everywhere he went, from the Petroleum Club to Paradise Valley Country Club to happy hour at Johnny O’s. He was a friend to everyone and they knew he would always lend a hand.

It was his strong spirit, his passion for life, his perpetual smile that lead him to living 94 years. His life story really is astonishing. He only spent a few days in the hospital his whole life. He was born on the family kitchen table, had his tonsils removed at home and he hardly got a scratch in the war. He was 88 years old when he finally spent a night in a hospital.

A.J. instilled a passion for nature and flying in his son Tom, who is an accomplished pilot and outdoorsman himself. Papa also helped his first daughter Elree, and her husband Kelvin Huber, build a house on their ranch along the North Platte, called “The Nickel.” It was another treasured family estate, home to countless get-togethers. On November 10, 1988, Elree passed away after a long fight with leukemia.

Valarie White is A.J.’s youngest child, who lived in Casper with her parents their whole lives. She moved into the Milton house, with a family of her own, when A.J. and Annie moved into their last house on Lind Avenue. Valarie took on A.J.’s passion for work and family, being a successful businesswoman and mother, and closely caring for her parents for many years.

But for all his accomplishments and passions, A.J.’s true love was his wife. I have never seen a man so smitten, so devoted to a woman like he was. The blissful look on his face in every single photo of them together is amazing. He cared for her at their home in her later years, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He was devastated when she died. She was his life, and the strength he showed to carry on for the last ten years without her was profound.

We find comfort in knowing that Papa is with Annie and his daughter now. They have been waiting in heaven for a long time – and now their circle has grown. We know we’ll  join them one day, but for now, life has changed for us. We’ll miss him dearly. He was a sweet, sweet man.

It was a full life. It was a beautiful life Papa had. He has touched the lives of everyone here. He was a giant figure in my life. It felt like he would live forever. There is an emptiness I feel when I think about him being gone, him not being there to call and talk with. He’s gone, but that’s part of life. That’s how life ends. It’s never easy, but what better way to go than with family surrounding you in this world as you depart, and your wife and more family waiting for you on the other side.

At the end of his life, A.J. himself was a lot like his B-17 with only one engine still going. He didn’t have much power left, so he brought it in fast, in the company of those he cared about the most – even more than himself. He took care of his responsibilities, he did a miraculous job -and when he was done – he went home to find his wife.   

We all love you Papa.

The Holy Season of Lent at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver: A multimedia documentary

Click here for the multimedia documentary

Jana Ruth Gifford reflects during her confirmation into St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colo. on April 4, 2015. Several others were baptized, confirmed and received into the congregation on this Easter Vigil service that traditionally hosts such ceremonies.


Building a dream: Meow Wolf and the House of Eternal Return

A creative storm has been brewing in Santa Fe, N.M. and it’s about to be unleashed in an abandoned bowling alley on the edge of town.

Meow Wolf, the renowned Santa Fe arts production company, has found a home in the old Silva Lanes building for its first permanent attraction, “House of Eternal Return,” which opens March 17.

Matt King, 31, is one of Meow Wolf’s founders and the fabrication director on the project. He said it will take visitors into new realms which blur the lines between exhibition and adventure.

“How do you get people to look at art?” King asks, “This is the culmination of that idea. There is no separation of art and space.”


Matt King, a founder of Meow Wolf and lead of the fabrication team, observes the construction process of “House of Eternal Return” project which opens in Santa Fe, N.M. on March 17.

Inside the renovated 20,000 square foot building, located at 1352 Rufina Circle, visitors will enter the exhibit through a life-size Victorian home, complete with quaint front porch and a little front yard. The path exits the house in bizarre ways, including out the back of the refrigerator or crawling through the fireplace; transporting you into the main spectacle of 75 interconnected rooms full of interactive art. Visitors will even encounter a time travel agency: “Portal Bermuda.”

Vince Kadlubek, another Meow Wolf founder, hopes “House of Eternal Return” will spark the imagination of the public at large, rather than just the art scene.

“I am not terribly interested in how the project effects the art world, more so how we affect people. I want people to be reconnected with their creative selves.”

Fully-immersive, brilliantly detailed and ambitious are hallmarks of Meow Wolf projects, and King compares the narrative found throughout this exhibit to a choose your own adventure novel, where losing your way is the whole idea.

“That is our hope. When you are lost, you’re not sure if you’ve seen it all.”

Meow Wolf is literally banking on this concept, which they hope will entice people to make return visits to their first ever admissions-based exhibit.

Meow Wolf has a track record of successful, and varied, undertakings. In 2011 they unveiled “Due Return,” a giant wooden “interdimensional ship” that landed on an alien planet. It was a notable success, reeling in 25,000 visitors during its three month showing. “Omega Mart” came the following year. Replete with ironic inventory, the mock grocery store commented on consumerism and consumption, and incorporated the work of over 1000 local school kids. King said Meow Wolf has learned a lot from all of its previous projects.

“We’ve done it over and over to get us here to this. We took all of those ideas that have been proven to work and made them bigger and packed it all together.”

Erika Wanenmacher, 60, has lived in Santa Fe for over thirty years. She is one of 70 artists contributing to “House of Eternal Return” and says the promise that first drew her to Santa Fe decades earlier is now coming to life with Meow Wolf’s latest creation.

“I banked my whole career on this, not New York or Los Angeles,” she continues, “This is for real. For me, this feels like what I’ve been waiting for. It feels totally right.”


Erika Wanenmacher works in her Santa Fe, N.M. studio on one of her two art pieces for the “House of Eternal Return” exhibit opening on March 17. Wanenmacher is one of nearly 70 artsists contributing to the project.

But, for all its galleries and world-class reputation, Wanenmacher said Santa Fe has not always nurtured its own young enough. In years past, kids were leaving here in droves to bigger, trendier cities, hoping to find a creative scene to plug into. Meow Wolf emerged from this vacuum, serving as an outlet for the off-beat artists who felt stifled by the lack of representation in their own town.

Wanenmacher said thanks to Meow Wolf this high desert diaspora is now mellowing and the creative upstarts are sticking around.

“They are do it yourself kids, sucking up all the creative capital in Santa Fe.”

Nicholas Toll, 32, is one of those artists. A longtime Santa Fe local, Toll has spent the last couple years in Denver, where his family’s history in the state goes back six generations. When Toll was asked to help with this latest project, he jumped at the chance.  

“I have always loved Meow Wolf’s process, namely the opportunity to practice radical collaboration. In an ever busier, more populated world, collaboration is the key to gracefully surviving the madness.”

After years of running up and down I-25 between the two cities, Toll considers Santa Fe and Denver to be parts of the same artistic scene, co-exisiting within Meow Wolf’s ever present mantra of collaboration.  

“I think that Meow Wolf will definitely create a strong reason for all creatives to come around, and hopefully beget more of the same. It is very easy to imagine this sort of thing working great in Denver.”

Meow Wolf is proud of their standalone identity, but they are also keen to seek support from their community, a move which has paid off.   

“It’s DIY to the max. They’re smart enough to ask for help and they’re getting it,” Wanenmacher said.

King said Meow Wolf raised $100,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, and another $1.4 million of their $2.1 million dollar goal came mainly from investors. Major support for the project also came from notable Santa Fe resident and “Game of Thrones” creator George R. R. Martin, who purchased the Silva Lanes building for $800,000 dollars and put an additional $2.7 million dollars into improvements. Meow Wolf has a 10 year lease on the building from Martin.

“We’ve been lucky enough to have people in the community take a chance on us and invest,” King said.

Kadlubek also touted the citizens of Santa Fe, and Mayor Javier Gonzales, for their encouragement.

“Santa Fe has been our community since we began in 2008 and the people of Santa Fe have nurtured and created us, honestly.”

The story of “House of Eternal Return” actually coming to fruition has been a journey in itself. Caity Kennedy, 32, is the art director at Meow Wolf, a seemingly daunting position considering the immensity of this project. She was calm, however, saying it is a team effort and everyone has about five different roles.

“It’s like composition art, but on the most enormous scale.”

She likened her job to an explosion in reverse, taking a million tiny parts and bringing them together into an exhibit that organizers estimate will take 120 hours per visitor to fully experience. Kennedy said that after months of looking at the blueprints, it is all finally coming to life.

“These lines on paper for so long are being extruded into reality.”


Caity Kennedy, art director for “House of Eternal Return,” looks over the project’s blueprints in the art production warehouse in Santa Fe, N.M. on Sept. 10, 2015.

Amongst all the frantic energy and expansiveness of this production, you get the feeling that something really special is taking form here. Definitions are abandoned, grounded concepts uprooted, all in an effort to tighten the connection between being present and being engaged.

Meow Wolf’s fantasy world is becoming a reality and as it continues to be a magnet for creative misfits, it is also hoping to be an attraction for the masses.

Wanenmacher looked fulfilled saying she had found her people out here in the New Mexican desert.

“I know artists and communities around the world, but I don’t know artists and a community like this. It feels totally right. It’s going to get crazy.”


The Holy Season of Lent at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver: A multimedia documentary

Steven Tillinghast stands inside St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colo. after the Ash Wednesday service on Feb. 18, 2015. The ashes are imposed during the ceremony as a declaration of faith. This service marks the beginning of Lent, a 40 day period of solemn reflection which culminates on Easter Sunday. It is one of the holiest periods in the Christian calendar.

Follow this link to an in-depth, interactive documentary on one of Christianity’s holiest seasons as told through the renowned St. John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colo.

Remember Me, I’m gone. An ode to Lemmy.

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“I always knew the only way was never to live beyond today. They proved me right. They proved me wrong. But, they could never last this long.” -Lemmy

The king is dead, dashed from the world in his latter years, leaving a void, a hollowness in a world where he was a juggernaut. Lemmy “Ian” Kilmister died at the age of 70 on Dec. 28, 2015, a few days after his birthday, a few weeks after his band Motorhead’s final tour and forty years after he started a rock group that would inspire millions of rabid fans for decades.

Lem’s memorial service in Hollywood on Saturday, Jan. 9 was broadcasted live on the internet, as the international Motorhead family gathered to watch the final tribute to their beloved leader and dear friend.

In Denver, TRVE Brewing on South Broadway was the place where many went to watch the service. It’s a heavy metal themed, craft brewery bar – as good of place as any for such an event. The deep, skinny barroom was packed as the afternoon memorial began. There were plenty of leather jackets, Motorhead shirts and burly gents with beards in attendance. I was at the far end of the bar, right in front of the one television in the whole place, and as I looked around during the ceremony, I saw tender, melancholy gazes on everyone’s face as they stared at the TV.

There were all walks of life there, and all ages too. Lemmy had universal appeal, an uninhibited charisma. It was a bar chock full of people who most likely never met Lemmy yet felt close enough to him that they felt they needed to be there to honor their friend. What better tribute for Lemmy than for millions of people to congregate at the same time around the world to bid him a final farewell.

Lemmy paid no mind to boundaries. His music inspired bands across the board and his personal tastes were as vast as his intellect. He was a gruff looking, dark figured man, with his signature mutton chops, long black hair and a smoldering cigarette. But as rough cut as was his exterior, his personality was equally tender. He loved a good laugh and his closest mates couldn’t recall a time when Lemmy was ever anything less than a class act. One of Lemmy’s friends recalled him saying once, “Manners are free.”

Many of us naive youngsters had at least one “Lemmy weekend,” where we drank Jack and Cokes, smoked our faces off and partied for hours on end to live out or Motorhead rock n’ roll weekend, only to be laid up on the couch for days with hangovers of suicidal proportions. We failed in our ridiculous attempts to be like the old badass and we suffered rightly for it. There is only one Lemmy, just like there is only one Little Richard or one John Lennon.

There is a humanistic, emotional reaction for people at funerals. When Lemmy’s son gave the eulogy, everyone could relate to his words in some way. It was a son saying the last goodbye to his Dad. In the bar watching this, we all cried at some point. Tough guys, with strong faces teared up without shame. Funerals stir up emotions for those you have lost and remind you how much you will miss the one being honored. We all cried a bit for Lem, and a lot of us never shook his hand, shared a drink with him or even saw him perform live, but we knew him, we bonded with him and we mourned his death.

What was it about Lemmy that was so glorious? Was it his music, his persona, his intensity, his sincerity? It was all of that and more. He was mythic, with pop culture slogans like “Lemmy is God” or mock campaign shirts espousing “Lemmy for President.” They were cheeky statements but not entirely sarcastic. He was also incredibly affable. You could easily find, and talk with, him at the Rainbow Bar on the Sunset Strip playing his trusty video poker machine. He was a kind and a true individual who lived life on his own terms and to the absolute fullest. We all hope people will say wonderful stuff like this when we die, but in death, just as in life, it will be hard to meet Lemmy’s standard. RIP Lem.  




Cannabis-iness: A day in the life of one of Colorado’s largest marijuana dispensaries

Click here for link to full audio story

For those living in Colorado, and several other states, buying marijuana is not a big deal. You go to the dispensary, get your weed, or whatever cannabis-infused product you’re looking for, and go about your day. There are of course many laws regulating who can buy cannabis, where, when, the quantity and so on. Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2000, but recreational marijuana was legalized in the state only two years ago, on January 1st, 2014, to much fanfare and global media attention as it was the first time in the world that licensed stores could legally sell weed to basically anyone over the age of 21.

Boulder, Colorado has long been a bastion of the hippy movement and liberal countercultures. Most locals will tell you that weed has been a big part of the scene around here for decades. Terrapin Care Station is based in Boulder. It’s one of the largest cannabis retailers in Colorado and they were the first recreational cannabis dispensary to open in Boulder back in 2014.

Chris Woods is the owner, founder and president of Terrapin Care Station.  He said he’s worked every position in his business as it has grown immensely since it first opened in 2010 as a medical dispensary.

“It’s evolved a lot in the 6 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve done every job function within this company from doing books to bud tending to growing to trimming weed to acting as in house counsel.”

The company currently employs over 100 people, has four dispensaries, four cultivation facilities and is currently working on expanding the medicinal brand into Oregon and Massachusetts. Woods has been heavily involved in the bureaucracy of cannabis legalization, advocating for sensible laws and occasionally quarrelling with the city attorney’s office. In 2012, he was one of the largest financers in the successful campaign to pass Amendment 64 which regulates and taxes weed like alcohol and essentially opened the door for the “green rush” that is happening now in Colorado. Woods said the collaboration between retailers and regulators has helped legitimize the industry.

“I remember selling pot in zip lock bags in magic markers, dealing with questionable characters.  But I would say that the regulatory authorities have done a good job in weeding out the bad actors.”

Everyone takes their job seriously at Terrapin, but you can tell they also really love what they do. This sentiment is heard when talking with Woods and with the staff at the Terrapin’s flagship retail location at 1795 Folsom Street in Boulder. The dispensary manager Daniel Mullen said he felt drawn to the movement to legalize marijuana and, through regulation and keeping consumers informed, its benefits could extend beyond a physical experience.

“I really believe in the legalized marijuana. I believe in the medicinal properties and I believe what we are doing here is selling social change as opposed to really causing any problems.”


Terrapin’s retail stores can sell upwards of 10 pounds of weed on a given day and most of it is grown at the 15,000 square foot cultivation facility in Aurora, just west of Denver. Here, thousands of marijuana plants are perpetually grown from tiny clones into towering stalks six feet tall and are meticulously cared for by a team of growers. One of those growers is Ian Peak.

“We have a total of 3,000 plants including clone, veg and all the flowering…two flowering rooms.  It’s a continuous cycle, it never ends. It’s a lot of work but it’s a lot of fun,” Peak said.

A pointed skunky smell hangs in the thick, almost sticky, air inside the “veg room” of the warehouse. It’s a small forest of plants in here and not unlike a grocery in both size and layout, with rows and rows of plants as tall as Christmas trees. Their leaves fluttering in the breeze of fans and popping with precious buds in full bloom. They twinkle with trichomes, the THC resin the plant emits which gives it its psychoactive properties. This is a sure sign the plant is ready for harvest.

Christine Kirk, production manager for Terrapin Care Station, oversees the harvesters, packagers and various logistics in the “seed to sale” process which takes places here.

“We have a crew of harvesters that trim all of the parts of the plant that are not usable off, and get the buds ready to be dried and then pushed into production where we can get ready for sale.”

Back at the main office in Boulder, Chris Woods reflects on his personal commitment to this job. He said there are important compliance standards and public safety issues he considers priorities and that being involved in the legitimate organization and maintenance of the cannabis industry is most important to him.

“Every ounce of myself is part of this. It’s taking money out of the hands of drug dealers and putting it into a taxed and regulated environment and for that there’s nothing better I could be doing with my time and my money.”



Denver COP21 rally one of largest in nation

Follow link below to an audio report from the rally.

COP21 Denver Rally, Nov. 29, 2015.

An activist is seen at the Denver COP21 climate change rally on Nov. 29, 2015. The rally was held on the COP global meetings on Paris.

An estimated 500 people gathered in Denver’s City Park on Sunday, Nov. 29 as part of a global climate rally on the eve of the United Nations’ meeting in Paris on climate change, known as COP21. Over 2,000 communities around the world held similar rallies on this day and local organizers in Denver said theirs was the fourth largest in the nation, clear indication of Coloradans concern for climate awareness. This international campaign was spurred on after organizers in Paris were blocked from publicly gathering over security concerns following the terrorist attacks there earlier in the month.

Leanna Stoufer attended the Denver rally, and said climate change is an issue that truly affects everyone and that it is important for her to be present at these rallies, especially on behalf of those in Paris.

“We are all in this together. This makes me feel like I am part of humanity and taking action, not just for myself but for everyone else too.”

There were nearly a dozen environmental coalition partners who helped organized the Denver event. Peter Sawtell is the executive director of Eco-Justice Ministries, and was the main coordinator of the day’s event. Sawtell, along with many others in attendance, said climate change is a global issue with growing momentum but that the real change begins at the local level.

“The mobilization around the world, the growing cry for climate justice is what is going to bring about change in our world.”