Denver business mogul Joe Blake dies | Business

Former Colorado State University chancellor and president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Joe Blake died of cancer Tuesday. He was 86.

Blake, a Denver native, grew up in the Park Hill neighborhood and graduated from East High School, before graduating from Dartmouth College. He returned to Colorado and graduated with a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law.

Blake’s decades of work in the business community earned him an induction into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame in 2017, a Denver Business Journal Legacy Award in 2015 and the Del Hock Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chamber.

“Joe Blake was one of the best among us – and with a really interesting and pretty cool background,” said JJ Ament, current president and CEO of the Chamber. “I mean, who goes from FBI agent to real estate developer to chancellor of a university? And throw in Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO along the way. I’ve never met another who had Joe’s mastery of vocabulary. I’m convinced Webster’s called him a few times to see what they’d missed in their latest edition. In a battle of wits, you wanted to be on Joe’s side every time.

“He really dedicated his whole life to making this community better. The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce family is so sorry to lose Joe Blake, but so grateful and proud of his service to us and to all of Colorado.”

Blake headed the Chamber from 1999-2009.

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“I had the honor of spending valuable time with Joe, during his Chamber days and beyond. Joe had a heart of gold and a way of treating everyone like they were the most important person in the room,” said Scott Bemis, former publisher of the Denver Business Journal from 1996 to 2014.

Blake’s children, Annie Patterson and Joe Blake Jr., talked with the Denver Gazette Wednesday about the impact of their father’s life on the family, Park Hill community and metro Denver area.

“My dad had this beautiful tradition of taking each of his grandchildren out for their birthdays – a birthday lunch with grandpa every year,” Patterson said. “Family was incredibly important to him.”

“I can’t express how involved he’s been in this community,” Blake Jr. said, noting he lived in the same Park Hill house for more than 40 years just blocks from where he grew up.

Blake Jr. lived for many years in Highlands Ranch in an area his father helped develop. They described Blake as a “voracious reader,” especially of history – American history and Civil War in particular.

They shared the story of how Blake wooed his future wife and their mother, Elizabeth, while in Washington DC serving as the senior assistant to US Sen. Grodon Allott, R-Colorado.

“Dad courted our mom on the Civil War battlefields in and around Washington DC,” said Blake Jr.

“Dad absolutely loved connecting people,” Patterson said. “He always thought about what’s possible and continued to evolve to make things better. He used other people’s strengths and assets to leverage change.”

Tamara Ward, a principal of public affairs firm Taloma Partners, used to work with Blake at the Chamber. She used to be the chamber’s senior vice president of Public Affairs and Communications under his leadership.

“Though it was a sad day today, I was down at the capitol testifying on a bill important to the business community – it felt like the right thing to do in his honor,” Ward said. “I so enjoyed working with him – coming to work every day was a joy. … Joe was not just your boss, he wanted you to be a success. I credit him with my success. I was so honored to have served alongside him.”

Blake officiated the wedding of Ward and her husband on New Year’s Eve in 2017.

“Yes his life spanned so many careers, but his DNA was that of a servant leader,” said Ward. “He was all about the betterment of the community. From your neighborhood, to the business community to Colorado at large. It was just in his DNA to lead that way.”

Dr. Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System, said the ram community is mourning deeply.

“Joe was the first full-time chancellor of our System, a tireless advocate for education, and one of the staunchest champions of our students and scholars,” said Frank in a statement. “He was also a model of grace, goodwill, and good humor, whose love of language, passion for ideas, and commitment to this state and its people were unsurpassed.” We are grateful to have had Joe on our team, and he remains in our hearts.

“Our world is dimmer for Joe Blake’s loss, while Heaven became both more civil and more interesting.”

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His children, when asked about his legacy, pointed to his four grandsons.

“He had such manners and taught us all to be mutually respectful – you can argue ideas, but you don’t attack the person,” said Blake Jr. “He was a gentleman with that ability to reach across the isle on both sides and bring disparate groups together to achieve a common goal. That’s an art form that’s hopefully not lost to this generation, especially in this day and age of divisiveness. There needs to be more people like dad.”

Said Ward: “We all have a responsibility to carry his good works forward. I’m committed to doing just that.”

Memorial services have not been set.


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