Former Grand Lake Mayor Gene Stover dies
A former Grand Lake mayor who in 2003 was crowned Grand Lake’s Citizen of the Year died on Monday, Oct. 4, at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver.
Gene Stover, 60, the owner of the Lariat Saloon in Grand Lake, had been hospitalized for several weeks for health complications. He died the day before his 61st birthday.
Stover was mayor of the mountain town from 1984 to 2004, having also served two years as a town trustee.
For his 20 years at the helm, Stover was the longest reigning mayor in the history of the town. He was instrumental in community additions such as Point Park, the gazebo, natural gas, the Louis Heckert Pavilion in the town park, the beach-front renovation, downtown boardwalks, Grand Avenue improvements, Westcott (Rainbow) Bridge, and the town’s ability to keep the Grand Lake cemetery in Rocky Mountain National park.
He originally moved to Grand Lake for a downtown construction job in the 1970s and, before long, Stover was one of Grand Lake’s most successful entrepreneurs, operating the Little Bear with business partner and friend D.W. Schlosser then, in 1980, “The Rockin’ K” across the street. He later renamed the bar its original moniker “The Lariat Saloon.” Over the years, the saloon has remained one of Grand Lake’s most popular watering holes – even affectionately called on past occasions “Town Hall East.”
Stover spent his formative years in Dayton, Ohio, and served a term and a half in the Marines north of Danang, Vietnam, until his evacuation due to a bout of malaria.
He studied political science at Wright State University, Dayton.
Stover’s most difficult period as mayor, according to an interview conducted by the Sky-Hi News in 2004, was during the town’s controversial gambling issue that sparked in 1992.
In a town fiercely divided by the prospect of riches/sacrifices that would come with casinos and gambling, Stover, who himself liked to gamble, held his ground against the notion in the face of heated opposition. “I just didn’t think it was for Grand Lake,” he said in 2004.
The town board and a majority of citizens ended up supporting Stover’s views, rejecting turning Grand Lake into what eventually became the fate of Colorado towns such as Black Hawk and Central City.
“Grand Lake is a different place largely because of the consistency of (Stover’s) vision that Grand Lake can be the best it can be,” said former town manager Bill Ray, in 2004. Ray was employed during the gambling conflict under Mayor Stover. “Gene is one of the most extraordinarily giving human beings anyone could meet. He epitomizes what public service is all about, always thinking what is for the good of the community.”
“I think it’s the greatest town,” Stover said the year he exited his post as mayor.
“I think when I cut my finger I bleed Grand Lake-blue. It will always be a first in my heart. And I don’t have any intention of moving away. Grand Lake will continue to always hold a special place in my heart.”
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