Former Colorado House speaker who donated to Staunton State Park dies at 99

The credit didn’t matter to Allen Dines — he just wanted to get the work done. And he was willing to work with anyone.

That’s how colleagues, friends and family describe the former Democratic Colorado House speaker from Denver, who died at in-home hospice Dec. 17 in Pennsylvania at the age of 99.

“The picture that I have of him is someone who respected anyone’s point of view whether he shared it or not,” Dines’ daughter, Lucy Delsol, said. “I think in general that’s something that’s seriously lacking (nowadays).”

Dines, a World War II veteran, was born in Denver, attended Yale University, joined the U.S. Navy in 1942, and after returning from the war, went to Harvard Law School. A lawyer by profession, Dines spent 18 years in the Colorado legislature: 1957-1966 in the House and 1966-1974 in the Senate.

Yet much of his legacy is tied to the work he did outside the Capitol, including donating his 80-acre ranch in 2015 to expand Staunton State Park. His property was located in the southeastern section of the park, about six miles west of Conifer. It was the last private holding surrounded by the park, so the donation helped connect the sections for people and wildlife.

“For him to turn that property over to the state and donate it to us is a huge benefit to the people of Colorado and certainly the state park,” Staunton State Park manager Zach Taylor said.

Temporary park employees are currently living in the Dines house, but the park is in the process of renovating it and plans to open it for public rentals in the next few years.

“Staunton State Park was largely created by donations from two Coloradans, Frances Staunton and earlier donations from or facilitated by Allen Dines. Each of these contributors loved their mountain ranch landscape,” Jennifer Anderson, Staunton State Park manager at the time, said in 2015.

In addition to being a large proponent of state parks, Dines focused his legislative work (and his life’s work) on education. He served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Denver-based Donnell-Kay Foundation, which works to improve public education.

The Donnell-Kay Foundation’s executive director, Tony Lewis, describes Dines as always curious and interested in people.

“He was always thinking of better ways to do things, and one of the things I appreciated about him was he never sought credit for thinking of a good idea or implementing a good idea or policy,” Lewis said.

Morgan Smith, who served in the Colorado General Assembly with Dines, wrote about him for Colorado Politics in 2012, saying that even at 90 years old, Dines wasn’t slowing down.

“Allen was a guy who immediately drew your respect, just the way he handled himself,” Smith told The Denver Post. “He was courteous, he was knowledgeable, he was very committed to the political process.”

After graduating from law school, Dines worked in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. State Department from 1949-1954, according to Colorado records. He then returned to Denver to practice law and later joined the Colorado legislature.

He rose through the ranks, getting elected as House majority leader, minority leader and then speaker in 1965-1966. He was selected as chairman of the Joint Budget Committee as a freshman legislator. In 1966, he was elected to the Colorado Senate. During that time, Dines served on several boards including as the director and chairman of the board of the Colowyo Coal Company.

Smith described Dines as a moderate to conservative Democrat, who was not partisan and was willing to work across the aisle and collaborate. If he said he planned to vote one way, he would stick to his word.

Delsol and her sister-in-law Connie Dines said Allen Dines was fond of a quote from President Harry Truman: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”

Delsol also said her father, who served as a trustee of the Colorado Women’s College from 1966 to 1976, also had “remarkable faith in women,” something that was unusual for his time.

“He was an exceptional human being,” she said.

Jodi Dines, Allen’s wife of about 15 years, called her husband a “magnet” who was always positive and loved by many.

“He really was such a strong presence for so long in the state of Colorado,” she told The Post, adding, “Allen spent his whole life, which is what pleased him, giving to other people.”

The 81-year-old said even after Allen Dines technically retired, their phones were always ringing and he was always helping people or giving advice.

“Even after he retired from the political arena, his office was always open for people that needed help, especially indigents,” she said. Up until he was 92, Dines kept his office in Cherry Creek.

Dines leaves behind his wife, an adult daughter from a previous marriage, an adult stepdaughter and multiple grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son.

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