City Council honors Hall of Fame broadcaster Verne Lundquist
July 24, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Sitting Friday morning on his back deck overlooking Steamboat Ski Area, Verne Lundquist joked about how little he knew about being asked to attend Tuesday's Steamboat Springs City Council meeting.
Lundquist initially thought his presence at the meeting was requested to celebrate longevity — he turned 70 on July 17 — but soon realized he was being recognized for something far more meaningful.
The City Council honored Lundquist for his contributions to the community and his professional success. The audience of more than 40 gave him a standing ovation.
It's not the first time Lundquist has been honored, having been inducted in several broadcasting halls of fame and as the recipient of numerous awards, but he said this was different.
"This was a very intimate moment," he said. "I didn't know who would be there. I was shocked. They kept coming in. They were all very dear close friends of ours that represented a variety of different groups of our life in Steamboat Springs. It was emotional because you're being acknowledged by the people in whose midst you live. It was quite something."
Lundquist repeatedly mentions that by no measure are he and his wife, Nancy, among the elite of the Yampa Valley's philanthropists.
Maybe he's right, but there are few in Steamboat who would question his dedication to the community in the form of giving time to a number of area nonprofits and other organizations for the past 26 years.
"It's not one or two organizations," said longtime friend Rod Hanna, who helped organize the Walker-Lundquist Invitational, a charity golf tournament Lundquist hosted for 15 years with his childhood idol, Doak Walker. "It's a number of organizations that have benefited from Verne's willingness to lend himself to these organizations and his own financial support, for that matter."
Lundquist said it would be impossible to discuss he and Nancy's 26 years living in Steamboat without mentioning the Strings Music Festival.
He and Nancy — who discovered their mutual love for music when they met in 1980 — attended the first Strings performance on the deck of the Gallery Restaurant at the old Storm Meadows Athletic Club in 1988. He said they got involved right away.
And they've stayed involved. He's in the middle of his third seven-year term on the Strings Board of Directors and she is a founding member of the volunteer guild.
"It's the one thing in Steamboat to which we would donate our time and effort almost beyond anything else," he said. "To see it become part of the fabric of the community as it has is really something."
But the Lundquists have donated their time and money to other — many other — organizations in Steamboat and Routt County.
While cashing a check Friday afternoon at Millenium Bank, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. President Chris Diamond, who helped organize Tuesday's ceremony for Lundquist at the City Council meeting, said he noticed an announcement for a brunch Aug. 1 at the Truffle Pig to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs. Lundquist is serving as emcee for the event.
"That's just absolutely typical," Diamond said. "He just gives of his time very selflessly."
For the past several years, the Lundquists have served as honorary co-chairs for the Routt County United Way's annual fundraising campaign. Lundquist lends his broadcast talents to the campaign video and radio commercials. He also visits businesses to give presentations about the United Way's workplace giving program.
"That's not something that organizations like ours typically have access to," United Way Executive Director Kelly Stanford said. "You can't put a value on that. He has such a warm heart and giving spirit. To have him every year helping us out is something we can't thank him enough for. I think it says a lot about his commitment to this community."
Lundquist speaks with reverence for Steamboat.
Lundquist, who first visited here in 1971, said he knew it was his destiny to move to Steamboat when he came over Rabbit Ears Pass in 1984.
"Initially, it was the beauty, of course," Lundquist said.
"I don't know of anyone who's come into the valley and hasn't responded positively. I don't know if you have a spiritual note in your body if you're not affected by the beauty of the place. The longer we lived here and the deeper our roots grew, we realized the depth of the people who chose to live here."
Standing in his office Friday, Lundquist pointed out pictures on his 20-foot-high wall — his "Ego Wall" — from his 47 years as a broadcaster. It's a career that includes working as the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys, calling NFL, NBA, NCAA football and basketball games, PGA Tour events and three Winter Olympics.
But he kept coming back to one in particular.
He points to three Sports Illustrated covers, encased in a single frame.
On the covers are Buddy Werner, Skeeter Werner and Doak Walker, all from different weeks in 1955.
Lundquist said he asked to use the framed covers at the funeral of Skeeter Werner, a service for which he was asked by the family to deliver the eulogy. Afterward, Bugs Werner gave it to him. Lundquist said of everything he has — the photos and the awards — it's his most prized possession.
"Their love of this valley and all that goes on in it is very sincere and really quite profound," Strings Music Festival co-founder and executive director Kay Clagett said about the Lundquists.
"They support so much of Steamboat's efforts. His birthday is a big celebration for him and for Steamboat to remember how much he has contributed to all of us."