Jerry Kopel

Bill Gossard was one of those legislators who represented all the good qualities we like to imagine are part of our political system.

He was a person with a deep commitment to the cultural aspects of our state, a patron of the arts and classical music, and he truly believed that public service was a public duty.

I served with Bill Gossard in the 1965 and 1966 legislative sessions. It was the third of his four terms and it was also the time when there were 42 Democrats in the House. I was fortunate enough to be seated in the overflow on the Republican side of the aisle, directly behind Bill Gossard who sat in second row from the front, three seats in from the aisle.

It was the best thing that could happen to a freshman legislator.

Bill had great knowledge of what was happening and had no hesitation in providing me with insights I might otherwise have missed. And he had no hesitation in supporting measures (including mine) that he felt were right, regardless of the majority of his party being in opposition.

Bill was a soft spoken individual, who only infrequently would be involved in debates at the mike where I stand now. He was a modest man but he was always dressed in impeccable fashion with a military style haircut. I never discovered his love and affection for wild animals until I saw a picture in the Denver Post many years later of Bill Gossard and his pet mountain lion who had his paws on Bill's shoulders while Bill look directly into the lion's eyes. And he never spoke of his military career or of being a World War II veteran of the European conflict who was decorated by our European allies.

Bill loved his cigars. I had by 1965 given up cigarettes and was also smoking cigars, although not the exquisite brands that Bill cherished and would sometimes offer me. Anyway in those days, you either enjoyed it or you didn't as Bill and I puffed away.

How heavy was the smoke in the House? When then-Gov. John Love addressed the 1965 legislature on the state of the state, the Rocky Mountain News reported:

"The room was full of tobacco smoke by the time Love finished. It could be seen swirling in the light of two spotlights mounted high in the corner of the room."

I have two pictures of Bill that were printed in the newspapers in 1965 and 1966. The first is a meeting of the 15 member State Affairs committee in 1965 where we were debating a measure on billboards and in the forefront was Bill, sitting with his cigar.

The second picture was in 1966 and it showed the closing session of the House for that year, with only 35 of the 65 members present.

There is the back of my head and in front, sitting sideways is Bill Gossard smoking a cigar and to his right, Palmer Burch is seated.

All around us in every direction are vacant seats.

I enjoyed the quote by former Governor Love in Bill's obituary in the Denver Post. It does sum up for those who felt a friendship for Bill Gossard:

"I think Bill lived his life the way most of us would like to live ours."

Bill Gossard was a man of many talents. He was a man for all the seasons.

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Copyright 2015 Jerry Kopel & David Kopel