Royal Gorge railroad co-owner remembered for zest for life

ELLIE COLE Updated: May 31, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: May 31, 2012

Mark Greksa spotted Leah eating breakfast on the first day of their freshman year at Fort Lewis College in Durango.

“She was stunningly beautiful,” he said. He asked her out right then because he rationalized that his odds would decrease from then on after she met more people.

They were a team from that day forward.

Together, they traveled the world before eventually building up their co-owned masterpiece, the Royal Gorge Route Railroad in Cañon City.

As Leah Greksa’s days grew fewer in her 16-month battle with cancer, she commented that she felt like she had lived more experiences in 48 years than others get in multiple lives.

“At the end of the day she never took anything for granted,” Mark Greksa said.

Leah Jean Ashby Greksa was born in Golden on Feb. 14, 1964. She died May 16 in Georgetown due to complications from a bone marrow transplant. She had been diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She grew up in the railroading business, and loved traveling and the outdoors. When she and Mark Greksa graduated from college in 1986, they had a budget of $25 a day for their worldly trips. They continued exploring even when their daughter, Cali — who will be a sophomore this fall at CU-Boulder — was born.   

In 1989, they decided it was time to find their next path in life after finishing a four-week trek around Mount Everest. They joined Leah’s parents to run the Georgetown Loop railroad.

Years later, they purchased the Royal Gorge tracks and sent their first train out in 1999. The railroad has expanded greatly since then, carrying more than 100,000 guests per year.

“Everyone should be treated like a first-class passenger,” said Mark Greksa, who credits his staff for the railroad's growth.

While the railroad will keep chugging, Mark Greksa said he'll greatly miss the teamwork with his wife and bouncing ideas off her.

While Leah Greksa focused on the details of the business, Mark Greksa's attention was on the vision of the railroad.

“With Leah and me, we worked as a team,” Mark Greksa said. “We shared everything together.”

Leah Greksa’s favorite place on her train was the open-air car because she could speak with guests, her husband said. She liked knowing how passengers learned about their train and wanted to know their life stories.

The railroad has named its newest open-air cart in her memory.

“She loved people and everything in life,” Mark Greksa said.

Leah Greksa is survived by her daughter, her husband and her parents, Rosa and Lindsey Ashby.

Friends and family are invited to a celebration of Leah Greksa’s life 3 p.m. Saturday at the A-Frame at Arapahoe Basin.

The family has requested donations made to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society or to a local hospice care facility in lieu of flowers.  

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