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Photos: Gallery | Colorado Springs Gazette, News

Colorado Springs notable deaths of 2017 include long time 'Santa', legendary hockey coach and Tuskegee Airman

While 2017 may be remembered as a year for losing entertainment legends from Jerry Lewis to Tom Petty, Don Rickles to Mary Tyler Moore, many Colorado Springs residents will remember it as the year they lost several beloved local figures and notable newsmakers.

Among those who died this year were a former El Paso County commissioner, a legendary former Colorado College hockey player and coach, and a beloved Colorado Springs Santa Claus.

Murray Ross

Murray Ross died on Jan. 3 at the age of 74.

Ross was a Colorado Springs native and founder of TheaterWorks, He was a theater director for more than 40 years and directed more than 100 plays. Ross also taught at UCCS in the theater program. He is survived by his wife and four sons.

Photo courtesy of Theatreworks

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022814_Sled Hockey

Jeff Sauer, Feb. 2, at age 73.

Sauer was a well-known former CC hockey player who went on to assist in coaching Tigers hockey for 11 seasons. He also coached the current U.S. men's sled hockey national team. He was inducted into the CC Athletics Hall of Fame and Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame for his great commitment to the teams with which he was involved.

The Gazette

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ABEYTA WALK

Bernice Abeyta, Feb. 12 at 73.

Abeyta was a Colorado Springs native who is remembered as the mother whose son went missing at seven months old. She spent 31 years searching for her lost child, and died without finding him. She is survived by her husband, who is said to continue the search.

The Gazette

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Chuck Brown

Charles "Chuck" Brown, April 21 at 89.

Brown served as an El Paso County commissioner from 1983-85 and again from 1997-2005. He was also a Colorado Springs City Council member for four years prior to serving as county commissioner. He was respected among his colleagues in public service.

David Bitton

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Margot Lane

Margot Lane, June 12 at 78.

Lane was a longtime Colorado Springs philanthropist. She was involved with a variety of charities and organizations including the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, the Pikes Peak YMCA, Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado, and First Presbyterian Church. She was known for her outgoing personality and passion for the Colorado Springs community.

Linda Navarro, The Gazette

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Billy Gooch

Billy Gooch, July 17 at 80 after a battle with cancer.

Gooch worked as a Santa for his wife's company, Naturally Santa, which provides "real Santas" to work during the holiday season. Gooch traveled as St. Nick throughout Colorado Springs as well as to New York, Minnesota, and even the White House. He touched the lives of many children who spoke to him, and all the other Santas he trained over the years.

Jerilee Bennett

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CHRISTMAS

Bob Tretheway, Aug. 15 at 69.

Tretheway was the most recent leader of Christmas Unlimited, which was founded in 1923 by four women from Colorado Springs to help gather and give Christmas donations to needy people throughout the community. Tretheway took over in 1991 and served as executive director for 26 years.

Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette

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SOUTHERN DELIVERY SYSTEM BOSTROM

Gary Bostrom, Aug. 28 at 60, while cycling along Monument Creek.

Bostrom was known for his work with Colorado Springs Utilities and his involvement with Colorado Springs' water pipeline project known as the Southern Delivery System. He retired in 2015, and in 2016 the water pipeline began serving customers. Colleagues say Bostrom was instrumental in getting better water resources for the community.

The Gazette

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Steve Ducoff

Steve Ducoff, Aug. 29 at 72.

Ducoff was a local sports executive for many years. Originally from California, he served in the Air Force for 25 years and then retired in Colorado Springs. He served as CEO of the Colorado Springs Sports Corp. for six years, CEO of the Billiards Congress of America for seven years, and as executive director of the Pikes Peak Lodging Association for five years. He also served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors and was the U.S. Armed Forces representative to the 1992 Olympic summer games. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

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Linda Navarro 50 Year Celebration

Tom Mullen, Sept. 9 at the age of 77.

Mullen was a Gazette editor and publisher for more than 10 years. In 1981, Mullen became editor of The Gazette, then known as the Gazette-Telegraph. He left to become publisher at The Lima News, his hometown newspaper in Ohio. He returned to the Gazette in 2000, retiring in 2004. Mullen was known as a fine journalist and strong leader.

Jeff Kearney

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BUD FORD

Bud Ford, Oct. 7 at the age of 73.

Ford served as a Manitou Springs city councilman in the 1980s and then served as mayor from 1992-96. He taught elementary school for 29 years. In 1986, he was named Colorado Teacher of the Year. Ford was also a pastor for Community of Christ Church in Manitou Springs, a founder of the Manitou Springs Mountain Music Festival, and owner of The Dulcimer Shop, which sold custom-carved instruments. He is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, a son and daughter.

Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

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Bill Burgess

Bill Burgess, Oct. 21 at 87.

A Springs resident for decades, Burgess worked as a sculptor in the city for more than 50 years. He sculpted the "Continuum" in America the Beautiful Park and the steel art installation downtown, in addition to his other works across the Pike Peak region, Boulder, Grand Junction, Denver and Aurora. Burgess was born in Illinois but lived in Colorado since high school. He served in the Navy and studied art at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The Pikes Peak Art Council awarded Burgess the Eve Tilley Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.

The Gazette

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Charles Limbrick

Charles Limbrick, on Dec. 1 at 44.

In 1988, Limbrick shot and killed his mother. Only 15 at the time, he was tried as an adult and sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. Limbrick's sentence was commuted and he was freed from prison in 2011. He died in a car crash.

The Gazette

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Marion

Marion "Rodge" Rodgers, Dec. 5 at 96.

He was one of the last of the Tuskegee Airmen. When World War II started, Rodgers volunteered for flight training, earning his wings as an Army Air Forces pilot in 1944. He flew combat missions in World War II with the 332nd Fighter Group throughout Europe, and went on to command the 99th Squadron in Korea. Later in his career, Rodgers worked for NASA and NORAD. He had lived in Colorado Springs since retiring as a lieutenant colonel after serving 22 years in the Air Force. His passing was commemorated by a memorial service with a formation of P-51 Mustang fighters flying overhead.

Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

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John Patrick McIlwee

John Patrick McIlwee, Dec. 11 at 81.

He was the founding executive director of Urban Peak Colorado Springs in 2001 and retired in early 2011. He was credited with creating the community shelter for homeless youth and with leading the nonprofit from a staff of three to more than 17, serving 1,500 youth. Prior to Urban Peak, he had worked with troubled young people at the Division of Youth Services for 33 years. He died at Brookdale Greenwood Village.

Linda Navarro, The Gazette

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