Wilbur Flachman (1937-2020)

Oct 1, 2020

Longtime Colorado publishing entrepreneur Wilbur E. Flachman died September 16, 2020, with family by his side. Flachman was 83. Following surgery for pancreatic cancer, he fought a difficult battle for nearly two years with the help of a variety of doctors, nurses and caregivers at Kaiser Permanente, St. Joseph Hospital and Lutheran Hospice.

Flachman was born July 26, 1937, in Prairie Grove, Iowa, where he attended a one-room country school. He received a degree in journalism from Wartburg College, in Waverly, Iowa, where he met his wife, Marilyn. The couple married August 28, 1960. They headed west in 1961 for a job interview Wilbur had scheduled in Monte Vista, Colorado. However, they stopped in Westminster to visit friends and never left the city that they would forever call home.

A job with the Westminster Journal launched 50-plus years of newspapering, commercial printing and publishing. Wilbur served several years on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Press Association and was elected the organization’s 100th president in 1977.

Wilbur put together a top-notch professional staff and launched the Westminster Window in January 1978. After its first year of publication, The Window garnered the General Excellence Award as the best all-around weekly newspaper in Colorado, and then it claimed third place nationally for overall editorial excellence.

A couple years later, in the early 1980s, the Denver Symphony Orchestra approached Wilbur’s firm about selling advertising to mitigate costs of printing its in-theatre programs. Soon, the Denver Center for Performing Arts, producers of theatre and Broadway touring shows, wanted the same service. Opera Colorado, Colorado Ballet and many other performing arts entities followed suit. A new niche and a new division to be known as The Publishing House came forth to anchor Wilbur’s endeavors for the next three decades.

A love for and long-standing connection with horses began in 1968 for Wilbur when he was invited by friends to join a horse pack trip to Island Lakes in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area. Wilbur was immediately drawn to the wilderness and the animals. He purchased his first two horses soon thereafter and put together a pack and riding string within three years. For more than 45 years, he spent a good portion of each summer and fall sharing the back country with hundreds of friends, Midwest relatives and business associates, all of whom knew him by his nickname on the trail: Bufford T. Clapsaddle. During that almost half-century, trailboss "Clapsaddle” logged more than 10,000 trail miles on horseback, mostly in Colorado wilderness areas and also in Arizona, Utah and Wyoming. To accommodate his trail horses, he established Clapsaddle Farms near Hudson, Colorado, for breeding, training and boarding.

One of his other passions was to coordinate the Rotary International Student Exchange Program, both for his Rotary Club as well as serving on the district committee. During his 53-year tenure as a Rotarian, he and Marilyn hosted 24 exchange students from around the world. Art and culture were other key focuses of Wilbur’s. He spearheaded, along with four other Westminster Rotarians, the Westminster Community Artists Series, which brought a variety of music, dance, art exhibits and lectures to the community.

Wilbur’s civic and professional activities included serving as president of the Colorado Press Association (1977); president of the Colorado Professional Journalists (1972); board of directors of the Citizens Banks (27 years); president and board member of the Westminster Chamber of Commerce (1969-76); first chairperson of the Adams County Cultural Council with the responsibility for allocating millions of dollars to local arts entities (1989-98); board of directors of the Lutheran Family Services of Colorado (13 years); member of the Adams County Task Force monitoring the development of Denver International Airport (1990-93); Hyland Hills Recreation District Foundation Board of Directors (1990s); board member with Adams County Community Mental Health (1971-75); and vice chair of the Adams County Visual Arts Commission (2008-2015).

Wilbur was also honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Wartburg College (1972); Colorado’s Newspaper Person of the Year Award (1990); Rex Morgan Community Service Award recognizing one person each year who has provided exemplary leadership for Metropolitan Denver’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (2000); Westminster Rotarian of the Year (2005); MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce Fred Valente Humanitarian Award (1979); Sentinel Newspapers Man of the Year Award (1986); Northwest Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year Award (1996); selected as one of Westminster’s 100 “History Makers” featured in the centennial book published in 2011; and Westminster Legacy Foundation Nancy Heil Lifetime Achievement Award (2020).

Wilbur is survived by his wife, Dr. Marilyn Flachman; daughter Angela Flachman (Paul Johnson) of Westminster; sister Kathryn Farkas of Wheat Ridge; sister Alberta Waldmeier (Richard) of Centennial; sister-in-law Shirley Flachman of Minneapolis, Minnesota; grandchildren Shelton and Hannah Johnson; brothers-in-law Donald Brudi (Judy), Gary Brudi; sisters-in-law June Dittmar, Sandra Weaver (Bill) of Illinois; and special friend Jacques Loui (Suzie) of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Wilbur was preceded in death by his parents, Ralph and Georgia, and his brother Leonard.

Visitation will be at Horan & McConaty Arvada Family Chapel, 7577 W 80th Avenue, Arvada, Colorado, Thursday, October 1, 5-8 p.m. and Friday, October 2, 9-11 a.m. In observance of COVID-19 regulations, a religious service will be held at a later date. Memorial gifts may be directed to Westminster Legacy Foundation/Archival Center, 4800 W. 92nd Avenue, Westminster, CO 80031, or Westminster Rotary Foundation Scholarships, P.O. Box 100, Meade, CO 80542.