Passing of veteran Republican pol Hal Shroyer an end of a political era

By Jody Hope Strogoff

Hal Shroyer recently died at the age of 88. That’s a lot of years of living. Some people who read The Statesman may not remember the former Adams County Republican whose role in Colorado politics has since become so legendary. But for those of us who knew him over the years, who witnessed his precocious political acts and listened for hours on end to his pontificating, and whose ultimately good heart led to some important accomplishments in the political process, he became one of those characters you meet only seldom in life and will never forget.

Hal and Maxine Shroyer at the microphone, with Ted Strickland, left, and Mary Estill Buchanan, right.
Photo by The Colorado Statesman

I first met Hal early in 1979 when the nattily dressed, silver-haired gentleman walked into our old crickity newspaper office on Pennsylvania St. off of Colfax and plopped himself right down and began to talk. I could hardly get in words edgewise to introduce myself as the new cub reporter charged with interviewing the four Republicans running for state chairman the following month.

I had just finished talking with the sole Democrat running for their party’s leadership position, Mark Hogan, and that interview was to the point. Mark had been lieutenant governor and was obviously well versed in talking with the press. He was concise, thoughtful, witty, informative, easy to understand, just what a rookie reporter like myself relished. The story pretty much wrote itself.

I remember two main things when I interviewed Hal. Actually three. He had a loud voice, and he liked to talk. And talk, and talk. And sometimes he told long, windy political tales that went on for what seems like hours, only to re-tell them in a slightly different version later on in the same conversation. These conversations with Hal could last for hours, it seemed, and there was little to do to stop him even if you had other things on your calendar that day.

A morning appointment? No matter, Hal would keep telling political stories until you gently reminded him it was getting towards lunch time. Always generous with his money, Hal would simply gather up anyone in the office and off we’d go to lunch with our host and hear more tales of political intrigue — sometimes about corruption in Adams County, other times about incumbent Gov. Dick Lamm, one of Shroyer’s nemesis, other times about candidates of the past and maybe the future whose backgrounds he had carefully investigated.

And that third thing I remember about Hal?

Never call him by his given name. I did that in the story about the candidates for GOP state chairmen, and he claimed afterwards that the reason Phil Winn was elected chairman over him was because no one knew him as Harold.

I don’t think that was why Hal lost the race in 1979, but it was hardly the last we’d hear from him. Hal would still drop by our various offices over the years, hang out on an empty chair or a desk, becoming sort of a fixture in our office.

Now that he has passed, I suppose it would by okay to acknowledge a little secret. Sometimes when we simply had to get some work done at the office — when we just didn’t have the time to listen through Hal’s stories — we’d have one of our staffers go into another office, dial up our own phone number and pretend it was an important call we had to take. It was the only way, it seemed, to break up Hal’s monologues and get any our own work completed.

But sure enough, after a 15-20 minute interlude pretending to be on another line in another office, Hal would be patiently waiting our return, at which point he’d merely pick up from where he left off, and we’d be once more trapped.

That was my introduction to Hal Shroyer.

But as the years went on, it surely wuld not be my last encounter with him. There are too many stories to tell about this gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) warrior, and we will continue to do so in next week’s issue.

Many of Hal’s actions were controversial, others were simply based on what he deemed the right thing to do. But no matter how you viewed this man, his death last month signals a kind of end of an era in Colorado politics.

(This article will continue in our Nov. 6 issue.)