Guest Columns

STROGOFF: REMEMBRANCES OF A LITTLE WARRIOR

Hank Brown, Tom Tancredo, share their memories of Freda Poundstone

The Colorado Statesman

Freda Poundstone, one of Colorado’s leading and most iconic conservative figures, lost her battle with cancer earlier this month. She was laid to rest in a private family service at Fort Logan National Cemetery on Nov. 11. Earlier that day, an eclectic crowd gathered at the Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Englewood to celebrate the storied life of the former lobbyist and mayor of Greenwood Village.

Many sitting in the church pews had known Freda through politics, dating back to the 1970s when she first emerged on the scene. Their hair had greyed over the years (at least on the men), their counternances bore witness to the passage of time (in many instances) — but their role and place in politics had remained solid. Hank Brown, a congressman from Greeley before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1990, began his career in public life as a young Republican legislator in Colorado’s General Assembly from 1973 to 1977.

Likewise Tom Tancredo, elected to the statehouse four years after Brown began his legislative stint, became known as a young GOP “House Crazy” back then, hell bent on putting his conservative brand on state politics. He ultimately ran for congress, served five terms, and was a candidate for president in 2007. He announced on July 26, 2010 that he planned to change parties and run for governor of Colorado on the American Constitution Party ticket. Tancredo received 617,030 votes — 36.7 percent — placing second, ahead of the Republican nominee.

Both Brown and Tancredo were longtime friends and admirers of Freda, and they talked about their early associations at her farewell service.

In 1974, Brown reminisced in his eulogy, Republicans had taken the house and narrowed their margin in the state senate. He recalled a specific instance when a bill was being talked about to establish a tax hike on the sale of properties in the state. Brown thought it was a terrible idea. But the head lobbyist for the real estate industry couldn’t get a vote count on the bill because there seemed to be such overwhelming support for the measure at the time. It was deemed hopeless.

That’s when, Brown said, he ran into Freda at the Capitol. His discern must have shown, and she asked him what was wrong. He described the situation.
It was a terrible bill, she agreed.

‘What’s your vote count?” Freda asked him.

“We don’t have one,” Brown responded, eluding to the likelihood of the bill’s passage.

Half an hour later, Brown continued, Freda came back with a vote count. Another half hour later, she had managed to switch 12 votes, enough to kill the tax hike.

She didn’t have a client at the time, Brown said, and wasn’t personally gaining anything. Rather, Brown marveled, “she saw evil and she knew her mission in life was to stop it. And she did.”

The former decorated combat veteran said of Freda two weeks ago, “In nine seasons of playing football, I never saw anyone with more determination than Freda Poundtone.

“In a year in Vietnam, I never met anyone who had the courage she had. She stood up for what she believed in and she simply worked harder than anyone else.”

Tancredo recalled the first time he met Poundstone. It was in 1975, when he was contemplating becoming a candidate for the state legislature. It was on one particularly cold and snowy day, he said, when he was at home and the doorbell rang.

A little lady emerged. In the background peering out of a van was a man and a bunch of kids.

“Are you Tom Tancredo?” the woman at the front door asked.

“I’m Freda Poundstone and I’m here to get you elected,” Tancredo recalled.

She was wearing a nice winter coat but also had on stiletto heels, Tancredo remembered. “There was about six inches of snow out there, and off we went.

“It was the beginning of a 35-year long friendship punctuated by political ups and downs, but a friendship that never, never strayed.”

Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign for president was perhaps Freda’s proudest moment, Tancredo recalled.
“Who could not be awed to remember fondly when you got to stand next to Gsa Gsa Gabor and have Ronald Reagan calling in?” Tancredo was referring back to an event in May of 1980 when Freda hosted a picnic for Reagan supporters at her legendary home on Poundstone Place in unincorporated Arapahoe County.

Large speakers had been set up outside in her backyard. The phone rang and yes, it was Ronald Reagan.
“Ronnie?”

“Yes, Freda,” the voice boomed back. And then the former California governor went on to give his talk and take questions from his Colorado supporters, many who would become his national delegates later that summer. It was a day to surely remember, Tancredo said.

But it was just the beginning of Freda’s relationship with the man who would be elected president of the United States a few months later.

After the election Freda served on the transition team. No one back in Washington seemed to know very much about what was going on at the time, Tancredo recalled Poundstone telling him. “What do you want to be?” Tancredo did, indeed, become a Reagan (and later Bush) appointee, serving as a regional representative for the Department of Education.

While most people knew Freda from her role in public life, Tancredo said she was also an incredibly passionate and caring person in her personal life.

No doubt right now there’s a Texas Hold ‘em poker game in Heaven, he mused, “with proceeds going to some cause.”

“She was a hard driving little warrior, she certainly was that. But also incredibly passionate.” He noted her work for needy families around Christmastime and all year round, and her ongoing concern for those who faced tough times in their lives.

The world is a little drearier place with her gone, he added, “but the legacy she has left behind will go on and on for a long time. And not just the political stuff...

“I want to thank you, Freda, for allowing me to always think about you in the most pleasant way and allowing me to be called your friend,” Tancredo said emotionally. “Darling, you made a difference. Your life made a difference.”

Jody@coloradostatesman.com