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Ten most notable people we forgot who died in Colorado

Earlier this week, when we published our list of the ten most notable people to die in Colorado, we asked you to let us know if we'd forgotten anyone -- and thank goodness you did, because we made a number of hefty oversights. We're highlighting the ones most frequently mentioned in this sequel list, which also includes a slew of other fascinating personalities who shuffled off this mortal coil right here. Count them down below.

Number 10: Ken Lay

Lay was the chairman and CEO of Enron, a corporation that became the poster child for business corruption circa the early 2000s -- although more recent scandals have pretty much supplanted it in the public consciousness. In 2006, he was found guilty of ten counts related to financial malfeasance and the like -- but several months before his sentencing, he died in Snowmass of a heart attack. That's the equivalent of dodging a bullet by taking one in the chest.

Number 9: Ruth Etting

Ron Lyle

Etting was a huge singing star in the 1920s and 1930s, with a number of her signature tunes, including "Shine On Harvest Moon" and "Ten Cents a Dance," becoming standards in the Great American Songbook. She was embroiled in scandal during the late thirties, when her former husband shot a pianist with whom she was involved. Her career took a hit as well, but the tale inspired the 1955 film Love Me or Leave Me, in which the character based on her was played by Doris Day.

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Number 8:

Ron Lyle

In a different era, Lyle, who came of age in Denver in a family of nineteen (!) children, could have been the heavyweight champion of the world. He had the skills and the power. But he served a stint in prison during what should have been his prime years, and when he finally began to climb the boxing ranks in the '70s, he had to get past some of the most talented and/or intimidating pugilists of all time in Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, and he couldn't quite manage to do so. Post-career, he was best known locally for running a gym, Denver Red Shield. He died in 2010 at the age of seventy after suffering a stomach ailment.

Number 7: Thomas Braden

Braden had several careers over the course of his long life, including spy (he was part of the OSS, the precursor to the CIA), author (his book Eight is Enough spawned the long-running TV series) and TV journalist (he hosted the CNN program Crossfire). He died in Denver in 2009 of what were described at the time as natural causes, and that makes sense, since he was 92 years old.

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Number 6: Jerome Biffle

Biffle was a true hometown hero, attending Denver East and the University of Denver, where he was renowned for being a one-man track team. During the late '40s and early '50s, he scorched the competition in the long jump, winning a gold medal in the event at the 1952 Helsinki Olympic games. He later went on to become a coach and counselor at East before dying of pulmonary fibrosis in 2002.

Number 6: Young Corbett II

Young Corbett II (on the right).
Young Corbett II (on the right).

The man born William J. Rothwell earns placement above fellow boxer Ron Lyle because he actually reached the championship level, as a featherweight during the early years of the 20th century. He also has one of the great nicknames ever -- a moniker that honors the famed Gentleman Jim Corbett. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010; his bio on that organization's website doesn't list a cause of death, at age 46, and neither does his Wiki page.

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Number 4: Chief Niwot

The leader of the Southern Arapahoe tribe, Chief Niwot -- also known as Left Hand -- didn't declare all-out war on the white men who flooded into the Boulder Valley during the gold rush days of the mid-1800s. Instead, he promoted peaceful coexistence. But this dream faded into the most bitter of realities. He was killed during the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, which remains one of our state's darkest incidents.

Number 3: JonBenet Ramsey

When JonBenet Ramsey was murdered in December 1996, she wasn't famous -- but in death, she became the strange celebrity she remains to this day. The same phenomenon can be seen in a number of other people who died in Colorado under awful circumstances, including the victims of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. (Other notable crime victims include Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams, and Adolph Coors III, heir to the Coors brewing empire, who was kidnapped and murdered in 1960.) But JonBenet's iconic photographs, and the fact that her slaying remains unsolved, means she continues to linger in the popular imagination in ways no one could have imagined at the time of her death.

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Number 2: Byron White

Nicknamed Whizzer, White put the lie to the stereotype of the dumb jock. He was one of the finest athletes in the history of CU-Boulder, and went on to play in the NFL before opting for the law over football. He was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s and remained on the bench until his retirement in 1993. He died in Denver from complications of pneumonia in 2002 at age 84, but he's remembered every day by locals going into a certain local courthouse named in his honor.

Number 1: Hunter S. Thompson

What the hell's the matter with me? Thompson should have immediately leaped to mind as one of the most memorable people to ever die in Colorado. He put Woody Creek on the map, looming large over the area by dint of his ultra-original gonzo journalistic legacy -- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, anyone -- and on-the-edge lifestyle. He committed suicide in 2005 at age 67, leaving the world, and Colorado, under his own terms.

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More from our Lists & Weirdness archive: "Photos: Top ten 'You know you're from Colorado when...' punchlines."