Ed Quillen, R.I.P.: Heart attack stills longtime Denver Post contributor

For more than a quarter century, Salida's Ed Quillen has regularly contributed to the editorial pages of the Denver Post, sharing his notably progressive thoughts on issues of the day in a way that raised readers' cheers and hackles, depending upon their personal ideological slant. But no more: Curtis Hubbard, the Post's editorial page editor, confirms that Quillen died yesterday of a heart attack.

Quillen outlined his history at the Post in this 2006 column. As he wrote:

If it's true that time flies when you're having fun, then I've sure been enjoying myself for the past 20 years. It was on Jan. 3, 1986 that my first regular column appeared on these pages, and it sure doesn't seem that a fifth of a century has passed since then.

How did that come about? If you read certain right-thinking blogs, I was a virtuous Colorado boy who made the mistake of walking through the woods one night when I met a fellow who told me I could call him Mr. Scratch. He made me an offer. After I signed in blood, I became part of the Biased Liberal Main Stream Media.

The piece notes that Quillen wrote for a series of newspapers he edited, including the Middle Park Times in Kremmling (1974-77), the Summit County Journal in Breckenridge (1977-78) and the Mountain Mail in Salida (1978-83). At that point, he began freelancing, with the Post publishing a submission from him in 1984. Toward the end of the next year, Quillen proposed a regular schedule to then-editorial page editor Chuck Green, who took him up on the pitch. Beginning in 1988, Quillen's takes appeared twice weekly in the Post.

Things began to change as times got tougher for print journalism. Quillen's website points out that "in August of 2011, the Denver Post decided to save money by cutting me from six columns a month to four," and he definitely didn't see this change as a relief. He followed this note by making a plea for more freelance work. (He also wrote for the High Country News, among other publications.)

Additionally, Quillen kept up an active Facebook presence, with his most recent post on Saturday discussing the John Edwards mistrial:

Perhaps justice was served.

At the start of 2008, I started pondering which Democratic presidential candidate I would support at my precinct caucus in early February.

This sounds awful now, but I quickly settled on John Edwards. He seemed smart and energetic. I likes his "Two Americas" theme. He'd been the party's vice-president nominee in 2004, so I figured he was pretty well vetted.

How wrong I was, and I'm sure glad he withdrew from the race before Colorado held its caucuses. What a mess he could have made if he'd stayed in.

When I read about the federal case against him for violating campaign-finance laws it didn't make much sense. The guy was a world-class jerk, using donations to pay off his mistress so his cancer-stricken wife wouldn't catch on, but I didn't really see anything illegal. Nor did the jury.

When contacted about Quillen, Hubbard issued the following statement: "Colorado has lost one of its most thoughtful and colorful characters. For decades, Ed's humor and keen eye shed light for Denver Post readers on topics ranging from our current politics to the state's rich history. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends."

Hubbard adds that the Post will run excerpts from some of Quillen's more memorable columns in this Sunday's Perspective section, as well as inviting readers to share their thoughts on the Denver Post Opinion Facebook page.

The Post has been losing many of its personalities lately, for economic reasons rather than those having to do with mortality. This weekend saw the final column by Tina Griego, who's moving to Virginia with her family, and because of budgetary strains and contractual quirks, there's a possibility no metro columnist will be hired at the paper until 2013 at the earliest. The passing of Quillen compounds this situation, but definitely stands apart from it, just as the opinionated Salida wordsmith stood apart from so many of his contemporaries. He was one of a kind, and he'll be missed.

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More from our Media archive: "Post: Rehire Mike Littwin or Penny Parker or be columnist-free 'til 2013?"

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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