The Death of Bill Coors and The Will to Live

A screen capture from The Will to Live, a recent documentary about Bill Coors.
A screen capture from The Will to Live, a recent documentary about Bill Coors. YouTube
Coors Brewing Company heir and former CEO Bill Coors's death at age 102 came shortly after the release of a documentary about him titled Bill Coors: The Will to Live. The proximity of these two events is appropriate, for Bill was at least as interested in health and longevity as he was in beer, if not more so.

Included at the bottom of this post is the full remembrance of Bill released by Molson Coors Brewing Company after his death at home on October 13. The offering recounts the broad strokes of his career, including his 1939 start at the firm founded by his grandfather, Adolph Coors, and his pioneering development of the aluminum can as a beer container.

But the piece skips the tragic reason he took over the enterprise — his older brother, Adolph Coors III, was murdered at age 44 amid a botched kidnapping — or the ways his personal politics differed from those of his late brother Joe, whose association with the Heritage Foundation played an outsized role in the development of modern conservatism.

In 2004, Westword editor Patricia Calhoun shared this description of Joe by Bill: "He was conservative as they come. I mean, he was a little bit right of Attila the Hun."

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A photo of a young Bill Coors from A Will to Live.
Bill had other fascinations, as past Westword staff writer Eric Dexheimer revealed in the 1995 feature article "A Crumbling Foundation." The piece took a close look at the unraveling of the Adolph Coors Medical Research Foundation, which came to life in large part because of the advocacy of Bill and car-sales entrepreneur Chuck Stevinson for non-traditional treatments developed by one Rajko Medenica. Bill credited Medenica with reversing a problem with his eyes (he had been losing the ability to see colors) and helping him overcome prostate problems. "I hold myself out" as an example of Medenica's genius, Bill maintained.

The Adolph Coors Medical Research Foundation wasn't built to last, but its demise didn't cause Bill to back away from the alternative-health-care cause, epitomized by his launch of a wellness center at Coors Brewery in Golden long before such facilities were commonplace. Today, for example, the Adolph Coors Foundation is taking part in what's described on its website as "a multi-pronged project of medical research and demonstration projects to coalesce the public — and other donors — around the most promising integrative medical practices" at institutions such as the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona.

He didn't stop there, as is clear from The Will to Live, which is synopsized like so:
Having recently observed his 102nd birthday, beer-brewing titan Bill Coors — along with family, friends, associates and admirers — looks back on one man’s struggle to overcome heart-wrenching adversity and his historic contributions not only to industry, but to top-secret military efforts in WWII, the environment, holistic and mental health (a 25-year personal journey), GBLTQ rights and a philosophy of tolerance and self-love. How one man not only witnessed a century of history, but helped make it...and today shares an extraordinary legacy of overcoming depression and anxiety to achieve emotional well-being.
Here's the trailer for The Will to Live:

Obviously, Bill was able to engage in a wide variety of passions thanks largely to his membership in a famously successful family. But he made his own quirky mark.

Continue to read the aforementioned Molson Coors release about the life of Bill Coors.

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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.
Contact: Michael Roberts