John William West of Durango, Colorado, a devoted Colorado outdoors enthusiast, passed away after a hard-fought battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) on August 5th, 2022. He was 76.
John was born in Wichita, Kansas on May 6, 1946 to James and Mary Lou West. His family made the fortunate decision to move to Durango in 1957 where John eventually developed a passion for the Colorado backcountry. He attended Mason and Smiley, then graduated from Durango High School, in 1964. He loved riding Cushman Scooters with a group of other riders, and racing cars. Lured by the factory job opportunities, John then opted to follow his Durango buddy, Ron Dudek, to Sturgis, Michigan. It was not long before John met his future wife, Bonnie Green, in Sturgis, but then enlisted in the US Navy, shortly thereafter, in 1968. Bonnie and John exchanged many letters, until Bonnie traveled to South Carolina where he was stationed. In the most romantic fashion he could muster, John exited the commissary with drawings of two engagement rings and presented them to Bonnie. They were married in Sturgis on April 25, 1970. John continued his service during the Vietnam War until 1972, stationed on the USS Everglades destroyer and USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier.
After living in Sturgis for a year, John moved Bonnie out west to Durango in 1973 to help his dad manage the family business. After buying their first home in Hermosa, their daughter Amy was born in 1974. Three years later, they bought their dream home with acreage near Grandview with views of the La Platas. Less than a year later in 1978, their son Mark was born. It was in this same house John spent his last years of life.
John managed the West Building for 19 years, which was built in 1958 by his family and had earned the title of Durango's tallest building. After selling it in 1992, John worked various jobs, including the Bar D Chuckwagon, Durango Herald in the accounting department, the front desk at the Best Western Rio Grande Inn, and driving cars for Avis. His true calling was giving great travel advice to Durango visitors and pointing out where every Western movie was filmed.
John had an abundant love for the Colorado outdoors and shared that passion with his family. Memories include numerous family trips to National Parks, ski trips throughout Colorado, gardening, fishing, jeeping, camping, biking, and eventually snowmobiling. Perhaps inspired by the need to access their cabin, Lago Vista, at Electra Lake in the winter, snowmobiles became the heart of his existence for 30+ years. Many family and friend trips via snowmobile to remote places occurred in the winter all over Colorado. He carefully tracked his mileage in annual spreadsheets, proudly showing them off to visitors. He was a founding member of the San Juan Sledders, leading many trips, and riding thousands (24,394 to be exact) of miles.
Even in his 70's, he still found excitement in watching the deer in his yard, grouse hunting annually with his brother, son, and grandsons, and striking terror in the heart of his visitors by four-wheeling the passes in the San Juans. He finally sold his last snowmobile to the same person who sold him his first snowmobile nearly 40 years earlier.
He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Bonnie, of Durango; brother Ken West of Littleton; daughter and son-in law Amy West and Rich Graziano of San Luis Obispo; son and daughter-in-law Mark and Jennifer West of Thornton; grandchildren Kierra, Natalie, Trenton, and Noah; his mother-in-law, Velma Green of Sturgis; cousins, Lois and Ken Carpenter of Vallecito Lake, and numerous grand doggies. He has also left many snowmobiles behind that have gone to good homes.
A heartfelt thanks to the Veteran's Association and the Visiting Angels, Mercy Home Health/Hospice and Pine Ridge Extended Care in Pagosa Springs who lovingly cared for John in his challenging final months. A celebration of life and spreading of ashes will occur next summer. In lieu of flowers, we ask that contributions be made to the ALS Association, whose mission is to discover a cure.