“The last ten years have probably been the most enjoyable of my life,” says Jerry Lautigar, the guy with the huge grin who was shocked to learn, upon retirement, that he didn’t know many people close to home after having lived in the area for more than 20 years.
But somewhere along the way he ran into Paula Barnes at the former Caffe di Lucca, and that’s all it took. Like a matchmaker made in Heaven for nonprofits, Paula put Jerry – a volunteer made in Heaven – in touch with Maren Schreiber, who runs the special needs program for the Evergreen Parks and Recreation District. (She's a leader made in Heaven for the special needs population.)
For the last eight years he’s been accompanying Maren's kids bowling every Tuesday in Lakewood, setting up the rails that help them aim the bowling balls down the alleys and transporting the bowling balls back and forth for them. “I enjoy seeing kids laugh and have fun,” he says with that big grin on his face. He’s also helped the special needs group with track, basketball and riding horses.
In Texas he officiated college football and basketball for 20 years, something he considered a lot of fun but that wasn't particularly rewarding, he's quick to point out. I suspect that's probably because no one wants to see a referee smile, and it's not very easy for this guy to keep a straight face. But remaining physically active is important to him. For the past several years he’s coordinated the senior volleyball and senior softball teams for the Rec District.
“This is the greatest community I’ve ever lived in – where people care about people,” he says with pride.
As a member of the Mountain Foothills Rotary Club, he’s begun working to help other nonprofits. While having coffee with John Erlandson, the two brainstormed about expanding the fall benefits held at the ice House and sponsored by the Rotary club. Together they laid the groundwork for what would become the Summer Showcase Concert Series at the lake (not to be confused with the free Evergreen Lake Summer Concert Series sponsored by EPRD during June, July and August). He dressed in a kilt for the final concert that featured Dr. Dan Hock and the Centennial State Pipes and Drums, and his admirers made it known that "Jerry rocks!"
Now going into the third concert season, the two Rotarians coordinate three events each summer in addition to those they put on at the Ice House in October and November. Each concert benefits an organization like Evergreen Christian Outreach or Blue Spruce Habitat for Humanity. Erlandson lines up the talent, and Lautigar handles the related organizing. They make a good pair. Sit them down with a cup of coffee in front of them, and there's no telling what new idea might surface.
One of his first projects was coordinating troop support to Iraq, supplying Crocs for kids in the war-torn country at the request of a Rotarian with a family member serving. They collected about 150 pair, shipping them off SAM (Space Available Military). Since then there have been four or five similar efforts, supplying personal items for servicemen; and they’re currently looking for a group to adopt in Afghanistan.
When Bob Zavodsky stirred up a new fundraiser six years ago by putting a barrel on the lake and selling chances to win big money for those who came closest to predicting the time it would fall through the ice, Jerry was there to learn the ropes and help with coordinating. The fundraiser – known as the Ice Melt Contest – most recently netted about $15,000, which Mountain Foothills Rotary will use to support nonprofit organizations in the area.
This year he’s taken on responsibility for public relations for Mountain Foothills Rotary.
Jerry recently began volunteer training with Mt. Evans Home Health and Hospice but realized he needed a little more time before he could handle working with patients who are terminally ill. Having lost both of his parents in the last year and a half, he recognizes the importance for volunteers to support the hospice effort, but isn’t quite ready. Instead, he’s supporting the agency with much-needed support by doing “parking duty” at special events.
He was seen at Lakepoint Center last week for Ellie's Evening, on parking patrol, and he's been seen doing the same for the Mountain Area Land Trust's Night in the Park. It's hard to break the rules when someone as friendly as Jerry Lautigar says "no parking - you'll have to take the shuttle." Having been a professional referee, he's had practice making decisions others had to follow, even when they argued with him. He tried real hard to pose for a picture without a smile to play the role, trying to put on an officiator's serious face.
Jerry grew up in East Texas and Louisiana. He’d worked as a manager with the Department of the Interior for 35 years in places such as Louisiana, Kansas and Oklahoma before requesting a transfer to Colorado where he reported to the Federal Center on a daily basis starting in 1981. He’d been visiting Colorado about four times a year to pursue his love for dirt biking and skiing.
Now he works part-time doing the same sort of things for the Department of Justice – researching Indian oil and gas records – minus the responsibility of supervising other workers.
Jerry lived in the Conifer area for his first 15 years in Colorado, moving to Evergreen 17 years ago where he and his wife, Linda, now reside.
“Living in Evergreen has brought out a side of me that’s most rewarding,” he says (with a smile).