Nelson, Sterling

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .


Sterling Nelson

1929 - 2020


Born and raised near Sterling, Colorado.  Moved to Evergreen in 1964 with his first wife, Shirley.

In 1964, Evergreen was just becoming a year-round community; and to Sterling, life in Evergreen seemed like a perpetual vacation.

He participated in early meetings about growth vs. no growth and generally felt that the county provided good services in all areas except planning.  In 1973 he submitted a proposal to the County Commissioners to communicate what the community wanted.  Supposedly the Planning Department liked it, but the commissioners identified inadequacies and turned it down.

Changes to other parts of unincorporated Jefferson County (i.e., Southwest Plaza) caused county officials to rethink Evergreen, and in 1987 Sterling found his original proposal had been tweaked and proposed by the county as the first Evergreen Community Plan.  That plan has undergone numerous updates in recent years.  Community Plans deal with identifying activity centers, signage, water, and transportation;  they are advisory only, subject to change by the Planning Commission.

Sterling's lifelong love of music and the arts as well as his commitment to the human relations element of living in a community caused him to be one of three people who started the first Summerfest in Evergreen.

He served as president of the Denver Jazz Club for six years and was part of a theatre/orchestra music group from 1986-1994. For years he was a regular follower of the Queen City Jazz Band at MonVue Village where they played twice a week in Lakewood.

He's been an avid supporter of the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra, the Denver Symphony, and the Denver Chamber Orchestra, the Ragtime Society, and the Denver Mandolin Orchestra.  He volunteered with the Central City Jazz Festival before its demise in the late 1980s.  He can be found regularly wherever quality live music is being played in the metro area.

As early as 1965 he envisioned a jazz festival in downtown Denver with groups rotating through three hotels in proximity to 17th and Broadway; and in the mid '70s, he put together two jazz bands for two nights at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.  Sterling has always had an affinity for jazz.  "It's more than just fun music; it has deep meaning.  It tells the story of a history of a people, of our country," he said.

A 70th birthday celebration with a variety of live, top-notch jazz music served as the catalyst for thinking about such a celebration on an annual basis here in Evergreen.  Thus, the first Evergreen Jazz Festival was launched in 2001, personally financed by Sterling.  A big hit as far as talent but far from a financial success, the festival looked doomed.

After a one-year hiatus, the festival was revived by Ted and Jeannie Mann and Jim Reiners, who invited Sterling to be the Music Director.  As such, he arranged for the talent, bringing in well-known bands from all over the US and Canada.  The festival promoted itself as "Big Talent. Small Venues. Great Setting."  He continued in the capacity of Music Director for 10 years and was honored for his contributions by the Evergreen Jazz Festival upon the 10th anniversary in 2011.

In 2003 he was named "Evergreen Arts Person of the Year" by the Evergreen Council of the Arts.

Sterling proposed creation of a Giraffe Society for those willing to stick their necks out.  He participated in the Curmudgeons for a number of years, a group of men who met weekly to solve the world problems and hopefully make favorable changes in Evergreen.  He will be remembered as a catalyst for change, for his interest in collaborating with others, and for his creativity.

Photo by Eric Bakke