Growing up in tiny Mt. Dora, a not-very-wide spot on Route 64 as it wanders through New Mexico’s windswept northeastern corner, Dale Lovin didn’t give much thought to the ill and the dying. To his wide-eyed way of thinking, there were far more interesting things to think about.
“They still had honest-to-gosh cattle drives,” smiles Dale, the thrill of it fresh in his memory. His dad was the local railroad agent, and the iron road to Kansas City started almost at his doorstep.
“Thousands of head of cattle would come into town. The huge cloud of dust they raised stretched for miles, and cowboys on horses would herd them into massive stock pens. It was the most romantic thing in the world.”
Graduating from high school in the nearby Union County seat of Clayton, a rough-and-ready town dug into the whispering grasslands at the east end of the Santa Fe Trail, young Dale had exactly no ambition to one day serve as board chairman of one of the top 100 home health and hospice organizations in the country. He had an entirely different mission in mind.
“I don’t know why, but ever since I was a little-bitty boy I never wanted to be anything but an FBI agent,” Dale says. “We joked that I was born with a crew-cut and a .38.”
A sociable man with a sharp intelligence and keen wit, Dale Lovin appreciates a good joke, and he makes many of them personally. Fact is, he simply doesn’t give off what one might call a “G-man vibe.”
Then again, that could be part of his secret to success, and there’s no question that Dale succeeded in his chosen career.Dale worked his way through the University of Missouri at Kansas City on odd jobs and starvation paychecks, and came out on the other side with degrees in political science and sociology. Then, long on confidence and facing even longer odds, he applied for a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“Today the Bureau wouldn’t even give me an interview,” he laughs. “I was in the right place at the right time. The Bureau was hiring. I took the test and passed it.”
In 1972 he passed the rigorous training course at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia, and landed in the San Francisco field office. Among his first details as an FBI field agent was to assist in the notorious Patty Hearst kidnapping case. Dale would serve at stations from New York City to Alexandria, Virgina, and he took to each new post like … well … like a kid to a cattle drive.
“Every day was a Tom Sawyer adventure for me. I recognized how fortunate I was, and I never really lost that.”
It was during a hitch in Indianapolis that he met his future wife, Linda, a fellow FBI agent who would later trade in her federal badge for a prosecutor’s chair in the Marion County attorney’s office. Rising quickly through the ranks, Dale trained in weapons and tactics at Quantico and served with SWAT teams in the field. He earned a pilot’s license and flew in support of ground operations.
“Almost all of my career was investigating violent crime. Everything from bank robberies to kidnappings to violent fugitives.”
In the early 1990s he was assigned to the Violent Crimes, Major Offender Section at the Bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in 1994 he asked for, and was granted, a transfer to a multidisciplinary unit based out of the Denver field office.
“It brought together law enforcement from all over the Rocky Mountain region to cooperate on major cases,” Dale explains. “I wanted that job because we’d always wanted to live in Colorado; and when I got it, I felt like I won the lottery,” he grins. “There was no doubt about where we would live. Moving to Evergreen was the easiest decision we ever made.”
Dale retired from the FBI in 1997 and applied his considerable energies to more peaceful pursuits, like raising three fine children and lending a hand when Linda opened the original Hearthfire Books in Evergreen. That less-stressful lifestyle was too good to last, though, and in the wake of the 9/11 attacks he was temporarily called out of retirement to help create the Federal Air Marshal Service.
“We started from scratch and built it almost overnight.” A few years ago, Dale and his older brother, Ken – also a former FBI agent – formed a company providing personal and commercial security to a prominent Wall Street manager living in Denver. And, drawing on 25 harrowing years in the field, Dale discovered within himself an unexpected, but very real, gift for writing. His first novel, The Mirror in the River, takes its authenticity from his own experiences combating the horrors of human-trafficking. His second, Strangers, Lovers and the Winds of Time, is in great part inspired by Ken’s efforts against militant white supremacists. “Ken was supervisor in charge of the hours-long gun battle that ultimately killed Robert J. Matthews, who participated in the murder of Alan Berg.”
When he wasn’t holding a pen, Dale was usually holding a fly rod. He’s an avid fisherman who idles away many a restful hour hip-deep in the West’s clear streams, including those of his beloved New Mexico.
Seeking new ways to serve his neighbors, about five years ago Dale walked into Mount Evans Home Health Care & Hospice and volunteered to perform patient visits, or respite care, or transportation services, or any other small but essential task that needed doing. There is a pleasant irony to be had in considering that, after devoting a large portion of his life to the pursuit of some of the worst people imaginable, Dale Lovin now spends a big part of his time in the company of the very best people there are.
“I was so impressed with the heart of the people at Mount Evans, and I still am,” he says. “The work they do for this community is amazing, and they don’t do it for a paycheck – they do it because it’s who they are.”
Then again, it’s also who Dale is, and he’s been among the organization’s strongest supporters ever since. He’s a valued member of the board’s executive committee, and in recent years he’s been the board member in charge of Mount Evans’ popular Fourth of July Freedom Run. But when he assumed the chairman’s seat on Nov. 1, the bright-eyed boy from Mt. Dora committed himself to playing an important role in all aspects of Mount Evans’ financial and operational wellness. Dale’s one-year term will demand much from him, but certainly no more than he’s happy to give.
“Mount Evans is dedicated to the mountain area, and it’s my friends and neighbors that it serves,” he says, plainly. “This is personal.”