Prominent La Plata County Democrat dies

Jim Garofalo, 82, found Durango after aerospace career

Former La Plata County Democratic chairman and longtime Music in the Mountains board member James Donald Garofalo died Friday in Denver. He was 82.

“Jim and (his wife) Pat retired to Durango to pursue a life of leisure,” his family said of their move in the mid-1990s. “Jim was not very good at leisure. He immediately jumped back into his volunteer work.”

Garofalo, who had a 35-year career at Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., starting in contract analysis and working his way up to what his family called “a top-security clearance and mysterious job responsibilities,” generously shared his business experience with the organizations for which he volunteered.

He was active with the local Democratic Party for years, serving as chairman for a partial term and a full term from 2003 to 2005.

“His real strength as chair was his knowledge of how politics work and how it takes adequate funding to run a proper campaign and run a party to get the message out,” said Jean Walter, who has also served as party chairwoman and on the executive committee since the mid-1980s. “He was so smart and savvy about the system. When he left, we were well into the black, and we’ve stayed there ever since.”

His impact was equally significant at other organizations.

Music in the Mountains former President Jim Foster said: “When I took over as president, we wanted to grow the festival fivefold, and we did. But to raise money, first we had to get an audit for grantors. Jim restructured the books and put everything in perfect order.”

A music aficionado and son of an amateur conductor, Garofalo was an ardent supporter of the classical music festival in other ways, as well.

“He had handled enormous projects at Lockheed, and he brought those skills to us,” Foster said. “He had a real knack for raising money.”

Garofalo also served on the boards of directors of Kiwanis Club of Durango, Youth Baseball of Southwest Colorado, the Durango Adult Education Center and Tri-County Head Start.

“He brought a business perspective and connection to other nonprofits in the area to our board,” said Charlotte Pirnat, executive director of Head Start.

Garofalo had been involved in youth baseball much of his life, including serving as president of the Sunnyvale Metro Little League in California and organizing tournaments and serving as vice chairman for Youth Baseball of Southwest Colorado.

“From our standpoint, he paved the way for many children in our area to play baseball,” said Richard “Roskow” Roskowinski, executive director of Youth Baseball. “He was instrumental in getting Kiwanis to support our Tee Ball program.”

Everyone agreed about something else regarding Garofalo.

“He had an enormous gusto and zest for life,” Foster said. “He never lost his sense of humor or positive outlook.”

Garofalo was born to Sam and Rose Garofalo on Nov. 4, 1930, in South Pasadena, Calif., where he grew up.

He attended California Technical University and the University of California at Berkeley before serving in the Army in the Korean War, where he received the Purple Heart. Upon his return, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of California.

On June 23, 1962, he married Patricia Anne Farrell in Palo Alto, Calif.

Mr. Garofalo is survived by his wife of 50 years, Patricia Garofalo, of Durango; daughter, Lisa Garofalo, of Albuquerque; sons Brian Garofalo of Hemet, Calif., and John Garofalo of Pleasanton, Calif.; sister, Kathleen Burton, of Palm Desert, Calif; and six grandsons.