Hundreds gathered at the History Colorado Center on Friday afternoon to honor Pat Schroeder, who represented Denver as a pioneering woman in Congress, and died last month at age 82.
The speakers included Gov. Jared Polis, family members and former staffers.
Schroeder could never be told what to say or exactly how to act — but her inimitable wit and vision led to landmark achievements, like the creation of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
“Eventually, everyone realized that the wisest thing was to let Pat be Pat. Let Pat be Pat. This is her gift to us, and to all whose lives she touched,” said former staffer Sally Brown. “She simply gave us herself. Her remarkable self.”
Polis said that Schroeder was a dear friend — he had even served as a page for Schroeder one summer. The governor said that the loss struck home after Democrats recently passed abortion rights laws — a cause that Schroeder supported.
“I would always get an encouraging note from Pat, and this is the first time I didn’t. And I missed that. Over the years, she was so proud of what we were doing here in Colorado,” Polis said.
Speakers remembered Schroeder’s legacy, including the creation of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge, as well as for her idiosyncrasies — including her love for limeade and her tendency to discard talking points.
“I felt bad for the constituents, because they would come up and say, ‘Can we get a copy of that [script for the] speech?’ And the answer was always no,” said former staffer Charles Davenport. Instead, he explained, Schroeder spoke from the head and the heart.
Attendees wore buttons with the slogan: “She won. We won,” which reflected the trailblazing nature of her electoral wins, as well as her focus on policy for the public good, they said.
A program listed facts that “you might not know” about the late congresswoman — from the fact that she played accordion as a child, to her insistence on completing Christmas shopping by July, and her tradition of delivering cookies to Denver firehouses.
Rep. Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez was named the Pat Schroeder Rising Star in 2019. She pointed out that when Schroeder was first elected in 1972, she was one of only 16 women in the House of Representatives. There are now more than 100, and in Colorado women make up the majority of statehouse legislators.
“We are always carrying on the legislature of Pat Schroeder,” she said.
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