The news was shocking. No. More than that; shocking seems to fall a bit short in this case. This time, despite so many words that might be apt in describing a single moment, this time it’s hard to find just the right one. That is the quandary right now for the scores of people who learned last Friday and over the weekend of the sudden passing of former Denver reporter and television host, Sherri Vasquez. Vasquez, 56, suffered a fatal massive stroke in her sleep.
Vasquez was a hard to miss personality. She always dressed immaculately and with a shock of hair, whose shade was somewhere between jet black and onyx. Then, there was her smile. It radiated with charm and an undiluted sincerity. If none of those things registered---and it’s impossible to even imagine that---it was her kindness to friends, colleagues and strangers.
Former Rocky Mountain News and current Colorado Politics reporter John Ensslin learned of Vasquez passing via Facebook. His reaction mirrored that of people---friends and associates---all across Denver. “She was just so full of life,” said Ensslin. The two first met at the Rocky---as it used to be called---in the late 80’s. “She was a kid,” he said. “It was probably her first newspaper job, but she was very good at it.”
The job was writing a column aimed at a demographic long overlooked in Denver papers or Denver media, in general. Ensslin has long forgotten its name but not for a moment has he forgotten his old friend. “She was a lively presence in the newsroom,” he said.
Burned in memory about his friend, Sherri, said Ensslin, was a comment his late mother made to him years ago on the many trips she made to Denver to attend the Damon Runyon Award Dinner, an event that annually honors a national journalist of note. “Who is that woman?” she asked about Vasquez. “She’s the most beautiful woman in the room.”
During college at the University of Colorado where she studied journalism, Vasquez spent a year in Spain working for various media outlets including La Agencia EFE, Spain’s official wire service. When she returned to Denver, she worked in politics during the Romer administration. “I learned a lot about political campaigns,” she said in an interview Denver Woman, a now defunct magazine. Early in her career, Vasquez also worked as Editor at La Voz Bilingue.
Vasquez was constantly reinventing herself. Knowing that an undergraduate degree might not get her to where she wanted to go, the CU alum went back to school for a graduate degree at the University of Denver. She would later find a spot in television. She hosted “Latin View,” a locally produced program aimed at exploring a broad spectrum of Latino-related issues. She interviewed a wide spectrum of guests, including men and women in business, politics and sometimes those in pop culture. It was syndicated on 40 public television stations. “She was a perfect match for that,” said Ensslin. “I thought the show was terrific.”
But for all she did as a print or electronic journalist, Vasquez bandwidth as a friend and associate are what stands out. “She was always so gracious and elegant,” said Olga Garcia, who knew Vasquez for more than 30 years. Beyond Vasquez natural charm, said Garcia, “There was just something about Sherri.”
Veteran Denver businesswoman and current City Council candidate, Veronica Barela, learned of Vasquez passing via Facebook. “I always appreciated her warmth,” said Barela. “She was always so supportive of NEWSED and the things going on on Santa Fe Drive.”
Over the course of her career, Vasquez was honored with numerous awards for her journalistic contributions in print and television. But for those with no idea of those honors, she will be remembered simply and purely for her kindness and friendship.
Vasquez was married to Sal Gomez, President of the Denver-based Source One Management. Information of Vasquez funeral arrangements remain unknown.