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Santa es la tierra

By Pauline Rivera

With an air of quiet confidence and endless charm he often handed out his hand to strangers — looked them straight in the eye and said “How you doin’, Joe I. Ulibarri, pleased to meet you.”

Ulibarri was a charming individual who dressed impeccably. In the early days he rolled with executives as well as his blue-collar employees and often surprised his entire family with extravagant vacations to Las Vegas or Hawaii. In the end he was just plain “Pop” to most of his grandkids — an old school gentleman with beautiful white hair, a winning smile and gracious manners who still opened car doors for women.

With an interesting rural upbringing, Ulibarri ultimately settled for city life. Only a few select friends and family know that Ulibarri was an elevator operator at the Brown Palace for many years after his return from the military. There he met celebrity sorts and politicians where he practiced his manners amongst Denver’s elite — delivering them to their accommodations at one of Denver’s finest hotel establishments.

Coming from a large family, Ulibarri saw a stint in the U.S. Army as the start to a successful life. Serving two years in Korea, he often supplemented his family’s income by sending money home to Alamosa during his tour. Upon his return to Colorado he pursued a career in the world of construction.

He formed Ulibarri Construction, Inc. earning many government and public contracts and helped build single homes for the elderly and low-income residents of the San Luis Valley. Well known to many community leaders, Ulibarri often rubbed shoulders with Denver’s Latino leaders and called many of them his friend. During his forties, he was invited to the White House by former Presidents Regan and Bush, an experience he frequently repeated and relived.

He lived through life’s darkest moments when he lost his son David, then six months later lost his wife Andrea, the mother of their four children, Darlene, Margie, Connie and David. Ulibarri often said he contemplated ending his life had he not met Romelia, his second wife. He later experienced health and financial setbacks, but never gave up on life or people. The Ulibarris’ were just six months shy of a 10th wedding anniversary when he passed away a few days ago.

Life without Ulibarri will be difficult for family and friends. Ulibarri helped many friends both personally and in business.Although an imperfect human like the rest of us we will miss his humor, compassion and charm. His brothers often kidded Ulibarri about being their mother’s favorite. She reportedly often said this about Ulibarri, “Santa es la tierra adonde pisa mi Isaac.” (Holy is the ground where my Isaac walks).





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