Joseph Mack Montano
Joseph Mack Montano

March 5, 1928 - January 20, 2017
Born in Lasauses, Colorado
Resided in Denver, CO
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Joseph Mack Montano, son of Jose Encarnacion Montano and Frances Adeline Montano, passed away peacefully at his daughter's home, on January 20, 2017. For a man who was dedicated to his wife, his three children and was also instrumental in the creation of Colorado's interstate highway system, he always took the road less traveled. And,
like the line in the famous Robert Frost poem — it made all
the difference.

Joe was a fourth-generation Coloradan who could trace
his family's North American heritage back to 1598. Born in
the tiny farming town of Lasauses in the San Luis Valley, Joe would eventually become one of the finest legal minds in the state and a nationally recognized expert in the area
of eminent domain law and private property rights. That trajectory could not have come easy for a young man of Hispanic origin, who, after serving as an air traffic controller in the Korean War and graduating second in his class in 1953 from Denver University College of Law could not find anyone willing to give him a job. Eventually, the Texaco Company hired him where he worked for several years before joining the Colorado Attorney General's office as the Assistant Attorney General. Within nine years, after
successfully litigating numerous cases and honing his trial skills, he was promoted to Chief Highway Counsel, a position which placed him at the forefront of the negotiations
and acquisition efforts for the right-of-way necessary to build both the I-25 and I-70 highway corridors through Colorado. During his 9-year tenure, Joe also managed the
contract for the construction of the Eisenhower Tunnel.
"Many of those early cases that Joe tried helped shape the law of eminent domain in this State," says Leslie Fields, a long time friend and partner who was mentored by Joe from a young age. "Years later, I could not drive down any road or highway in Colorado with Joe, without having him recall a fascinating story about a particular case he had handled along the way. He was an amazingly talented lawyer who showed me how to practice law with grace, dignity and skill. For that and his enduring friendship, I will always be grateful."

While his work for the state was rewarding, after 18 years of public service Joe decided to go into private practice, working first for the law firm of Gorsuch, Kirgis, Campbell,
Walker and Grover. It was there, in 1976, that he became the first Hispanic partner of a major law firm in Colorado. After leaving Gorsuch in 1981, Joe joined the law firm of
Faegre & Benson, now Faegre Baker Daniels at a time when Denver was experiencing exponential growth in all sectors of the city. Over the next several years, until his retirement
in 1998, Joe represented private landowners in some of the largest public work projects in Colorado history, including the Rockies Baseball Stadium and Highways C-470 and E-470. One of Joe's more notable causes was the representation of the largest landowner in the acquisitions for the Denver International Airport, a case which resulted in a $70 million award for land and improvements. In all, Joe tried some 300 cases, with many of those cases ending up before the Colorado Court of Appeals and Colorado Supreme Court, earning him the nickname, the "Dean" of eminent domain
law. His prominence as a trial lawyer resulted in numerous awards and honors, including becoming a member of the prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers. "Joe was a superb lawyer and embodied the very best of our profession. He was the consummate professional and treated everyone that he met with dignity and kindness, no matter what the circumstances. Like many other eminent domain lawyers, I owe
much of my success to him, and consider myself lucky if even a little of his approach to the law and to life have rubbed off on me. He will be missed greatly," says Jack Sperber,
yet another lawyer that Joe mentored for many years while at Faegre.

Hard work, sacrifice and dedication were hallmarks of Joe's life from his earliest memories. "My mother always stressed education," he once said. It was her high regard for learning that caused Joe to enroll in Albuquerque's Menaul, a private Presbyterian school where he worked many odd jobs to pay tuition, but still found time to play basketball
and track, winning numerous state medals in sprinting.

In 2006, in commemoration for Joe's life achievements, Faegre established a $100, 000 scholarship in his name at Denver University's Sturm College of Law, his old alma mater. Since that time, numerous law students have received scholarships to help defray their tuition costs, all in honor of Joe's lasting legacy. In 2002, the law school honored Joe with its highest alumni achievement award, the Law Stars award.

In addition to dedicating his life to his profession, he also was devoted to his loving wife, Janice, of 34 years. Their marriage was often referred to as a "fairy tale" because of their life together and the love they shared. When Janice passed away in 2015, Joe was never the same.
Joe had three children, Lynn, Lori (Russ Bothwell), and Jeff. He also had two grandchildren, Kelsie (Marc Schiechl) and Paige (Adam Stehl). Within the last year, Joe was able
to spend some time with his one-year-old great granddaughter Kinzley. His children, along with all who knew him, will always remember him as a wonderful, kind, and gentle man. Life without him will be difficult, but he has been reunited with the love of his life, and he knows we all loved him dearly.

A memorial service for this great man who will be missed by so many will be held in at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, May 6, 2017 at the Anna & John J. Sie International Relations Complex, Magionne Hall, Sie Complex - Room 5025, Iliff & Race - Denver University Campus (Parking Lot H1).

Please share your memories of Joe and condolences with his family in the Guestbook below.




Memorial Service
Anna & John J. Sie International Relations Complex, Magionne Hall
Sie Complex, Room 5025, Iliff & Race Streets Denver University Campus (Park
Denver, CO
Saturday, May 6, 2017
1:00 PM