Frederic Arthur Griest, 87, of Denver, CO, passed away peacefully on June 25th, 2023, after a difficult struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease. A graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering in 1959, Fred worked for Midwest Steel and Iron Works and Ken R. White Consulting Engineers in Denver. In 1962, he became a structural design engineer at Stearns-Roger Corporation in Glendale, CO, where he designed structures relating to the potash, copper, magnesium oxide, calcium borate, and molybdenum industries. After Stearns-Roger was bought by Air Products Corporation and became Stearns-Catalytic, he played a major role in the structural design aspects of a power plant for Public Service Co. of Colorado, a coal gasification plant for Conoco, and many other oil and mining projects both in the United States and abroad. The collapse of crude oil prices and the accompanying decline of the petroleum industry shrank the demand for fossil fuel power plants and mining engineering in the mid-1980s. Stearns-Catalytic became part of United Engineers & Constructors Inc. of Philadelphia in 1986, and later a part of the Raytheon Corporation. During this difficult time for the company, Fred was never without work for long, even though the company had to furlough many of their employees to other engineering firms. While on furlough, he was able to find work in Las Vegas and also Tampa Bay. Fred enjoyed getting to experience new climates and things to do outdoors.
Fred’s father, a banker and instructor in the Business school at CU Boulder, moved his family to Boulder from Topeka, KS when Fred was 5. It wasn’t long before Fred became passionate about the environment and was partaking in outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, boating, trailbike riding, skiing, and hiking. Fred and his dad built a cabin together, Littlecot, on the South St. Vrain near Allenspark where the family spent many happy summer days fishing and enjoying the beauty of their adopted state. Fred became an enthusiastic peak-bagger, and in 1975, became the 160th person to complete climbs of all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 ft peaks. He also went on to climb many of the highest 13’ers as well. When he had the opportunity to take early retirement in 1999, Fred embarked upon a second career of volunteerism. For the next 17 years, he very generously volunteered his time to help build and maintain Colorado hiking trails through the Colorado Mountain Club and the Colorado Fourteeners’ Initiative. A life-long avid birder, he also contributed his considerable woodworking and construction skills to help Denver Audubon design and build numerous bluebird houses. He also helped with educational programs and construction projects at their Chatfield facilities. Eventually, due to suffering with advancing osteoarthritis since his thirties, he had to pull back from active trail work. Fred continued to supervise a number of trail construction projects and do volunteer work at Denver Audubon into his 80s. The pandemic, combined with his advancing Alzheimer’s, brought an end to his ability to contribute any longer.
Family was very important to Fred, and even while his children were still infants, he enthusiastically included them in bike rides and hikes via special bike and backpack carriers that were, at that time, just coming onto the market. He and his family also took many camping trips in a pop-top 4-wheel drive pickup camper to many national parks and forests. This included places in the Western US he had seen during college summer breaks, first working as a surveyor for the National Park Service, then as an assistant resident engineer for the FAA the following summer. He was an expert at navigating a 4WD vehicle and managed to get that camper into some incredible camping spots over the years, including Devil’s Kitchen via the notorious Elephant Hill in Canyonlands NP. Although he always had dreamed of moving out of the Denver metro area and into the mountains after he retired, his volunteer work and the close proximity to his children and grandchildren kept him in southeast Denver in the home he had loved and put so much work into over the years.
Fred was preceded in death by his parents, John M. and Fannie P. Griest; brother Donald (Nina) Griest; sister-in-law Carol Griest, niece Ann Frances Griest, nephew John Griest, step-mother Dorothy H. Sandham Griest, and mother-in-law June H. Johnson.
Fred is survived by his former wife Dr. Deborah Johnson and their two children: daughter Katharine Spanjer, her husband Brian Spanjer, and their son Grayson; son Kenneth Griest, his wife Jennifer Griest, and their daughter Adelaide; and step-sister Jennifer Sue Sandham Guillory and her husband Randy Guillory and their children.
A memorial celebration of life will be held on Saturday, July 15th, 2023, in the late afternoon in Chatfield State Park for family and friends. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or either of his children for details. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to Denver Audubon or the Colorado Mountain Club.