"Town’s Senior Statesman, Trails Legend Passes"
Richard (Dick) Van Deusen Bratton, retired Air Force civil engineer, legendary hiking trails builder, and longtime Green Mountain Falls civic leader, died on Feb 18, 2021. He was 84. Dick was born in Winchester, Kentucky and raised in New York. His father's U.S. Forest Service job brought the family to Cooperstown, a town not unlike his beloved Green Mountain Falls, with the added attraction of baseball, which fueled DIck's lifelong passion for the Dodgers.
Dick attended college at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He quickly became the social chairman of his fraternity, ultimately graduating with a degree in architecture, demonstrating both his lifelong delight in engaging with others and the tenacity that would become his hallmarks.
Dick served his country by enlisting in the Air Force, applying his engineering and architectural expertise around the globe. Twenty-two years later he retired as a Major. Following his military retirement in 1982, Dick settled in the small mountain town of Green Mountain Falls, bringing his commitment to public service.
His mark on the town of GMF is indelible. Dick served 8 years as Mayor, 9 years as town Trustee, 11 years as planning commissioner with 7 years as chairman. Above and beyond his myriad official contributions, Dick brought joy to the GMF community, volunteering countless hours over many decades to ensure the success of GMF's annual Bronc Day community celebration, coordinating many events and activities to keep children and families smiling. He was also an extremely generous benefactor, shoring up GMF’s infrastructure: from the public swimming pool and Gazebo Lake, to purchasing fire mitigation equipment to make the community safer. He also authored 6 successful grant proposals that benefited the town.
He contributed to the Pikes Peak region in many ways, serving on the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, the Pikes Peak Area Urban Policy Committee, and the Ute Pass Chamber of Commerce.
Dick was an avid hiker and accomplished downhill ski racer. He organized and led “Teamski,” a successful amateur downhill ski racing company which held events throughout Colorado for two decades.
Dick revelled in social settings, often stopping to chat with neighbors or to make new friends, handing out hiking maps as he made his way to and from his second home, GMF's Pantry Restaurant. His love for GMF was incalculable and many will miss his friendly "whoop" to passersby headed for the trails, as he sat on his deck with a martini, feeding peanuts to the jays.
Dick spent many years performing in community theatre in the Colorado Springs area, lending his booming baritone to many productions and using his skills to design stage sets. Among his favorite roles were those of Emile DeBeque in South Pacific, Captain VonTrapp in The Sound of Music, Don Quixote in Man of LaMancha, and Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man.
Perhaps his most impactful role is related to hiking trails. From town-to-region, state-to-country, Dick Bratton's trail legacy is monumental. He founded and chaired GMF's trails committee for many years, leading the design and construction of a 12-mile hiking trail network in and around GMF, all at no cost to the taxpayer. His committee’s work was dubbed 'legendary' by Susan Davies, executive director of Trails & Open Space Coalition. Dick chaired the El Paso County Parks Board, initiating action to create the first Parks Master Plan in 1997. He was instrumental in establishing the Ute Pass Trail, currently under development, championing the project's benefits before the El Paso County Commissioners. At the larger level, Dick served on the Colorado State Trails Committee for 5 years and was Colorado’s state coordinator for the American Discovery Trail Society for 20 years.
The overwhelming community response to Dick's passing has been an outpouring of shared stories, warm thoughts, and trails adventures, honoring a man who made such lasting impact and led such a fascinating life. "A man with a plan, Dick will be remembered for his charm, dignity, and selflessness. Reactions to his passing run from shock and surprise to heartbreak and tears. What should be apparent is the overwhelming sense of abiding loss to our community,” said Rocco Blasi, former fellow GMF trails committee member. It is no surprise that Dick Bratton continued to give until the very end: the night before he died he could be found participating as a member in the town's fire mitigation committee, a group formed at his urging.
Survivors are his sister and only sibling, Jill Bratton Brauss and husband Rich, of Dewey Arizona, niece Susan Lynn Silveira and husband, Frank, of San Jose, CA, niece Sally Anne Brauss and her daughters, Emily Marie Hull and Abby Louise Hull, all of Bozeman and Belgrade, Montana, and niece Laurie Kristen Brauss and husband, Barcus Evans, of Seattle, Washington.
A celebration of life will be held at GMF’s Church in the Wildwood Wednesday June 16th at 1 p.m. with a reception to follow at the Pantry Gardens, casual dress. The family requests no flowers and suggests donations to the Bratton Trails Fund, online at https://www.ppcf.org/donate/ by clicking “Give” under the Bratton Trails Fund. Or checks may be sent to: Rocco Blasi - BTF, PO Box 194, GMF CO 80819, payable to "PPCF", memo "For Bratton Trails Fund.” Dick’s memory could also be honored by planting a tree at a location of your choice.
Bratton Trails Fund