Local historian, journalist Irma Wyhs dies

Served the Jeffco community in a variety of ways

Christy Steadman
csteadman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/22/19

Editor’s note: This story is ongoing, and will be updated as more information is available.

Irma Wyhs, a local historian and accomplished writer, died on June 29 in Iowa.

A former Jefferson …

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Local historian, journalist Irma Wyhs dies

Served the Jeffco community in a variety of ways

Posted

The late Irma Wyhs always thought Brenda Starr was “the cat’s meow.”

Brenda Starr is a comic strip character created by Dale Messick, a pseudonym for Dalia Messick, in June 1940. The New York Times reported that Brenda Starr — a “glamorous red-haired journalist” — was the way that Messick “fought her way to the top of a man's profession.”

“She thought that was way cool,” said Wyhs’ daughter Jana Bailey. Becoming a journalist “was always in the back of her mind.”

Wyhs, an historian and accomplished writer, died on June 20 in Iowa at age 90.

“She led a very full and eventful life,” said Bailey, who lives in Iowa.

Irma Sudbrock was born in Saint Charles, Missouri, on Dec. 13, 1928, and was raised in a rural community. She married the late Austin Wyhs in January 1946, and they raised three children — Bailey, 63; Niles Wyhs, 67, of Oregon; and Tamara Davis, 57, of Ft. Collins. Wyhs is survived by two grandchildren.

The Wyhs family moved around a lot until they settled in Golden in 1963, Bailey said.

Wyhs’ career with the now Golden Transcript began sometime after that, in the late 1960s. The Transcript published Wyhs’ work until the early 2000s. Through the years, Wyhs served the newspaper as a reporter, photographer and columnist. She was the newspaper’s assistant editor from 1969-1970, according to the Golden Landmarks Association.

Wyhs also took on freelance assignments for other area newspapers and various publications, and was a published, award-winning poet.

“She loved writing about her childhood,” Bailey said. “She had great stories of growing up in rural Missouri and many of them were funny.”

Wyhs also particularly enjoyed writing about Golden’s various community events and local talent, Bailey added.

“Irma was a great supporter of Golden’s many cultural organizations,” said Barb Warden, who sits on the board for the Golden Cultural Alliance. Warden and Wyhs met in 2009 when they worked on Golden’s sesquicentennial celebration together. “I remember Irma with fondness and gratitude for all she did for the Golden community.”

Wyhs’ community involvement included implementing the former Columbine Day — a festival named after the state’s flower that celebrated Colorado’s statehood — and Golden’s annual Heart and Soul month, a month-long celebration of Golden’s cultural organizations that takes place in February.

Foothills Art Center, 809 15th St. in Golden, got its start from Wyhs’ efforts of organizing a series of international watercolor workshops. It opened in the late 1960s, and Wyhs served as its first director.

“That’s something she was very proud of,” Bailey said.

Back then, avant-garde art “was in full swing,” Bailey said. Although Wyhs enjoyed that form of art, she wanted a place where more traditional artists — such as those who did landscapes, for example — could showcase their work, Bailey said.

Wyhs was always artistic, but eventually found that she enjoyed writing and being involved with the community even more, Bailey said.

Her community projects became “quite the family affair,” Bailey said. Whether it was stripping wallpaper from the walls of the Astor House, creating antique paper dolls or preparing an historic hat display, “she got the whole family involved in her projects.”

Getting its start by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), later in 1988, Wyhs became the director of the Golden Pioneer Museum, the now city-owned Golden History Museum.

“Wyhs was an energetic advocate. She was one of our honored Golden historians and her contributions will be missed,” said local historian Rick Gardner. “Wyhs was the first to notice the pending fate of the historic 1870s era Pearce and Reynolds ranches up in Crawford Gulch. She publicly advocated for, and spearheaded, the preservation of (those) buildings.” 

Thanks to Wyhs’ efforts, as well as the Golden Landmarks Association, Jefferson County Open Space and the city of Golden, the historic cabins got moved to what is now the Golden History Park, formerly the Clear Creek History Park, in a three-year timespan that lasted until 1997.

“She wanted people to know about the lifestyle of the pioneers,” Bailey said. “She wanted that way of life preserved.”

Wyhs started covering Edgewater politics and government as a newspaper beat, and to make her husband’s commute to work across a little shorter, the family moved from Golden to Edgewater in 1975.

There, she got involved with playwriting and showcased a variety of acts using talented local singers and actors.

From Golden to Edgewater, Wyhs’ contributions to the greater Jefferson County community didn’t go unnoticed. She was inducted to the Jefferson County Historical Commission’s Hall of Fame in 1999, was honored as a Living Landmark by the Golden Landmarks Association in 2003 and was entered into the congressional record by Rep. Ed Perlmutter in 2007.

Something that Golden’s former City Manager Mike Bestor will remember about Wyhs, he said, is how she made sure everybody was aware of all the cool things that happened in Golden’s past.

“She recognized that Golden has real history,” Bestor said. “She treasured that history, and she treasured Golden.”

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