Co-workers, friends: Probation officer was a great guy
By all accounts Ray Combest was a great guy. Friends and co-workers in Glenwood Springs remembered Combest Friday as a great boss and above all a great friend.Combest, 54, chief probation officer of the 9th Judicial District, was killed in a head-on collision in Douglas County Thursday afternoon. According to the Colorado State Patrol, Combest was driving east on C-470 in Douglas County just west of University Avenue just before 2 p.m. At the same time, a 1999 Acura driven by Tri Nguyen, 23, of Littleton, which was heading west, collided with a 2001 Lexus driven by Timothy Pott, 31, of Highlands Ranch, forcing it off the road. The Lexus veered across the center median and hit Combest’s 1999 GMC Yukon head-on. Combest was taken to Swedish Medical Center, where he died at 4:25 p.m.Pott was also transported to Swedish and was listed in serious condition, the report said. Nguyen was treated for minor injuries and released at the scene of the accident.The accident closed the eastbound side of the highway for about three hours.Nguyen faces multiple charges of vehicular homicide and assault, the report said.Combest was with the probation office for four years and came from Adams County Probation Department in the 18th Judicial District, where he was a probation supervisor.”He was the nicest guy,” said attorney Ken Jaynes, a former deputy district attorney. That was the thread that ran through the remembrances of Combest, who came to the 9th District Probation Office’s top job in 2004.”Ray was absolutely wonderful to work with,” said District Attorney Colleen Truden. “He was an optimistic person and had a smile for everybody.”He will be sorely, sorely missed. It’s so sad; what a tragic thing to happen,” she said.”Ray was a visionary,” said Robin Steffen, office administrator at the district attorney’s office in Glenwood Springs, who worked with Combest in the probation department.”He was actually exactly what the department needed. The judicial system was growing and changing and he had the ability to see that … and change it in an incredibly positive manner.”Those who worked with Combest in the probation department were dealing with their grief Friday. The office was closed for the day. His staff learned of his death Thursday afternoon during a going-away party for probation officer Kyle Miller, who is taking a supervisor’s job in Breckenridge.For the people who worked closely with Combest, he was much more than good at his job, he was a good person.”He loved sunshine. He’d say, ‘You’ve got to get 20 minutes of sunshine a day,'” said Helen Nickel, who works in the probation office. “He’d call me and say, we’ve got some sunshine, I’ll be back.””He was really funny and always (saw) a silver lining in every thundercloud,” Steffen said. “And he loved Starbucks coffee.”Steffen remembered the last time she saw Combest, just before he left for Denver for a meeting of probation officers.”Every moment your path crossed his, it left you feeling good. The last time I saw him we were walking down the courthouse stairs together and he was telling me he was going to Denver. “He had a tough job; he definitely made a difference. What a wonderful man he was.”Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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