Citizen Spotlight: John Loschke looking out for Parachute
Citizen Telegram Contributor
PARACHUTE – John Loschke came to Parachute in 1981 for the same reason most people did – the oil shale boom.
“It was a regular ol’ gold rush,” the now-63-year-old Loschke said.
He didn’t come to work at the refinery or out in the fields. His cousin, Tim O’Donovan, was a newspaper reporter in Glenwood Springs and decided to team up with another Irish guy to open a bar in super-fast-growing Parachute.
“So, these two hooked up and decided they were going to take advantage of the oil shale boom and open an Irish pub in Parachute,” Loschke said. “But they didn’t have any business experience, especially not with a bar.”
Loschke had just been laid off from his sales job and was back to tending bar in Kansas City when his cousin called him up and invited him out to help manage the new O’Leary’s Pub.
“So, I came,” Loschke said.
The bar was busy. It was a huge success. In fact, Loschke said it was the single biggest Budweiser account in Colorado for a time. But, just as rapidly as it grew, it collapsed.
When Exxon pulled out of Parachute on Black Sunday in 1982, it was all over. All the projected growth for the area, all the energy and opportunity – it was gone just like that.
The property owner wouldn’t work with the O’Leary’s team to reduce the rent, so the bar closed.
Loschke might have left town then, but he was in love with Sherry Bernside, a local girl whose grandparents had helped found the town. When her father, Bill Bernside, started to get sick shortly after the economic collapse, Loschke took his spot on the Parachute Board of Trustees.
“I won a few elections and I’ve been on the town board since 1983, except a couple years when I was working down in Denver,” Loschke said.
He was also the town’s mayor from 1994 to 2006.
Loschke’s always been interested in politics, but never had a lot of respect for big time politicians, who he says always seem to owe something to someone.
“There was a give-back opportunity where I could help,” Loschke said. “I felt like I could have some good input on how the town developed.”
Back in 1983, when the area was growing, the town board had a master plan.
“In that plan was a proposed loop at exit 75” on I-70, Loschke said. “It’s been 30 years and we just finished that west interchange.”
He said the interchange better equips the community to deal with the “roller coaster ride that is the energy industry.”
Parachute has been through so many ups and downs, booms and busts. The new infrastructure should make the next boom easier, Loschke said.
Part of Loschke’s devotion to the Parachute board came from a sense of duty. The board needed someone. A lot of boards in Parachute need people. The school board struggles to get members and Loschke served on that board for 10 years. He was a volunteer fire fighter. He was on the planning and zoning committee and the economic development board.
“It was a lot at times,” he said. “You have a line you need to draw. Your first and foremost responsibility is to keep that family fed. Sometimes, I would push the envelope with my past bosses with volunteering. It was stressful.”
Loschke has had a lot of jobs in the community since O’Leary’s. He sold advertising for the Rifle Tribune and wrote a witty movie review column for the paper. He opened and ran Old West Pizza, an outdoor storage company and drove water hauling trucks for Toby’s. Now, he’s a safety manager for R.J. Taylor Wyatt Pipeline Construction. It’s a good fit.
“I can walk out my office door and look at the backside of my house,” he said.
Parachute is home. Loschke and his wife raised their children here. Joe, 29 and Nikki, 26, are still connected to the area.
Now, the town board is looking for a new administrator. It’s an important job.
“You have to make sure it’s someone you can trust,” Loschke said.
Whoever the board chooses will have to be able to carry on the town’s legacy of resilience.
“I think we’ve done a good job of managing our money and making it through as a town,” Loschke said.
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