Tim Jantz, the chairman of the Moffat County Republican Party, was 19 the first time he stepped in a voting booth in 1980.
He cast a vote for Ronald Reagan. Nearly 25 years later, Jantz still has great admiration for the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War and trying to scale back government.
Reagan died Saturday after years of battling Alzheimer's disease. Jantz, who was at the GOP state assembly Saturday, didn't learn of his death until he was driving home that night.
He said he'll remember Reagan as a tough leader who eased a sense of national foreboding by taking a hard stance with the former Soviet Union.
"He called them the Evil Empire and basically brought everything to the forefront ... It was a very instrumental part in my history," Jantz said.
Inez Beers, a longtime GOP party member said Reagan's defining characteristic was his no-nonsense approach to dealing with issues.
"When he asked Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, that often came back to me," she said. "I thought he was honest. Many politicians try to flower it up or cover it up, but not Reagan. He would come right out and say what he thought."
As flags around the nation were lowered to half-staff and moments of silence were observed at ballparks, news of Reagan's death saddened Craig residents.
Before the news of Reagan's death spread, speakers at the GOP assembly in Denver made references to the Republican icon who represented a dramatic political shift to the right. It was a tribute to Reagan's legacy of maintaining the party's philosophy and "maintaining integrity" in the White House, said Moffat County Commissioner Republican Marianna Raftopoulos.
"He brought America back to what it is today," she said.
"I think we've needed his insight over the last couple of years. It will be a shock, and I think we've all lost a sense of security without him around."
Fellow Republican Moffat County Commissioner Les Hampton said he thinks we "owe Reagan a world of gratitude" for his work at ending the Cold War.
Reagan's presidency personally helped him solidify a commitment to be Republican, Hampton said. "There were a few presidents that didn't make us proud," he said. "But while he was president, I was proud to be an American and a Republican. I think he conducted himself really well. He was a pretty special guy."
"I felt that President Reagan had the ability to give people a clarity and a vision that was lacking with some of our other leaders," said Craig resident Pres Askew, who met Nancy Reagan when she was first lady and promoting her "Just Say No" campaign.
"He gave us more optimism, and I admired that about him."
Askew said one of Reagan's enduring accomplishments was pushing tax reductions through Congress.
The tax cuts "did a great deal to help the economy.
The drops in rates improved our economy, revenues went up and the government's income increased.
Unfortunately Congress was unable to keep from spending the money," Askew said. "If they put Congress in charge of the Sahara, in five years there would be a shortage of sand. I can't remember who said that, but it's true."
Reagan's increased defense spending likely forced Communist regimes to spend more than they could afford to keep up, Askew said.
"It was the straw that broke the camel's back," he said.
For Jantz, Reagan's passing is an opportunity to see how far the nation has come since he was a teenager.
"When we lose someone like that, it brings our history to the forefront. It reminds us we shouldn't forget our past."
Jantz added that many of the candidates at the state GOP assembly alluded to themselves as "Reagan Republicans," a strong indicator that Reagan's most enduring legacy will be reuniting and strengthening the Republican Party
Daily Press writer Andy Smith and the Associated Press contributed to this story.
The Master Farm Homemaker Guild is seeking nominations for the 2004 Award Program to honor rural homemakers. Any homemaker is eligible who is actively involved in agriculture (or is retired from an active life in agriculture) and had derived a substantial percentage of the family income from a ranching or farming operation.
Women must be nominated by an organization. The Colorado Master Farm Homemaker Guild was established in 1954. The Award Program is sponsored by Colorado State University, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Colorado State Grange and Colorado CattleWomen, Inc. along with the Colorado Master Farm Homemaker's Guild. Nomination forms can be obtained from the Colorado University Cooperative Extension Office. Nomination forms must be returned to the Master Farm Homemaker Guild by July 15. For more information, contact Jeanne Davies, Award Chairman, P.O. Box 159, Deer Trail, CO 80105.