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Denver Water’s veteran manager, Chips Barry, died Sunday when his tractor apparently flipped accidentally on his farm in Hawaii where he produced macadamia nuts, coffee, and honey. When he failed to return from mowing on the farm at dusk, his wife, Gail Barry, went to look for him and found his lifeless body under the tractor, calling firefighters who used airbags to extricate Barry’s body.
“It makes me so sad, as he was so looking forward to his retirement and all the projects he had waiting,” Gail Barry says in an e-mail, according to The Denver Post. Barry, who was 66, was planning to retire later this year after guiding Denver Water, which serves more than 1.3 million metro-area customers, since 1991.
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The state House and Senate both paused Monday for moments of silence to honor Barry. “This is a man who brought Denver Water into the 21st century, really brought us into the age of watching our consumption and brought us into the future,” says Representative Joel Judd, a Denver Democrat, of Barry (via the Denver Business Journal).
Governor Bill Ritter says: “Chips probably understood Colorado water better than anyone alive today. He revolutionized Denver Water, making it a national leader in conservation and a better partner for everyone who cares about this state.”
Barry was from Denver. He graduated from George Washington High School in 1962 and went on to Yale College, finishing cum laude in 1966 before earning a law degree from Columbia University Law School in 1969.
While at Denver Water, Barry oversaw a water conservation program, built a recycled water distribution system, invested in improved treatment facilities, and led efforts to guide the city after a major drought.
He was an important voice in 5280’s “Dry Times” story last month, and Natasha Gardner did a “Life According To” feature with Barry in 2008. It began, “My real name is Hamlet J. Barry III. I’m two chips off the old block. I have had to live with this forever.”