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Honoring a one-of-a-kind Denver Water employee and friend

Renovated laboratory named in memory of Jim Hanley.

“Mr. Denver Water.” That’s how most employees referred to Jim Hanley.

When Hanley passed away unexpectedly Sept. 17, 2021, at age 68, it was devastating news for the utility’s employees.

“Jim was beloved at Denver Water,” said Katie Fletcher, sustainability program analyst. “He truly was my favorite person to work with because he always had a smile on his face and a kind word to say to everyone.”

Often seen driving a John Deere ‘Gator’ utility vehicle around Denver Water’s Operations Complex, Hanley would smile and wave at everyone he saw. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Hanley worked as a construction technician in Denver Water’s trade shops from 2015 to 2021.

He was the “go-to” person for many employees, always willing to step in and do whatever was needed with a smile, a couple of jokes and lots of laughter.

Employees remembered Hanley’s unwavering positivity, his genuine kindness and compassion, his dedication and hard work, and his radiant joy.

And he’ll be remembered in other ways, as employees on Denver Water’s water quality team chose to name the utility’s new auxiliary laboratory in Hanley’s honor.

Meet Denver Water employees with a passion for water.

For decades, Denver Water’s water quality laboratory was located at Marston Treatment Plant in southwest Denver. When the lab outgrew that location, the main portion of Denver Water’s lab moved to Colorado State University’s Spur campus at the National Western Center.

An auxiliary lab, named in Hanley’s honor, was placed in the utility’s renovated Quivas Building, named for its location on the 500 block of Quivas Street, near its Operations Complex southwest of downtown.

“Jim worked directly with our Water Quality Operations team to help transform the office space at Quivas to accommodate our needs,” said Fred Sanchez, who recently retired from his position as water quality manager.

“Jim was a pleasure to work with and one of the most passionate individuals I’ve known at Denver Water,” Sanchez said. “It was an easy decision to honor his memory in this way. It’s a small way we’ll always be able to remember him.”

A wall plaque at the entrance to the Hanley Lab includes his smiling face, a reminder of the man who listened to people, got to know them and genuinely cared about them. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Hanley grew up in Delta, on Colorado’s West Slope.

An outgoing and athletic student, he played baseball, was the quarterback of his high school football team and also student body president. He later moved to Arizona, where he worked as a travel agent for 20 years.

With a lifelong love of learning, Hanley was a voracious reader, often reading multiple titles at once. He loved reading about health, science, philosophy — often the ancient Greek philosophers — and a wide range of other topics.

“My dad was very much an educator and was constantly soaking up information, to the point that many people told me he was the most intelligent person they knew.” said Christina Crutcher, Hanley’s daughter. “He always found a way to turn things into teaching moments.”

In addition to his love of books, Hanley — an avid fly-fisherman — was passionate about wildlife, habitat protection and the environment. He loved spending weekends on a river.

But Hanley was most passionate about his large family.

Employees remembered Hanley talking warmly about his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. With family members spread across different states, Hanley made trips to visit everyone, including his son who lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Hanley’s wife, Rhonda Schriock (center), holds a wall plaque dedicating the Jim Hanley Lab at the Quivas building. Surrounding her are members of his family, including children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Photo credit: Denver Water.

Even then, there was a Denver Water connection.

“When our family would get together, he would sit all the kids down and teach them about water,” Crutcher said. “He was so proud of working at Denver Water and loved his work so much that he talked about it all the time.”

His career at Denver Water was his second career, one his family said he never thought of as a job. Hanley was fascinated by all the aspects of Denver Water, including water collection, treatment, distribution and operations.

“It didn't matter where I went — the treatment plants, the Quivas Building or anywhere on the Operations Complex — Jim was there too,” said Nicole Poncelet-Johnson, director of water quality and treatment. “Jim made things better everywhere.”

To Hanley, the people were the most important part of Denver Water. Often seen driving a John Deere ‘Gator’ utility vehicle around the Operations Complex, Hanley would smile and wave at everyone he saw.

A wall plaque at the entrance to the Hanley Lab includes his smiling face, a reminder of the man who listened to people, got to know them and genuinely cared about them as he was a friend to everyone.

“He loved going to work and worked every minute of every day,” said Rhonda Schriock, Hanley’s wife of 17 years. “He was so proud to work with such wonderful people and loved the love that everyone gave him.”