Jay passed peacefully the morning of October 11th, 2019. It was the first snow for Denver, and we believe this was for Jay. He loved the first snow of the season, as it marked the start of ski season and the beginning of his favorite time of the year. Jay loved the life, the outdoors and talking to people. Did I say talking? Jay loved to TALK. And talk. And talk.
He was born in Butte, Montana, and rumor has it took afternoon naps as a baby out on the porch in the winter weather. That’s why he could stand the cold, and his hands were always warm until the day he passed. As the oldest of five boys, growing up in Missoula, Montana, his childhood was filled with leading brothers and cousins in fun, working at his parents’ motel and playing sports. His summers were spent at Swan Lake water skiing, hiking and fishing. He graduated from Sentinel High school in Missoula then headed to Washington State University where he would meet his wife Sharon.
After taking a “gap” year, he returned to college at Montana State University in Bozeman, MT graduating with a Bachelor in Architecture and welcoming his first daughter, Kari Michelle. Jay then moved from his home state of Montana for his first architectural job to St.Paul, MN where he then welcomed a second daughter, Kimberly Ann.
The next job took the family to Jay’s Rocky Mountains in 1971. Denver would become his base and root in his soul for the next 50 years. He worked for Ellerbe Architects in Boulder before opening his own architectural firm, H. Jay Harkins & Assoc. setting up shop in the LoDo area. Jay was a pioneer in the Water Park design in the early 80’s. His work is seen at Water World in Westminster where he opened up with the first two water slides and wave pool. This led to other water park projects in California, the Southest US and Canada.
Jay’s love of the outdoors made Colorado the perfect state for him. He made skiing and camping a family sport from the day he moved to Denver. He visited every corner of the colorful state and beyond in a pop-up top Volkswagen van with two small daughters, his wife and one St. Bernard dog named Heidi. He camped at the base of the Maroon Bells, slid down the sand dunes and skied above the tree-line at A Basin before it was legal. Ski weekends were part of life for his family, and the big red dot on back of his ski suit became the guiding light through the deepest of snow, as well as his saying “I think I can, I think I can”. Jay also found a reignited love of horses with his daughter Kim, including horse shows and back country camping on horseback for many years, creating more tales to tell. Later, Jay became a self-taught rock climber and back country skier, trying always to keep up with the pros or at least having a great story about the adventure.
Jay was a member of the Westminster Rotary club hosting exchange students, organizing family ski weekends and supporting the community. His daughters attended Westy High school, where he became known as “Mr. H” attending every football game, always hosting the after party and chasing the boys away.
In his golden years, Jay permanently moved to the LoDo area becoming the self appointed mini “mayor”. Every bar knew Jay and the big white dog Stoli. He was always willing to chat, have a beer with you or a play game of pool and TALK. He loved and supported his Denver sports teams—Broncos, Rockies, CU Buffalos and Nuggets. He also spent a lot of time in Aspen with great friends skiing, snowmobiling and enjoying all that winter has to offer.
Jay will be remembered by all as a great storyteller, a best friend to everyone and a great dad! Pushing always to be the best and try harder. He was the life of the party! Yahoo! Wahoo!
“I love you Denver!” was his motto every time he came over Floyd hill and looked at the city … he loved where he lived and those he was surrounded by! We love you Dad!”
He is survived by his daughters Kari Harkins-Harrower and Kim Stine, his son-in-laws Steve Harrower and Doug Stine, his five grandsons Taylor Harrower, Tanner Stine, Chase Stine, Tristan Harrower and Dawson Stine, his ex-wife Sharon Hannas Harkins and brothers Jim Harkins, Terry Harkins and Robert Harkins.
No services will be held at this time. Jay would want you to honor him by spending a day in the mountains at 14,000 ft. doing what you love. His ashes will be spread in the mountains honoring his passion.
Donations to Santa Fe House in Littleton, Colorado.
To send flowers to Harry's family, please visit our floral section.
Santa Fe House
6509 S. Santa Fe Drive, Littleton CO 80120