Evergreen's Tom Ware leaves behind a lasting art legacy

Deb Hurley Brobst
Posted 3/3/23

Evergreen’s Tom Ware was a renaissance man.

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Evergreen's Tom Ware leaves behind a lasting art legacy


Evergreen’s Tom Ware was a renaissance man.

While most of Evergreen would know Tom as a sculptor and artist, he also was a geologist, a veteran, a former Evergreen volunteer firefighter and a longtime member of the Evergreen Metro Water Board. And that just begins to scratch the surface.

Tom died Sept. 10, 2022, at his Evergreen home at the age of 94. He lost his wife of 57 years, Maryanna (“Monk”), in 2008, and leaves behind daughters Laura and Cate, four grandchildren and a great-grandson.

He was a man of many interests and abilities, his family and friends said. Tom and Monk made wine, beer and pickles and loved to make green chile. Tom was an avid fly fisherman, played softball and baseball, and was an amateur genealogist. Tom was an opera fan, loved to tell stories and to joke, was curious about almost everything, was well-read, would eat anything except broccoli, and loved to sail. He was a lovable curmudgeon with a bone-crushing handshake who liked anchovies on pizza. He also knew almost everything about Colorado’s wildflowers and mushrooms.

“Anything he believed in, he did with a lot of gusto,” daughter Laura said.

Some history

Thomas Ware III was born in Kansas City, Missouri, along with brothers Dick and Harry, and attended the Kansas City Art Institute, where his love of art began and he became known for his cartoon drawings. He attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, earning a master’s degree in geology. He lived in the Kappa Sigma fraternity house; a fraternity brother was Mort Walker, known for creating the comic strip Beetle Bailey.

Tom worked as a roughneck in the oil fields in Oklahoma, Wyoming and Colorado, and later became a consulting geologist in Denver, working to discover oil that included map-making endeavors, a successful career for about 35 years.

Tom and his family moved to Evergreen in 1961 and immediately got involved in the community.

Artful legacy

“He was really the leading arts personality in Evergreen for many, many years,” said Steve Sumner, a past executive director of Center for the Arts Evergreen. “He was the motivation for the beginning of the arts center and also gathering a lot of the sculpture that you saw on the arts center property.”

He worked to secure two Center for the Arts Evergreen gallery spaces: the first next to the Buchanan Park Rec Center and its current location in the former Bergen Park Church.

He was the inspiration for Art for the Mountain Community, now known as Sculpture Evergreen, and he also has three sculptures as part of Sculpture Evergreen’s permanent collection: “Planting Evergreen” at the library, “Kelle III” at the Evergreen Lake House and “Russ Colburn and Dog” in Bergen Park.

In 1979, Tom built a studio at his home open to sculptors and sketch artists who found their way to its inner circle known as the Warehouse Gang. They met weekly until the pandemic to sculpt together, using live models, to enhance their skills and learn from the master.

In his earlier days in Evergreen, Tom created works of art that led to being an invited participant in the Denver Own Your Own Show at the Denver Art Museum.

“He was extremely creative, especially in his later years,” said Christine Goff, who grew up with daughters Laura and Cate. “I can remember him telling me he always was about his art. But he was a geologist. I asked why he didn’t do art before, and he said, ‘Because I have a family, and I had to choose a career that I could support my family.’”

Goff said he approached everything, including art, from a scientific or academic position.

“My dad was not only an artist, but he was a true student of art,” said daughter Laura, who lived with her dad for the past 15 years in their home near Evergreen Lake. “Not only what Rodin did and how artists approached their craft. I always appreciated his curiosity.”

His sculptures, paintings and drawings moved between realistic and more abstract work. In addition to the cartoons he was famous for, “He could draw a perfect portrait, a perfect likeness of anybody. He was a miracle worker at that,” Cate said.

Other endeavors

While Tom was known for his artistic endeavors and commitment to the arts community in Evergreen, he also had interests outside of art.

  • During the Korean War, he served in the Army, stationed in Japan as a cartographer. “That was a golden time of his life despite mixed feelings about being in the military,” Laura said. “He and my mom had special times there together and made lifelong friends.”
  • While on the Evergreen Metro District board (for about 30 years), he looked out for the residents, making sure they weren’t shafted by the developers, said Mark Davidson, who served with Tom on the EMD board.

“He was pretty protective of the little guy and fairly tough on the developers,” Davidson said.

  • Tom served as a volunteer on the Evergreen Fire Department for about eight years, including fighting a major wildland fire on Mount Evans. Because he lived so close to Station 1 near downtown Evergreen, when the fire alarm sounded, he would go over the top of the hill and be among the first to respond.
  • Tom was part of a Tuesday lunch group of fellow geologists working in the petroleum industry. They met weekly for more than 25 years, and they and their families were close family friends. Laura called the lunches “one of the most cohesive parts of my parents’ lives.”

Important qualities

“By far, he was the family thread on the Ware side,” daughter Laura said. “It was multigenerational. He kept four generations somewhat connected because he cared about that.  He was interested in family, how it all fits together especially on his side of the family.”

He also believed in living each day to the fullest.

“He tried to live each day with joie de vivre – make it into something fun, and he lived that way most every day of his life, and I respect that,” Cate said.

Cate added that she admired his determination to finish any project he started.

“The endless sculptures that he created — bringing those to completion over and over is so amazingly unique to the average person in this world today,” Cate said. “People don’t have the same kind of commitment of time to things.”

Sumner called him someone who really cared about Evergreen.

“I think part of the reason why I became so fond of Evergreen was because Tom was so fond of Evergreen,” he added.

Davidson called Tom a friendly, warm person.

“When he would run into you in a restaurant, he would say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ and he really meant it. He had a genuine interest in other people and was an interesting character to be around.”

Lasting legacy

Daughter Laura has invited the Warehouse Gang to return to the Ware home to sculpt each week.

“We talk about him every week,” friend and fellow artist Barb Chiarella said. “His presence is all over the walls of his studio, and his stories come up all the time.

“He was a special man to me — a mentor, a teacher, very generous,” she said. “I lost a very special person in my life.”

“He was a treasure to the community,” Goff said.

Daughter Cate put it simply: “His good side ran deep.”

Tom Ware, Sculpture Evergreen, Center for the Arts Evergreen, Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department


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