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Celebration of life, bench dedication for Denver fitness legend John Gillingham

John Gillingham
Posted at 5:05 PM, Jun 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-06 19:29:08-04

DENVER -- A local legend was remembered Sunday with a final tribute to his decades-long career dedicated to keeping people moving.

John Gillingham died at the age of 92 last July, but his friends and family decided to wait until now to hold a larger celebration because of the pandemic.

"This was really our first opportunity to bring all of the people who loved him together and who worked out with him for years," friend and organizer Betty Garrison said.

Gillingham was a staple in the fitness community and still worked up a sweat in his final years.

"Picture this: a 90-year-old man having 20 to 50 of us running up and down the stairs and the bleachers at Red Rocks. He was a legend just in that respect," Garrison said.

He's a legend with an impeccable resume, including his work with the Broncos and former Colorado governor Dick Lamm.

"I miss how dear he is. How much he brought people together as friends," Garrison said.

The decades-long memories shared among all of the people he's exercised with are sometimes hard for even his own grandchildren to believe.

"It feels a little bit like we're here celebrating Forrest Gump. Like, it's everywhere we go ... there's someone different from a different era, huge moment, that he was somehow involved with," grandson Sam Ripley said.

Now, future generations will learn of his dedication to fitness with a plaque on a Wash Park bench near the recreation center.

The words on the plaque, "There is no stopping," are a permanent reminder from Gillingham to keep moving.

"He was a wonderful man in that respect and very much knew when to push you because you had more," Garrison said.