By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– Hundreds of people turned out for a public memorial for Colorado’s 38th governor. Dick Lamm was one of our longest-serving governors. He was in office for three terms between 1975 and 1987. He died of a pulmonary embolism just shy of his 86th birthday.

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Lamm once said his job wasn’t to tell people what they want to hear but what they need to hear. His tell-it-like-it-is style earned him enormous popularity, which crossed political lines, and that was evident at his memorial where Democrats and Republicans gathered to recall a governor who they say left Colorado a better place and those around him better people.

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“Dick Lamm was my friend but more importantly he was Colorado’s friend. I would say he was the best friend the state ever had,” said Buie Seawell, who shared a friendship with Lamm that spanned five decades, dating back to his first gubernatorial campaign.

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“I didn’t see how the hell he would win. He simply said, ‘If we raise the quality of the public debate, we will have won.'”

While Lamm is best known for leading opposition to the 1976 Winter Olympics, his legacy, Seawell says, is so much more, “Colorado’s public life was never to be the same again.”

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Brash and bold, candid and fearless, a visionary and a realist, Gov. Dick Lamm leaned Republican one minute, railing against the federal deficit and illegal immigration, and Democrat the next, helping pass the nation’s first abortion rights law and fighting to protect the environment. He even ran for president as a Reform Party candidate.

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Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb was a member of his cabinet and says Lamm was complicated and unpredictable, “Only Dick Lamm could have gotten so many in this crowd, some of whom don’t care for each other but showed up because we all cared about Dick Lamm. How ironic it is that I walked out on Dick’s first inauguration for lack of diversity in his cabinet, and now through years of friendship and respect, I am giving his eulogy.”

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Webb said Lamm was a member of the greatest generation of political leadership in Colorado, “For his friends, he was our North, our South, our East and our West.”

By his own admission, Lamm was an unlikely politician, likening himself instead to a prophet who warned of a failing education system, skyrocketing health care costs, and unchecked growth. His grim prognostications earned him the nickname ‘Governor Gloom’.

But his most important titles were husband, father and grandfather.

Daughter, Heather Lamm, said that despite his demanding job he was home every night for family dinner and loved his kids and grandkids unconditionally, “The dad who taught to ski, to climb, raft, explore, travel. You taught us a deep love of history, love of adventure of a wider world of reading. We learned from you to try to see the other side of an argument, to listen to all viewpoints with an open mind, to find the good intentions under the hard words.”

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Lamm became a teacher at the University of Denver after leaving office and two of his students who spoke at his memorial also talked about the lessons he imparted, including humility, authenticity and an openness to other perspectives.

Lamm’s wife Dottie, who ran for U.S. Senate herself, called him the “love of my life,” “We had a really good life… pass the torch, release your spirit, raise your wings and fly over the Rockies.”

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Lamm is also survived by his son Scott and four grandkids.

Shaun Boyd