Known for his philosophy of gentle architecture, Roger Merle Thorp died peacefully with family by his side on Sunday, April 28, 2019 in the home he designed and built.
He leaves a legacy of designs not only in Estes Park, but throughout Colorado, 15 other states, and two Canadian provinces. Roger was an award-winning architect for 47 years having selected Estes Park to set up his practice in 1976, just months before the Big Thompson Canyon Flood.
He was a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and a LEED Accredited Professional. He was respected by his peers who selected him as the 2010 AIA Colorado North Chapter “Architect of the Year.”
While all of his projects and over 40 awards were important to him, he was especially proud when local projects were honored. Examples of these include private residences, RMNP Fall River Visitor Center, Estes Park Conference Center, Community Church of the Rockies Outdoor Chapel, Performance Park Pavilion, and the sandstone Estes Park “Gateway” sign that greets visitors on US Hwy 36.
A smile always came to his face seeing the many visitors taking photos of his unique design with the majestic mountaintops as its backdrop.
While proud of and committed to his profession and clients, Roger was even more rewarded by and devoted to his family and church.
He was born in Clay Center, KS on October 9, 1946 and with two brothers was raised on a farm in the Alida community along the Republican River in Geary County, KS. It was there he learned to work hard and find satisfaction in that work. He learned life skills through participation in youth fellowship, 4-H, music, and athletics.
He met his lifelong partner and wife Verlene (Holdsworth) as a freshman at Dickinson County Community High School (DCCHS), Chapman, KS and married her on December 22, 1966 in Buckeye, KS. Roger attended Bethany College in Lindsborg, KS where he played varsity football and sang in the Concert Choir and Messiah Festival. He then transferred to Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS to study architectural design.
While there he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Scholarship for Independent Study, was a member of the Tau Sigma Delta Honor Society in Architecture and sang with the Varsity Men’s Glee Club and Concert Choir. Upon graduating with honors, earning a Bachelor of Architecture degree and a minor in Art in 1970, he was hired as project architect with Keith Ames Architect in Longmont, CO.
In 1972 he and Verlene built their home overlooking Crescent Lake in Pinewood Springs and raised their two sons there. As a family they enjoyed hiking, skiing, sledding, and many family trips together. His hobbies were reading, music, pencil drawing and watercolors.
He loved the character of dry laid stone and built with it as often as he could. He had a passion for the historic stone courthouses of Kansas which he traveled the state to document. He would also drive out of his way to photograph Carnegie libraries. AIA Colorado regularly invited him to show his artwork at its annual Art for Architects exhibition and he served as Jurist for the AIA Young Architect Awards. His artwork is exhibited in the Prairie PastTimes Gallery in Cottonwood Falls, KS.
He loved running and was a multi-year medalist in both the Rocky Mountain Senior Games and State of Colorado Games.
Music was a significant part of his entire life, both for enjoyment and participation. He was known for his tenor voice which he shared generously. He always accepted when asked to perform in local benefits like Estes Park Sings, It’s Showtime, Salute to America, Veterans Monument and Crossroads Ministry. He was a soloist with the Estes Park Oratorio Society, sang in the Men’s Chorus, church choirs, and most recently, The Uncommon Connection vocal quartet.
Roger donated countless hours to improving the Estes Park community whether for the Arts, his church, Crossroads Ministry, Boy Scout Troop 8, Rotary or championing the need for childcare. He was a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies where he served on many committees and as Middle School youth leader. He also designed the church’s Columbarium, Outdoor Chapel, and Shelter.
As a member of The Rotary Club of Estes Park, he served as chair of the Scholarship and Community Service Committees and is a Paul Harris Fellow. The family participated in the Rotary Foreign Exchange Program and hosted several Rotary Foreign Exchange Students. For exhibiting Service Above Self, he was awarded Rotarian of the Year for 2018.
He was a charter member of the Estes Park Habitat for Humanity Board and served on the Estes Valley Development Code and the Stanley Historical District advisory boards. He was a supporter of the Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies and the Cultural Center of Estes Park, and currently was serving as a director of the Estes Park Economic Development Corporation. In recognition of his accomplishments and civic involvement, he was named the 2013 DCCHS Meritorious Graduate.
Roger was preceded in death by his parents, Leslie and Rebecca Thorp, two infant siblings and older brother Loren. He is survived by wife Verlene, sons Erinn (Nicole) Thorp of Atlanta, GA, and Christopher (Rebecca) of Loveland, CO, grandchildren Adison and Aidian Thorp of Loveland, CO and Camille and Owen Thorp of Atlanta, GA, brother Robert (Deborah) Thorp of Deadwood, SD, brothers-in-law Eugene (Gloria) Holdsworth of Lindsborg, KS and Dean (Janice) Holdsworth of Abilene, KS, aunts Iva Lewis of Greeley, CO and Zelma Funston of Lawrence, KS.
He was admired for his creativity, gentle and kind spirit, integrity and humility. In memory and honor of Roger, donations may be made to the Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies Foundation, The Rotary Club of Estes Park Foundation, or the Bobby Rifkin Endowed Chair in Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Colorado Anschutz Cancer Center, all in care of Allnutt Funeral Service at 1302 Graves Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517.
A memorial service will be held Friday, May 17, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. at Presbyterian Community Church of the Rockies in Estes Park.
See www.allnuttestespark.com to send a message to Roger’s family.