As you were lying on the table making a contribution for life in the form of donating blood, you probably were working with professionals from the Bonfils Blood Center. I've heard the name over the years and was aware the Bonfils family were philanthropists that made a huge difference in Denver. So, just like Bonnie Brae, I decided to do a little more research and find out more about them.
Frederick Bonfils - (1860-1933)
Frederick has a bit of a checkered past. He and Harry Heye Tammen bought the Denver Post in the late 1800's. The competition between the Post and what was the more popular Rocky Mountain News newspaper got heated. In 1900, the Post was working to get convicted cannibal Alfred Packer out of prison and attorney, William Anderson, was assigned the job. After an intense argument, Bonfils and Tammen were shot by William Anderson but quickly recovered. Anderson was acquitted of assault.
Several years later, Bonfils assaulted United States Senator and Rocky Mountain News editor Thomas Patterson at the corner of 13th Avenue and Logan Street. Bonfils was convicted of assault and paid a small fine.
He made the first of the community contributions by donating seventeen acres at 9th Avenue and Colorado Boulevard to the University of Colorado for a Denver medical school campus.
After her father's death in 1933, Helen Bonfils took over management of the Denver Post. In 1946, Helen brought in E. Palmer Hoyt as the editor. Hoyt improved the quality of the paper and it became one of the most influential regional newspapers across the country.
After Helen's first husband died, Helen (69) married her 28 year old chauffeur "Tiger" Mike Davis. They divorced several years later with Davis receiving a substantial settlement.
Helen died in 1972.
May was Helen's older sister. May was estranged from the family after she eloped with a salesman at age 21. She was actually cut out of Frederick's will. After suing, May received a substantial portion of the estate, including property in Lakewood where she built Belmar, a home modelled after a Versailles palace.
With no heirs, most of the estate went for charitable purposes including the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, University of Colorado Health Science Center and many other charities across the state.
The family is buried at Fairmount Cemetery, but not together. May, still estranged in death, is buried a few hundred feet from the rest of the family that is buried in Bonfils Room of the Fairmount Mausoleum Building.
While the family faced some controversy over the years, they made incredible contributions that have changed the face of not only Denver, but Colorado as well.
To read more about the history of amazing people of Colorado, don't miss Richard E. Wood's Here Lies Colorado: Fascinating Figures in Colorado History.
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