A journalist and photographer who documented life in Parker and Douglas County for three decades died July 20.
Don Peitzman, the original editor of the Parker Chronicle and a staple of Douglas County journalism since the early 1990s, suffered a severe lung infection and died at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree. He was 63.
Peitzman is succeeded by his daughter Taryn, 24, and son Logan, 21. His wife, Pamela, was a meteorologist for Denver7, the local ABC affiliate. Pam died after a long battle with breast cancer in 2004 at age 40. Taryn and Logan take comfort in the belief that their parents are reunited.
“I hope they’re together,” Taryn said. “I’m sad, and I miss him, and I wish he was still here, but I’m glad he’s with my mom.”
Taryn and Logan have support from relatives who live out-of-state and have lives of their own. Logan resides in their family home in Stonegate. Taryn lives with her boyfriend in Breckenridge. Both remain in strong spirits, though they have not had much time to come to grips with their father’s sudden death.
“There’s bad times where you sit down and cry and grieve, and then you pick back up,” Logan said. “The passing of my father is very sad and unexpected, but at the same time, it gives me an opportunity to start my life … His life is not something that will crumble me and break me down, but something to launch me forward and get my life started.”
Don Peitzman was an influential member of the Parker and Douglas County community. Peitzman was a photographer and journalist for his entire time in Parker, which spanned 30 years. He most recently ran a photography business, “WOW! Photoz and Video.” Peitzman was the first editor of what is now known as the Parker Chronicle newspaper, when the News-Press purchased the Weekly Chronicle, which began in 1992. He retired from the paper in 2008.
Peitzman is remembered as an old-fashioned journalist who was unshakable, efficient and thorough.
Peitzman was mentor
Chris Michlewicz, a Chronicle reporter and photographer for 10 years, says Don was his mentor. Michlewicz spent five years working alongside Don as the two put together the Chronicle every week. From 2003-06, Don was Michlewicz’s managing editor. Michlewicz said he was 22 when he first started working with Don at the paper.
“You’re kind of thrown into the fire, a little bit. You are learning new stuff every day, you have to develop thick skin really quickly. He was instrumental in helping me develop that thick skin,” Michlewicz said. “He was a hold-your-ground kind of a guy. Stick to your guns. Chase the story if you know what’s right.”
Former colleagues say Don would attend as many public meetings as he could and tried to jam as much news as he could in every weekly paper. Before starting at the Chronicle, Don reported for the Douglas County News-Press and Castle Rock News-Press at the paper’s previous headquarters in downtown Castle Rock. All three papers, and 15 other weekly community papers, are currently owned by Colorado Community Media, headquartered in Englewood, and published weekly.
“No matter what it took, he would chase the story, even if that meant upsetting a few people along the way,” Michlewicz said. “What mattered most was getting news to the people. That’s something he ingrained in me early on.”
Don had a passion for photography, particularly. He loved nature photography. Terri Moon Cronk, a former News-Press reporter and friend of Don’s for 28 years, remembered Don always kept up with the latest trends in photography.
“He was very determined, and he was very serious, and it might have been off-putting to some people, but once you got to know him, he was different,” Moon Cronk said. “He was regimented. He had a job to do, and no matter what the circumstances were, that was his priority: getting that paper out.”
Don is credited with having taken the first-ever color photo printed in the News-Press, a photo of a woman playing with her child at the indoor pool at the Parker Rec Center around 1992, according to Moon Cronk. The archived paper could not be obtained by time of print.
Moon Cronk remembers the day fondly. A pressman, or page designer, joked to the newsroom he tried to get the “mustache” off the woman in the photo—meaning the crease appearing across the woman’s face in the photo, which was caused by the fold in the paper. Sitting around the conference room on Perry Street, Editor Richard Bangs joked that now that the paper had color, it could never go back.
“It was almost like a party,” Moon Cronk said. “It was that big of a deal.”
Photographer expanded skills
Moon Cronk said Don was a natural photographer who taught himself to write. He was the kind of man who would do anything to get the paper out on time, Moon Cronk said. In the 1990s, the News-Press was published out of a building on Perry Street in Castle Rock with about 25 people working in it, including the newsroom, designers, ad salespeople and the presses. The building had tacky carpet, various duct-taped repairs and two old Macintosh computers that look like they had fallen off the back of a truck, Moon Cronk recalled.
“We just had one hell of a family atmosphere,” Moon Cronk said. “Sports guys, copy editors, reporters — everybody pitched in and everybody got the paper out.”
Don was one of the first reporters to have a digital camera when they became commercialized in the 1990s.
Life after news career
After his time at the Chronicle ended in 2009, Don dabbled in various photo projects. He had an interest in photographing roadside memorials, cemeteries, crosses and other memorials in different mediums. He encouraged Taryn to continue her passion for videography. Taryn remembers going to the Georgetown cemetery to take photos with her dad. Taryn is currently a videographer.
“He maybe didn’t instill it in me, but he really encouraged me to keep doing it and following it,” Taryn said.
Taryn — who goes by “Scottie” — lives in Breckenridge. Logan worked in town and stayed with his father at the Stonegate home in which he grew up.
Logan knew his father suffered anxiety attacks occasionally since his mom passed. Don, being the classic, tough-spirited cowboy type, never got sick — or at least showed he was sick, according to former colleagues.
Logan spent time driving around with his father the day before and said afterward his father felt dehydrated. That evening, Don let Logan know paramedics were coming because he was having another anxiety attack.
Logan was sure he and his father would be shooting the breeze again by that afternoon and he cooked some eggs for lunch for his dad.
“His last words to me were `You are a good son. Thank you,’” Logan said.
Don was hospitalized for 11 hours at Sky Ridge before succumbing to what is still an unknown cause. Don was cared for an in an isolated ICU bed due to the hospital’s precautionary protocol to keep potential COVID patients separate from non-COVID patients.
Don took a rapid-result test for COVID-19 upon his admittance late July 19 and tested negative, according to Taryn. The nurse who cared for him told Taryn that, based on her experience, she believed Don had COVID-19. Logan, who lived with Don up to his passing, tested negative for the disease as well.
Taryn and Logan are still figuring out what to do next. They remember their father being immensely caring and a good listener. He loved his cats, he could help just about anybody solve any problem they had and got along with everybody.
Taryn wishes she could have held her father’s hand in his final moments. She takes comfort in knowing the Sky Ridge nurse made sure he was not alone.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet — when someone is only in the hospital for 11 hours, and you have less than 11 hours’ notice before they die,” Taryn said. “I feel like this is going to come a lot later, but I’ve been exhausted and inundated with support … but it happened really, really fast.”