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Vi June, Westminster’s first woman mayor, long-time political voice and newspaper columnist, died Saturday Aug. 15 surrounded by family.

She was 88 years old.

Viola “Vi” Helen Beste was born in Saulk Centre, Minn. in July 1932. She married Bob June in 1954 and together they had six children.

Vi and Bob’s oldest daughter, Karen Pilgrim of Englewood, said her mother was a force.

“She had a huge personality,” Pilgrim said. “She wasn’t a huge person, but she had a huge personality. I think anyone who knew her can relate to that.”

In a 2011 Westminster Window column, she recounted her history with the city.

“We came to this small town of about 8,000 in 1957 because it had a housing development we could afford a home in,” she wrote.

“I decided I could make a difference…”

Her career in journalism began in 1963, working part-time as a reporter for the weekly Adams County Dispatch. She later worked as publisher for several community papers around the northern metro Denver area, including the Window, the Northlgenn-Thornton Sentinel, the Arvada Sentinel, Brighton Blade as well as community papers in Broomfield, Commerce City and Aurora.

She began her political career in 1965, winning a seat on the Westminster City Council. In the 2011 column, June said it was the growing pains around the burgeoning city that convinced her to run — especially concerns about the city’s water supply.

“I decided I could make a difference on the council and after convincing my husband Bob that I could serve and not neglect our family of five children, 7 years old and younger, I ran and was elected, winning over the mayor, Jerry Oshea, and a few other council members,” she wrote in 2011.

She went on to serve the city as an elected official for the next 16 years, first as a City Councilor and then as Mayor from 1975 to 1981. Early on, she was instrumental in negotiating Westminster’s involvement in Standley Lake, securing a consistent water supply for Westminster residents. She want on to lead the city as it grew beyond its historic boundaries.

“And that, dear readers, is why Westminster could grow into the 25-square-mile city it has become,” she wrote in 2011.

Bill Christopher, Westminster city manager from 1978 through 2001, said it was a pleasure to work with June as mayor.

“Vi was the strongest and most savvy mayor who I had the pleasure of working with,” Christopher said. “She always had the interest of the people as her focus and was willing to stand up to champion their interest. She was a dear friend and mentor to me. Her passing leaves a huge emptiness for us in Westminster.”

She was later elected to serve as a representative for House District 35 in the State Legislature for eight years, from 1991 through 1998, serving as the minority whip to House Democrats in 1994.

Stories to tell

She stayed involved in writing, penning columns by hand for the Westminster Window and Northglenn Thornton Sentinel on a regular basis, offering views on local issues, poetry, state trivia and glimpses into her personal life.

She was honored in 2010 as one of the 100 History Makers in Westminster. In the book that was published about the city’s first 100 years, she estimated that she had written more than 2,000 columns “…on topics ranging from family matters to education to local politics.”

“I have lots of stories to tell and being part of the 100 History Makers who contributed in some substantial way makes me feel very honored,” she wrote in 2011. “Believe me, my 55 years spent as a citizen and participant in the city’s growth has made for a deep and abiding interest in keeping Westminster a good place to raise a family. Trust me, I know Westminster. I love it and hope you do too.”

She was honored again in May 2018, winning the Westminster Legacy Foundation’s first lifetime achievement honor, the Nancy Heil Award.

“The powers that be said I don’t need to talk, but how could I dare not talk?” June said at the foundation’s inaugural award breakfast. “I just want to say thank you to all of you. I am deeply honored and humbled and I hope to continue serving Westminster in my retirement.”

Her March 19, 2015 column discussed losing her spouse Bob a year earlier.

“I never realized what a terrible change occurs when the death of a spouse changes one’s whole world,” she wrote. “But life does go on and one day you wake up, the sun comes up and the sorrow seems more bearable. And that awful heavy feeling doesn’t permeate as much.”

She is preceded in death by her husband, Bob a son, Davey and granddaughter Erin Crowley.

She is survived by five children; Karen Pilgrim of Englewood, Nancy White of Morrison, Mary June of Thornton, Dan June of Golden and Kate Crowley of Arvada; ten grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

She had moved to the San Marino Retirement Community in 2015 and continued to write columns for the Window until March 2016. Daughter Karen Pilgrim said she had moved out of San Marino prior to her death so she could be with her family.

The family has not scheduled a formal service. Open visitation is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Aug. 27 and from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Aug. 28 at Horan and McConaty in Arvada, 7577 W 80th Ave.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donation in her name to the Little Sisters of the Poor, 3629 W. 29th Ave., Denver, CO 80211; Westminster Legacy Foundation, 4800 W. 92nd Ave., Westminster, CO 80031; or to the charity of the donor’s choice.