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Danny Graul -August 17, 1950 – October 23, 2020 – Singing His Spirit Home

October 23, 2020

September, 1979, Nancy and Danny. Adams County Blue Grass Festival. Molly, all of 2 years of age was there too somewhere.


Westward Portrait of Danny G.


Everyone should have a friend like Danny Graul.

He made it to seventy on his birthday, August 17 and then two months more. He had wanted to do that. He also asked to see our grandson, Teddy and one day just before he slid into unconsciousness I managed to bring Teddy by – a 17 month old little boy trying to figure out what he was looking at but Teddy responded when Danny said “Hi Teddy” and then “thanks Rob” to me. The beginning and the end of life…

At 10:48 this morning the hospice nurse Blanche stopped the oxygen to Danny’s system. He was still breathing with difficulty, gasping for air. Both of his sisters, Eileen and Sherry were present along with brother-in-law Roger. His housemate, Jennifer Norton, whose care and affection had extended Danny’s life for who knows how long was present too, along with Nancy who stopped by briefly and me. Another life-long friend, Becker, was nearby, concerned about COVID-19, but there in spirit.

As the oxygen tube was removed from his nose Miles Davis’s music was playing in the background with Davis’s biography on the shelf nearby. As family and friends grew in the apartment where Danny lay dying, I figured it was time to say good bye to Danny, kiss his forehead one last time, whisper that we love him and make my exit.  Too many people were accumulating in the room  in these COVID-19 days. Besides, when people begin talking all this nonsense of his “going on to meet his maker”, “God will take care of him” my stomach starts to churn, I feel like I’m suffocating and before I say what’s on my mind, … time to leave, which I did.

That he lasted as long as he did with all that put into his body and the ways he abused it for most of his life is a testament to his strong constitution. A first class juvenile delinquent, drug addict in his youth, his addictive personality remained a part of his being his whole life. He never really shook it but the focused changed from drugs to sports, jazz and more than anything else movies. Much healthier. If there were an olympic medal for movie going, Danny and his companero of decades, Becker, would be right up there for the gold medal. He’d see a film and – if it had some political impact – would just about insist that I go see with him and that we talk about it afterwards.

And he owned a used book store, Black and Red up in Arvada around 80th and Wadsworth, a successful one.

Well it was more than a used book store as it sold videos, records, cd’s as well as fancy games the names of which I can’t remember and never cared to join in with.. Occasionally he’d buy up rather special collections and thinking because I read a lot I could help him price them… which of course I couldn’t. It’s one thing to read a lot and quite another to know the business of books, of which I was, and remain mostly ignorant. But like the movie going, it was his way of involving me, of not letting our friendship die. In the end I think we both knew what it was about… just maintaining our friendship.

Black and Red was a successful used bookstore in an era where used book stores were dying on the vine, and Danny was a big reason for its success, his personal touch, his warmth, his virtual universal empathy for anyone down and out and despite growing up in a family well endowed financially and himself materially well off, if not spoiled, he never lost his sympathy for the working class and the poor; he deeply hated racism, homophobia, sexism in all its forms – although he ran into all three regularly. Of course being one of the most disorganized people I have ever come across it’s hard to believe that he ran a successful business – but he did, thanks competent store managers who kept the place in order. But he was key to its success.

Danny had so many insecurities… and once a person got to know him it was pretty clear that he was most of his life “an easy touch.” The number of people who milked him for money, drugs and other favors – who took advantage of his good nature – are well known, if not legendary. It took him most of his life to understand that hard lesson: one doesn’t buy friendship, even if one craves it.

There is one woman whom on his behalf I would like to personally strangle for the way she systematically ripped him off big time… we all know who she is – and she knows we know. But then, I’m a pacifist and I can’t even go kneecap her. There’s the fact that it was his struggle, not mine and even those of us who were his good friends knew – and told him repeatedly – that we couldn’t fight his battles for him, only give him advice that he agreed with but never took because it hurt too much. That said, it was his insecurities and his sense of honesty about them, the way he could let them all hang out, discuss them – that drew me to him for the 47 or 48 years of our friendship, a man whose mother once told him that she cursed the day he was born – something that wounded him deeply his whole life. I knew that I had most of the same insecurities Danny expressed, perhaps a little more manageable, but really not much. He wasn’t just “my friend” but our friend – Nancy cared for Danny, loved him as much as I do.

Jack Galvin, Scottie Keating, Joe Grindon, now Danny Graul – a Jewish kid’s “recovering” Catholic friends! How I loved each of them. How fortunate I have been to have had them in my life.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. William Conklin permalink
    October 23, 2020 3:01 pm

    He is an extremely lucky guy to have such a nice eulogy. If his consciousness has survived death, and there is a chance that consciousness is not created by the brain but is transmitted by the brain, then it is possible he is aware of this piece.

  2. Barbara Millman permalink
    October 23, 2020 3:25 pm

    Oh I’m sorry for him and you, Rob.

    Danny and I long ago had a brief flirtation I think, of course around film. Before he needed assistance getting around.

    We sat together once at a festival film and I was comfortable talking with him and then someone warned me he was into drugs and I was no longer interested. For some reason I thought he was Jewish. Maybe the troubled soul I intuited or his intellect.

    I’m sorry for your loss, Rob. I’m glad you have a granddaughter who delights you already.

    Take care of yourself. Barbara

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Chris Kendall permalink
    October 23, 2020 7:44 pm

    Thank you, Rob, for this honest and loving tribute. Danny was one of a kind, and he had a
    heart that stretched for miles in every direction. Yes, people ripped him off and took advantage, but no one could diminish him. I never heard him complain for a fraction of the wrongs done to him. It was always, “So what’s going on with you?” or “Hey, we need to go to a hockey game – lemme check what’s coming up.” I’ve been real careful about the CoVid myself, so I had not visited him in months, and now, of course, I wish I had. Well, I knew this day was coming, so I’ll just put those regrets in the trunk. And, blessings on Jennifer Norton, who has been such a constant support and companion to him. “She’s a good soul,” was what he always said about her, and so she is. Jack, and Scott and now Danny, three friends we’ve shared. The world is poorer for their passing, tho most of the world will never know it.

  4. Nancy Mc permalink
    October 23, 2020 11:34 pm

    So touching…..Know his store…..Have felt his loving energy. May he rest in beautiful peace.

  5. Niki P permalink
    October 25, 2020 10:38 pm

    He and that place literally formed a huge part of who I am today.
    I was only a teen when I knew him but I spent hours in his store meeting others, having my eager eyes and mind pride wide open.
    Even though I was a “freak” and so young he never treated me with anything but respect and kindness. He genuinely listened to me – and I was just a babe. But he respected me.
    He treated me not as a kid but as…an equal.
    I am too emotional to write more right now but I just wanted to share a minuscule moment in his life that made such an enormous impact on mine.
    I hadn’t talked to him in decades but always wondered how he was, what he was up to, hoping he was well.
    My heart breaks for all who knew him.
    I’m sure he wasn’t listening to, hearing all that stomach churning nonsense….
    Just the music.
    Thank you for sharing his story.
    Being his friend.
    What an amazing human we were lucky to know.
    For 48 years or just a few.

  6. Hope J McDonald - aka The Hopeinator permalink
    October 26, 2020 9:59 am

    Hi Rob! Thank you for sharing your moments in time with ‘The Grauler’ – That is what us ‘kids’ called him back in the mid-late 90s – I worked at Black & Read for a few years after Danny collard me at The Mayan and pestered me to come work for him. – I finally took him up on his offer and my time at ‘The Black’ – really shaped who I am today as a woman of 50 years now. So many great memories and Danny-isms : ‘You kids are alright..’ – ‘You kids are going to heaven.’ – ‘God love ya!’ – and of course the myriad of nicknames that everyone seemed to acquire! I was known as ‘The Hopester’ or, my favourite: ‘THE HOPEINATOR!’ – I giggle now when I hear his gravelly voice shout that across the store!!! Danny was larger than life and lived it as such!!! I hope that wherever his is now he has the best seats in the house and a nice buffet of desserts and other tasty comestibles to choose from. Gonna miss you boss – keep smiling and be happy! <3 The Hopeinator

    • October 26, 2020 12:42 pm

      I think I met you early on Hope… Regardless, thanks so much for your comments

  7. Tim Vargo permalink
    October 26, 2020 5:03 pm

    (This is a copy of my FB post)

    One of my first jobs in high school when my family moved to Arvada was working at this little used book and record store called Black and Read. I got the job because I had hocked a bunch of my parents CD’s. He gave them back and allowed me to work off what I owed and then for some reason he kept me on, he saw something in me, and I knew then I was in the company of a good soul. At the time it also had a cute little coffee shop in the back, where I was first exposed to live poetry etc. The owner of that store was a gentleman named Danny. For those of us that knew Danny we all knew how unique he was, he had an incredible passion for films but more so than that he created an environment for people wanting to find a place to fit in when we were struggling within the halls of our high school. I only worked at black and red for about a year, formally, but continued to do side work for him often. I forged some great friendships working there and Danny was one of them. Whenever I would walk in he would be overly excited to see me invite me back to sit and chat for a while and always hook me up with some pretty cool things that he thought I might like. I haven’t talked to Danny in probably 2 years now… And that’s a bummer. RIP Danny – Tim-Bosia! (What he always called me).

    Thank you for writing this.

  8. October 26, 2020 7:23 pm

    Note – I have received a number of comments about this blog entry on Danny Graul on Facebook. I add them – and their authors – just below:

    Zia Meranto – “I wish I had known him. Thanks for sharing

    Reema Wahdan – Sorry for your loss

    Chuck Lomis (relayed by Barbara Millman) – Carol forwarded your lovely remembrance of Danny to me. Danny and I went back a few decades to the eighties when I ran the Boulder Public Library Film Program and worked at the Video Station. We would also get together at some point during the Telluride Film Festival when he could still survive the high altitude and of course, the Denver Film Festival where our similar taste in movies would often find us at the same screening. As you wrote so eloquently, Danny was a gentle soul who always made one feel special. I remember when I first introduced my son to Danny how he made sure to tell him how cool his dad was which coming from Danny was high praise indeed. The pandemic made sure we had not seen one another in some time but he was never far from my thoughts. I will miss seeing him and Bob at the movies but I am sure wherever Danny is now residing he has his own special screening room. Those whose lives he touched will sorely miss his kindness, warmth and empathy. Thank you again for perfectly capturing the essence of Danny’s gentle soul and sharing it with us. I will miss him dearly. Sincerely, Chuck Lomis

    Kathy Pile – So sorry for your loss hope your fond memories bring you joy in the days to come.

    Linda Rihel – I am so sorry for your loss

    Mary Ellen Cuthbertson Garrett – So very sorry for your loss, Rob…

    Daniel Walker – I’m sorry to hear that, but thank you so much for reminding me what a kind and interesting person Danny was.

    Michelle McDonald – Aww Rob..what a beautiful tribute …I’m so sorry for your loss

    Paula Dailey – Well that was an awesome read. How special to have a friendship for that long.

    Kenneth Blakeslee – Thank you for Danny’s eulogy. In the 70’s we lived near each other in Wheatridge. We shared politics, movies, jazz and common friends. He was a very interesting, warm and generous man.

    Jay Jurie- Rob, thank you for the memorial. I hadn’t seen Danny in several years, so you suggested we go over and visit him at his bookstore. Before then, I don’t think I even knew he had a bookstore. It was a very pleasant visit, he looked like he was doing well. We were able to catch up on old times a bit and what was going on with all of us.
    I don’t know how many years ago that visit was, I’m sure at least 25. It was the last time I saw him. Now it’s sad to know he’s gone and we’ll never meet again. Though I hadn’t seen him in a while, I hadn’t forgotten him. He will not be forgotten.
    What Kenneth Blakeslee wrote about Danny, above, is true, he was a very interesting, warm and generous man.

    David Nefzger – Danny will be sorely missed

    Linda Louise Bevard – Beautiful eulogy

    Abbie Prince – Oh Danny. What a kind man

    Laurie Aronstein – Beautiful

    Wafa Faith Hallam – I’m so sorry, Rob. May your friend RIP!

    Lynn Holland – You write so beautifully on behalf of your friend, Rob. Very sorry for your loss.

    Claire Ryder – So sorry for your loss

    Kelly Lambert – Nice, very nice

    William Watts – So very sorry for your loss

  9. Charlie permalink
    October 27, 2020 3:10 am

    Dear Rob and Nancy, Thank you for your care of Danny. A couple of weeks ago or so, on impulse, I called Danny at 2:00 A.M. Denver time and woke up the hospice nurse Debbie (or Conny?); I’m not sure of her name. Anyway, she was kind and went and held the phone to Danny’s ear. She said that I was Charlie calling from Tokyo. When I identified myself, Danny made a loud tortured sound, “HRRUMM!”- a sign he knew I was calling. The nurse had told him that I was Charlie calling from Tokyo. I expressed my love and teased him that I wanted to goose and tickle him while we watched a movie. (That was our normal joke). I said, “THIS IS YARLEY BOY! YO, DANNY BOY!” Then I rambled on. After I said goodbye, Danny made the same “HRRUMM!” his reply responding right on cue. I think he heard me, and the hospice nurse thought he heard me. I will write more to you in an email. The nurse was very sweet to me. Thanks for our 3-way Zoom or Skype with Danny and Beetle. Now, I’ll try to send this.

    • October 27, 2020 8:52 am

      Dear Charlie… We shared in the wonder that was Danny Graul… Rob P.

      • S.E. Dickey permalink
        October 27, 2020 9:57 am

        He was ‘one of the good guys’ to be sure. Lovely piece on a lovely man, thank you for it.

  10. Helen Miles permalink
    November 8, 2020 4:00 pm

    Rob, Danny and the other once Catholics you grieve all have, at least, one thing in common:
    they were men who cared beyond themselves and set that into action, no matter the difficulties. Each made his part of our world… a better place. Whether it was Danny or one
    of the others, the haus got noisy, ideas were shared, food & drink came round and laughter
    filled the (sometimes cigar- smoke filled) air.
    Saw The Mayan’s marquis today; classy tribute to Danny.

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