Posted by: Tara Miller • 07.10.14Sunlight glistened on Wynkoop Plaza outside Denver Union Station as a woman with bright white hair stared intently at the orange Travel-by-Train sign atop the historic building.
It was her final visit to the Denver landmark – one she remembered well from childhood. On that day, the woman wore a bright orange safety vest and a white hardhat, and leaned against a walker that helped her stand tall on the paved plaza as memories washed over her in waves.
Union Station means something different to different people, but for Lois Seymour it has meant 87 years of memories with her grandparents, parents and children. Her life of train travel has been vast and her visits plentiful, but her last visit on a hot summer day in June was extra special.
It was special because Lois is terminally ill and her visit to Union Station last month was likely her last
Lois lived in Denver most of her life, but moved to California recently to be near her daughter and her family. Over the last 10 years she has become a good friend of a Denver family that volunteers at an assisted living home in the metro area.
Stu Williams, hotel and transit center program manager for Denver International Airport and a friend of the Regional Transportation District, and his daughter, Emily, visited Lois every Sunday for the past 10 years. After Lois’ daughter moved to California, the Williams clan became her surrogate family. When Lois fell ill, there was no choice but to move her to California to enter into hospice and live the rest of her life close to her daughter and her family.
But there was something Lois yearned to see one last time before leaving Denver. She couldn't help but ask herself, “What does the newly renovated Union Station look like? Will it look like I remembered it for the last 80 years?”
Naturally, Lois turned to Stu, whose team has worked collaboratively with RTD on the transit agency’s East Rail Line and DIA terminal/hotel project. Stu made some calls and the request for Lois to see the building trickled down to me.
The contractor, Milender White, was on strict orders not to offer tours or visits due to all of the final work that had to be done. But this was an exception for all of us. This was giving someone a last wish and we had the power to grant it to her. It was a no-brainer.
As Lois shuffled to Union Station’s front doors, we all held our breath in anticipation of her reaction. Would she think it was a disgrace? Or would she feel that rush of happy family memories? Thankfully, her reaction was more than we all could have ever imagined. Our eyes were affixed to her as she entered the main train hall and gazed upward to the new the chandeliers that were made to look like the original ones from the late 1800s.
“Oh my, oh my, oh my,” Lois gasped. “It is absolutely beautiful.” Her eyes filled with tears and we couldn't help but well up with emotion, too. It was a moment most of us will likely never experience again and it is one we will always cherish.
The work RTD and its contractors are doing through the FasTracks program is more than just construction of train tracks and bus concourses. We are changing the way our community can travel locally, nationally and internationally. We are making way for our children and grandchildren to have memories like Lois’. It is about the people we touch by giving them an easy way around, to allow them to spend time with family and friends.
“If people don’t think this is great, then you all need to tell them to get out and stay out,” Lois demanded while tears rolled down her face. “It is more than I could have ever imagined and I’m so thankful to have seen it.”
Union Station is reopening parts of the building to the public this Saturday, July 12. The grand celebration is scheduled for Saturday, July 26.
Lois Seymour is 87 and has spent most of her life in Colorado. She rode the train often as a child to her family cabin in the mountains and she remembers Union Station as a magical part of the journey. She was thrilled to see that RTD and its partners kept the beauty and grandeur of the building she remembers. Lois is excited a new generation will soon get to experience the magic of Union Station.
From the author: On behalf of RTD, Stu Williams and his family, and Lois Seymour and her family, we want to give a big thank you to Zach Smith, project manager for the Union Station renovation, and the rest of his Milender White team for allowing Lois to see the great train hall one last time.