From Hawkeye to cowboy: A man in full
By Joe Gschwendtner; photos courtesy of Dennis Niewoehner
To know The Village at Castle Pines neighbor Dennis Niewoehner is to appreciate a spirited romantic and driven man. Now 74, his was a high-octane life. Among his many titles are: counter-intelligence agent, rancher, horse showman, author (now in the midst of a third book), philanthropist, preeminent developer, husband to Marcia for 52 years, father to two children and grandfather to five grandchildren. The story begins in 1945.
Dennis was born in Massachusetts’ cranberry bog country. Not long after, the family moved to Waverly, Iowa where his dad drove a Standard Oil truck. Home was an undistinguished clapboard house. Early on, only old Mrs. Gorham, known clairvoyant, predicted his would be a life of fame and fortune.
Success came spasmodically. Like many in the 1960s, Dennis’ college days were rife with immaturity, turmoil and change. Mere months after graduation, he was married and drafted into the military. Whatever child and nonsense remained in the man was neutralized in the Ft. Polk, Louisiana swamplands. Fortunately, the Army recognized his innate talents, making him an operational special intelligence agent in a Cold War scenario of civil unrest in Europe. Once chased by armed KGB agents through the dark streets of Frankfurt, Dennis and his double-agent linguist barely escaped. Thankfully, Dennis and Marcia left Germany with their lives and one more, Tom, their firstborn.
One leaves the Army poor; Dennis and Marcia were no exception. Entering graduate school at the University of Northern Iowa, he and Marcia traded pride for food stamps and unemployment benefits. Not enough to sustain them, graduate school was ruled out. They went west to Denver, temporarily finding a flat on a pre-gentrified Pearl Street. A police incident with bullets sparked another relocation.
In his 30s and after the birth of his daughter Susie, Dennis’ talents and hardscrabble Iowa experience came top shelf. In elves and shoemaker fashion, he parlayed bigger and bigger parcels of land and relationships with local officials and builders into a sizzling brokerage and commercial development practice. So vigorous and rapid was his success, he was able to buy a ranch in Kiowa along with a Belgian six-horse hitch that would replace the Budweiser horses in the 1988 National Western Stock Show, and lead, at least in part, a cowboy’s life.
At the height of his influence as a developer in Parker, Dennis helped preserve its soul, the original Mainstreet, as if taken right from a western movie. He also championed the Cherry Creek Trail system (contributing personal land for segments), donating 38 acres to open space and rehabilitating the 20-Mile House stage stop. Monuments to his work, philanthropy and leadership abound in Parker today.
With childhood dreams, the strong influence of author and fellow Hawkeye, Robert Waller who penned “The Bridges of Madison County” and uncommon sensitivity, Dennis is indisputably a cowboy now – well beyond an honorary title. According to friends, he’s far from his last rodeo.
Accomplished horseman and retired rancher, he invests his remaining mental capital inspiring others and telling stories, the animated ones being the best. His last book, The Transition: Winning the 4th Quarter of Life says it all. The next one, The Ranches of Douglas County may well top the charts; it will doubtless be his biggest story.