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Chuck Waneka, Lafayette Pioneer and Champion of Community’s Agricultural Roots, Dies at 97

November 20, 2018

Front, from left, Charles "Chuck" Waneka, Lois Jane Waneka and Marilyn Waneka. Back, from left, Mark Waneka and Bill Waneka. Photo taken 1967.

Charles D. “Chuck” Waneka, the patriarch of a founding Lafayette family and bridge to the region’s agricultural beginnings, died Monday. He was 97.

As recently as this summer, Waneka could be found overseeing the harvest on his 220-acre family farm at 119th Street and Baseline Road — land acquired by his grandfather in 1883. It was the 83rd harvest in which he had participated — his first was at age 14 when the country was in the grips of the Great Depression.

In both life and business, his son Bill Waneka said Monday, Chuck Waneka was a beacon of resolve, turning childhood tragedy — Chuck was only 8 at the time of his mother’s death — into rich perspective. That outlook earned Waneka success in his craft, his son said, though often at the expense of traditional hobbies.

“He was a strong farmer,” Bill Waneka said. “But I think the only recreation dad knew was work and farming — he was never a golfer or a card player. Most of the time he could just be found farming.”

Beyond Chuck’s longtime farmer status in Lafayette, the Waneka family’s roots in the community run even deeper: Waneka’s grandparents, Adolf and Anna Waneka, came to Colorado Territory looking for gold in 1861, and settled with their children along Coal Creek south of Louisville before moving to Waneka Homestead, which is now roughly where U.S. 287 crosses over Coal Creek in Lafayette.

Bill Waneka said his great-great-grandfather was one of the first white men to move to the area in 1883, where the family operated a stage coach stop; the Waneka ancestors are considered the first permanent settlers in the Louisville-Lafayette area.

“We were in the area before the arrival of the Millers,” Bill Waneka said in a 2017 interview, referring to Mary and Lafayette Miller. The city is named for Lafayette Miller.

At the time of his death, Chuck Waneka no longer resided at the home he built on the north side of Baseline Road; instead, he was in assisted living just a mile away at The Peaks at Old Laramie Trail.

His late wife, Lois Jane Waneka, died in November 2016, not long after they celebrated 70 years of marriage.

The couple had four children, including a daughter, Ellen, who died at birth. Two other children, Mark and Marilyn, and a grandchild also preceded Lois in death.

Roughly two decades ago, Chuck Waneka began work on a commemorative area for what remains of the circa-1862 Waneka Stagecoach Stop located near the intersection of Stage Station Way and U.S. 287 in Lafayette, soon to be host to the Waneka Stagecoach Stop interpretive area, for which Waneka himself provided historical information. The site is being constructed by the city and scheduled for completion this fall.

Lafayette also has dedicated Waneka Lake Park on the eastern side of the city to the Waneka family.

Waneka’s life and contribution to the city were celebrated at The Peaks at Old Laramie Trail in July 2017 during a “This is Your Life” event .

“Chuck was one of the best in our history,” Lafayette City Administrator Gary Klaphake said Monday. “A farmer, father, fun-loving and full of life person. He will be missed.”

As of Monday, the Waneka family had not yet arranged funeral services.

Anthony Hahn: 303-473-1422, hahna@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/_anthonyhahn

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