Jim Hudson was an engine of progress for Silverthorne
May 13, 2017
James R. Hudson came from humble beginnings to start Summit County's first car dealership. In doing so, he made a name for himself and became a respected pillar of the community, working all the time to improve the town of Silverthorne and lives within the community.
Hudson died on March 24, 2017, shortly after his 92nd birthday. He passed away peacefully at his home in Arvada, surrounded by his family. Hudson's funeral was April 21 with full military honors, and his family is still trying to come to terms with their loss.
While automobiles undeniably played a major role in Hudson's life — his first home was above a dealership, he met his wife at a dealership and he drew his livelihood from dealerships for years — to those who knew him best, Hudson's life went well beyond the automobile industry.
Guided by his Christian faith, the man they knew as "Jim" was a tough businessman, a strong community partner and deeply committed to the place he lived. He also was a loving father and grandfather, a great husband, and a transformative figure for the town.
"A lot of what you see (here today) is the development along that highway of Silverthorne, (and that) is an end result of what Jim had spurred along because there was nothing along like that," said Mike Smith, who met Hudson when the dealership first opened.
Smith's business was based in Silverthorne at the time, and he was also working for the Public Service Company of Colorado. Smith helped Hudson to set up power, and they became good friends.
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"He was kind of a pioneer in the town of Silverthorne," Smith said, and longtime Silverthorne resident and former public works director for the town, Bill Linfield agreed, saying that Hudson's business arrived at the right time, when there wasn't much here, and it helped the town grow into what it is today.
"I think cars were a way to meet people and take care of them," said Jim's daughter, Lynne McMahon, who now runs the dealership. "Because you're constantly servicing people — when someone is looking for a car, you're helping them find that small part of their dream, that small excitement in their life or that car that's going to take care of their needs — you meet all walks of life, and I think Dad enjoyed that more than anything."
The early years
Jim Hudson's story begins in Trenton, Missouri, on March 4, 1925. He was born the middle of three children with two sisters. Perhaps it's a little too perfect, but Jim's first home was nestled above a Chevrolet auto dealership.
Unique for the time, his parents divorced when Jim was young, and life wasn't easy for him growing up.
After the split, Jim landed with his paternal grandparents. Like many other families of the 1930s, they struggled to make ends meet, but in the end, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to the boy.
Sadly, Jim's grandmother fell ill and died when he was 13. However, before she passed, she would give him her Bible after he was done with school, play, chores or whatever was on his schedule that day, and have him read Scripture with her.
These lessons in faith would stick with Jim throughout the rest of life, and he rarely missed a Sunday service, according to his family.
Meanwhile, Jim's grandfather, James Henry, worked hard for the railroad, leaving early Monday and coming home late Friday. Jim didn't spend a lot of time in the house, but whenever his grandfather was around, so too was Jim, and they loved each other dearly.
Jim's grandfather was easily one of the most powerful figures in Jim's life, and Jim learned a lot from him, including one of his grandfather's favorite sayings: "Don't ever do anything to shame your name."
That too was a lesson that stuck with Jim as he grew into a man, a husband, a father and a respected businessman in Summit County.
In the service
Seeing many men from his hometown drafted into service at the start of World War II, Jim enlisted himself in the U.S. Navy, even though he was 17 years old, underage and still in high school. To get in, Jim had to take his tests early to finish school, which he passed, and get his grandfather to sign for him, which he did.
In the Navy, Hudson served two tours, working as an aviation ordinance man, a weapons specialist and as a radioman. His duty took him across the world, to airbases in Jacksonville, Pensacola and Whiting Field, Florida, and Philadelphia and Australia, as well as to locations in Greenland and England.
This is likely, at least in part, why Jim was so deeply patriotic, and he always loved the Fourth of July.
Building a family
Soon after leaving the Navy, Jim took night-school classes and started a career in the finance sector, becoming an officer for Park National Bank. It was there he would be pursued by a longtime customer, a Chevrolet dealer, and cars came roaring back into Jim's life in a big way.
The auto dealer convinced Jim to come work for him, and it was at this point Jim entered into his first marriage and had a son, Joe. The marriage didn't last, and Jim left Missouri with his eyes set on Denver. It proved to be a blessing in disguise.
In Denver, Jim got a job with the Murphy-Mahoney Chevrolet dealer at 29th and Speer. While he was working there, a young woman came by one day asking for directions to the Chevrolet Motor Division in Denver, where she was looking to apply for a job.
The way the story goes, Jim told the owner rather firmly, "You need to hire this woman." And they offered her the job. However, she told the office manager she didn't want to work there, but the manager replied, "Yes, you do."
It wasn't long before one of the owners suggested that Jim and the young woman should date. That is how Jim met Lorraine, and they would remain together as husband and wife, truly inseparable, for 53 years.
"He was a man beyond my wildest dreams, and I could never figure out why such a great-looking guy like him could be single," Lorraine said.
Smith said he always admired the Hudson's relationship: "They were more than a married couple. They were partners; they worked together. Jim has always had a lot of respect for family. He served his country and he served his community well."
Finding his home
Having worked at car dealerships long enough, Jim had decided he wanted his own.
As a condition of agreeing to marry him, Lorraine had demanded they remain in Colorado, and Jim agreed.
However, the world has a way of changing even the best-laid plans, and two partners at a dealership in Missouri were in trouble and wanted to sell. Lorraine was working at a bank at this point, and the couple moved to Missouri to help sell the dealership.
It took 21 months, but Jim and Lorraine were able to return to Colorado. They landed in Fort Collins, where Jim went to work for another Chevy dealer.
Not wanting his son to have to move again, Jim promised Joe the family would stay put until he had graduated high school.
It was also in Fort Collins that the couple welcomed a new addition to their family with the birth of their daughter, Lynne.
In Colorado, Jim also became a father figure to Lorraine's three brothers, who were all younger than Jim and in rough patches of their lives. However, with Jim's influence, all three eventually straightened up and joined the service before going on to lead productive lives.
In death, Jim is survived by his wife, two children and eight grandchildren, in addition to a host of nieces and nephews.
In 1974, Jim finally realized his dream of owning a dealership, buying a car lot in Lake County. Saying Hudson's dealership came from humble beginnings might be an understatement.
In Leadville, they moved into what had been the company store at the Climax Molybdenum Mine, a building that had been moved itself from up on the pass. Taking the building into town, part of it fell over the mountain.
Still, with this building, which they would later give a fresh paint job, Jim, Lorraine and a business partner, Bill Benway, started Hudson and Benway Chevrolet, Oldsmobile. Benway ran the shop, and Jim ran the business.
"If you ever saw what (Jim's) place was like in Leadville, it was just absolutely like a starting garage compared to what he built down here," Smith said.
After five years in Leadville, as the mine was cutting back, Chevrolet requested Jim get a new building. Seeing the potential for growth in Summit County with the completion of Interstate 70 and the Eisenhower Tunnel, Jim and Lorraine began looking for the perfect spot to build there.
Initially, General Motors was deathly opposed to the move, but Jim had a way of predicting positive outcomes and "was a force to be reckoned with," his family said.
Believing he was right, Jim stuck to his guns, fought hard to get General Motors' blessing, and with it, bought land in Silverthorne before opening Jim Hudson Chevrolet Oldsmobile in July 1979.
Hudson's dealership became not only the first car dealership in the county, but one of the first major businesses in Silverthorne. The town had only been founded 12 years prior.
"He actually initially looked at land on Rainbow Drive where the Outlets are now," said Linfield. "Back in the '70s (the Hudson dealership) was probably one of the, if not the, biggest businesses in Silverthorne and so he was an important cog for the town as the town was just beginning to develop."
Three years later, the mine folded, and Leadville's car dealers felt the effects. Meanwhile, the Hudson dealership celebrates 43 years this summer.
A hard move
Jim suffered a severe stroke in 1986, and doctors feared he would never walk again. However, Jim recovered enough to regain his mobility. Still, it was not a full recovery, and he could not go back to work like he did before.
The good news, however, was this meant Jim could spend more time with family and focus on having some fun, while he still took some business meetings from home.
A respiratory disease ultimately took Jim and Lorraine out of the mountains and forced a move down to Arvada five years ago.
This was Jim's last home, and he died there peacefully, surrounded by family.
Lynne said moving away from Summit County was one of the hardest things her parents had to do, and it continues to be hard on her mother.
A lasting legacy
In a fitting piece of irony — and to the great amusement of his family — the vehicle that came to take Jim's body to the mortuary was a Dodge. Jim was known for driving his white Chevy Suburban, and his family was thankful it was at least an American-made automobile.
While the Hudson name remains on the Silverthorne dealership and Jim's daughter has taken control of the business, cars were only one significant piece of Jim's life.
His friends remember him as a strong businessman, a caring husband and father, and a man who fought hard for what he believed in. Much bigger than cars was Jim's commitment to family, community, country and his faith.
Lynne describes her father as a "guy's guy" who loved the outdoors, fishing and football. She'll always remember that time with him.
"Nothing was easy," Lynne and Joe said. "He was always trying to do so much for so many in a finite amount of time. He was met with great obstacles, but he met them with a smile and figured out his way through it."
Kailyn Lamb contributed to this report.