Earnie went to be with the Lord on March 9, 2019 with great excitement, joy, and thanksgiving, surrounded by his family and close friends. A third generation Coloradan, he was born in Pueblo, CO on May 12, 1938 to George Sites and Lucia Hopkins Earnest. At an early age, his family moved to Denver where he graduated from South High in 1956. Earnie then attended the University of Colorado and earned a degree in Political Science, Economics and History in 1960. While at CU he was elected to the All-Student Government Board, was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and was inducted into the Blue Key Senior Men’s Honorary Society. During college, he was also a disc jockey and news reporter at Boulder’s KBOL, and served as Master of Ceremonies at countless student events on the Boulder campus.
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While at CU, Earnie met and married “the light of his life,” Barbara, and began his first year at CU’s Law School. The next year, Earnie and Barb were blessed with the birth of their first child, Hillary. After graduating from law school in 1963, Earnie began his military service in Charlottesville, VA training at the US Army’s JAG School. Earnie and Barb’s son, Keith, was born in 1964 while they were serving at Fort Knox. Earnie served as the legal officer at Fitzsimons Army Hospital from 1964-66. Upon the conclusion of his military service, he was awarded the U. S. Army’s Commendation Medal for excellence in leadership.
Earnie and Barb returned to Boulder in 1966, where Earnie began his 45-year legal career. After a stint in the Boulder County DA’s office as Chief Deputy Prosecutor, in 1969, he and Jerry Caplan formed the Caplan and Earnest law firm. That firm is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary in Boulder. Earnie served as general counsel for Boulder Community and Platte Valley hospitals. Upon his retirement from the practice of law, BCH dedicated a beautiful labyrinth at its Foothills campus in his honor. Earnie served as general counsel to the Boulder Board of Realtors for over 35 years. He served as co-counsel for litigation and corporate matters for the CU Foundation for many years.
Earnie lived out his favorite quote, "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” in many ways. He served on the Board of Directors for Rocky Mountain PBS (KRMA-TV) and two years as Chair. He was a Rotarian for more than 40 years and served on its Board and as President. Rotary honored him with the “Service Above Self” Award. He was a board member of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce and for more than 30 years served as the emcee of the Chamber-sponsored 4th of July fireworks at Folsom Field on the CU campus. Who can forget those corny jokes, the whole town joining together to sing campfire songs, and those “oohs and aahs” when the sky lit up with bursts of color! He also served as emcee when the Chamber and the City of Boulder “cut the ribbon” on the new Pearl Street Mall in 1976.
He was a member of the Boards of Directors at Arapahoe National Bank and Bank One, and later the Wells Fargo Community Board. His Bar activities included serving as President of the Boulder County Bar Association, President of the Young Lawyers Section of the Colorado Bar, member of the Colorado Supreme Court Ethics Committee, and member of the 20th Judicial District Nominating Committee. At the University of Colorado, he served as President of the Alumni Association, was part of a Presidential search committee, and served on the Law Alumni Board. The Law School named him the “Private Practice Outstanding Lawyer” in 1998. He emceed the Longs Peak Council Boy Scout Banquet for many years and was the recipient of their outstanding citizen award. He was also honored as a member of the Boulder County Business "Hall of Fame" in 2007.
Above all, Earnie's Christian faith was the center of his life. He was an active member and elder of First Presbyterian Church in Boulder, where he taught adult Christian Education for more many years. He served on mission trip teams to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; Mante, Mexico with BCH; and the Philippines. He was an active supporter of Colorado Christian University. He led a men’s Bible Study (the “Friday Freaks”) in his office for more than 40 years. He also attended a Bible study group in Palm Desert, CA called the "Mulligan Group."
Earnie was a dedicated runner, completing six marathons, including the 100th Boston Marathon. He was one of the Boulder's Boldest, having run all the Bolder Boulder 10K races until his battle with Alzheimer's proved too great an obstacle. He skied for many years at Vail and Beaver Creek, but decided to trade his skis and cold weather for golf clubs and warm winters in California. He and Barb began scuba diving in the ‘70s and dove at the Great Barrier Reef, French Polynesia, the Seychelle Islands, many Caribbean reefs, and Mexico.
After Earnie retired from the practice of law in 2004, he embarked on a new career as an on-board Chaplain for Holland America Cruise Lines. During the next decade, he and Barb travelled the world while serving the Lord. His “flock” included passengers and crew members who hailed from many nations.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara, daughter Hillary Johnson (Eric), his son, Keith Earnest (Jana), his brother Craig Earnest, his cousin Janet Beardsley, and his wonderful grandkids, Allie and Matt Johnson and Brooke, Connor, and Graham Earnest. He was preceded in death by his parents and his stepmother, Peggy Tague Earnest.
He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, dedicated attorney, loyal friend, and a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Earnie the Attorney enriched our community and our lives and we loved him very much.
Contributions in Earnie’s memory may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or First Presbyterian Church. A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, March 20 at 4 p.m.