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Celebrating 80 Years - Mrs. Penrose and a Place of Spiritual Solace, 1956, Pauline Chapel

Tags: #Celebrating80Years Penrose Legacy

Julie Penrose

#Celebrating80Years: 2017 marked 80 years of working with Colorado’s nonprofits as they seek to strengthen their communities. Throughout 2018, we will be looking back on this history of the outstanding organizations and people the Trustees have had the opportunity to support. On the blog you will find a history of the Foundation’s grant making and a representative organization from every year since our founding in 1937.


El Pomar in 1956:

On January 23, 1956, Julie Villiers Lewis McMillan Penrose passed away in Glockner-Penrose Hospital, in the presence of nearly twenty friends and family members. The Colorado Springs Free Press reported “The legendary lady who gave so much to so many makes her final journey today” and more than 125 people crowded into the memorial service at Pauline Chapel. Colorado Springs mayor Harry Blunt commented “Her loss will be deeply felt all over the state. She has given so much to so many.”

Buried alongside Spencer Penrose at the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Mrs. Penrose left more than $9 million to El Pomar Foundation. At the time of her death Mrs. Penrose was 86 and her gift ensured that while her loss was felt throughout Colorado, the generosity she and Mr. Penrose embodied would endure through the work of their Foundation for many years.

With Mrs. Penrose’s passing, the Foundation entered a new stage, in which the stewardship of the Penrose legacy transferred from the Penrose’s to Trustees outside of the family. From 1956 until today, the Trustees and staff of the Foundation have remained committed to careful management of its assets and grant making which honors the Penrose’s intent to care for and promote the well-being of the people of Colorado. Due to the addition of funds to the endowment following Mrs. Penrose’s death, the combined total assets in 1956 were $21 million.  As a result, El Pomar’s grant making reached an unprecedented level; the $1.3 million granted in 1956 was the equivalent of $11.6 million today.


Pauline Chapel, 1919

Grantee Spotlight: Pauline Chapel (Diocese of Denver)

The Pauline Chapel was built in 1919 by Spencer Penrose on behalf of his wife. Julie Penrose was a devout Catholic and her interest in charitable giving encouraged the couple to establish El Pomar Foundation as a means to give back to the communities of Colorado. During World War I, Julie’s faith became her place of refuge as her daughter, Gladys, and her granddaughter, Pauline, were trapped in German-occupied Belgium. Upon their safe deliverance, Julie sought to name the chapel after her granddaughter, Pauline. Initially, this was a point of controversy within the Catholic Church, as parishes were not allowed to be named for individuals who had not been canonized as saints. In 1925, however, St. Paul’s Catholic Church was established within the Diocese of Denver with the Pauline Chapel under its care.

Following Spencer’s death in 1939 along with the devastation of World War II, Julie turned again to her faith as a source of comfort, and the chapel was adorned in exquisite decorations that remain today. Among the adornments are an ivory and silver crucifix from Spain, a gilded tabernacle from Mexico, and four chapel kneelers that belonged to King Louis XVI. Also included are Flemish statues of St. John and the Virgin Mary dating back to the early 16th Century. The final addition to the chapel before Julie’s death in 1956 was a pipe organ and chimes.




Images from the Broadmoor Hotel and El Pomar's collection

Spotlight by Matt Nuñez