Former owner of Steamboat Pilot leaves a local legacy that extends far beyond the newspaper

Charles J. Leckenby ‘s family owned the Steamboat Pilot for three generations. He passed way in Florida on Aug. 16, 2022. He was 89 years old.
Steamboat Pilot & Today archive

Like his father’s father and his father before him, Charles J. Leckenby had newspaper ink running through his blood, but his wife, Barbara Leckenby, said “Chuck” should also be remembered for all the wonderful things he brought to Steamboat Springs.

“The story of the man hasn’t been told yet because every time the story is told, it’s told within the framework of the newspaper,” Barbara said from her home in Florida, where she lived with Chuck.

“He wasn’t just the editor publisher of the Steamboat Pilot he was also a driving force up and down Lincoln Avenue.”

Leckenby died on Aug. 16. He was 89 years old.

The Leckenby legacy

Barbara agrees her husband should be remembered as part of the family that owned the Steamboat Pilot for three generations. However, she added that Chuck Leckenby was also a developer — creating communities like Captain’s Cove at Steamboat Lake, where he had a home — and the Village Green Highlands above Colorado Mountain College.

He also excelled in business as the owner of Pilot Office Supply, Pilot Printing and Tip Top Type Shop. His store was one of the first to sell Apple computers in town, and he owned several other commercial properties on Lincoln Avenue.

The child of Maurice and Esther Leckenby, Chuck Leckenby was born in 1933 and spent his early childhood in Denver. He moved to Steamboat Springs in 1946 when his father took over daily operations at the Pilot.

Leckenby shined on the football field and basketball court in middle and high school, and he excelled in skiing and swimming. He competed in two junior national skiing championships and was one of six skiers from the high school to represent Colorado at the Western State Championships at the Sun Valley ski resort in Idaho.

Get the area’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning. Sign up here:

Leckenby’s love of sports was something he carried with him throughout his life, and he enjoyed playing golf, tennis and handball. He also served on the Old Town Hot Springs board.

Returning to his roots

Leckenby graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1951 and earned a scholarship to the University of Colorado, where he pursued a degree in journalism. He was a member of the college ski team, competing in downhill, slalom, cross-county and ski jumping all four years.

He was also a member of the ROTC program at CU and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955 as a lieutenant after getting his degree from CU. He trained to be a pilot in North Carolina and later became an information officer in Spokane, Washington. He married his first wife, Nancy, while in Washington, though the couple later divorced.

Leckenby came back to Steamboat after his father, Maurice, decided to pursue his own political aspirations. Maurice asked his son to return to Steamboat, and in 1958, Chuck Leckenby came back to Steamboat and took the helm at the Steamboat Pilot.

His grandfather, Charles H. Leckenby, didn’t start the weekly newspaper, which was founded by James Hoyle in 1885. However, the first of three generations of Leckenbys started writing their legacy in Steamboat Springs since 1889.

Barbara said her husband was proud of that legacy but accomplished many other things.

Forging ahead

Under his guidance, the Steamboat Pilot continued to grow and cement its place as the community’s news source. The newspaper told the stories of the people who lived in Routt County and covered many events that would become part of the town’s history.

“His family was there in pioneer days, and so it went right up through the line,” said reporter and photographer Tom Ross, who worked at the newspaper for 36 years and through four different owners including Chuck Leckenby, before retiring in 2018.

An astute businessman with an eye for development, Leckenby’s decision to purchase 80 acres of pasture on the south side of Steamboat for $15,000 may have been the move that pushed the Steamboat Pilot into the future. The paper’s growth had been hindered by the antiquated linotype used to create the paper. It required employees to type out the week’s stories on thin lead bars, column by column.

Leckenby sold the south-side property, earning enough money to purchase a modern offset press and a computer system that made it easier to produce the newspaper. That move allowed the Steamboat Pilot to grow from a maximum of 12 pages a week to 48 pages. It also gave the paper a more modern look.

“He saw so many changes in the newspaper over decades,” Ross said. “He was always looking ahead to make sure it was up to date.”

During his tenure, Leckenby not only brought in a new press, he helped the newspaper transition from typewriters to computers. Through it all, Leckenby never lost sight of the newspaper’s mission.

Leckenby sold the newspaper in 1989 to Raljon Publishing, the same year the Steamboat Today launched as a daily newspaper. Raljon then sold the Pilot to WorldWest LLC in 1994, and WorldWest sold to Colorado Mountain News Media in 2016, which sold the newspaper again to Ogden Newspapers last January.

Made his mark

Chuck Leckenby’s son, Charlie Leckenby, said one of his dad’s greatest accomplishments was being elected president of the Colorado Press Association in 1974. It was a post held by his grandfather, Charles H. Leckenby, in 1915 and his father, Maurice Leckenby, in 1957.

“His father and grandfather had both been presidents of the CPA in previous years, so I think he was really proud of that,” Charlie Leckenby said of his dad.

Leckenby is survived by his wife of 32 years, Barbara Leckenby; his children, Erin, Laura, Lisa and Charlie; and his step-children, Tracy and Steve. Chuck Leckenby also has seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Asked what his father’s legacy might be in Steamboat Springs, Charlie Leckenby, who grew up here, didn’t have to think twice.

“His legacy is making sure that people had a voice in town,” Charlie Leckenby said. “If there were issues that needed to be addressed, that the Pilot was there to speak through them.”

In Florida, Chuck Leckenby found a passion for sailing, and he had many of his photographs of birds published in community newsletters, Charlie Leckenby said.

Additionally, Chuck Leckenby’s impact in Steamboat can still be felt today.

“There’s nothing on (Lincoln Avenue) that Chuck didn’t at one time own or have a business inside,” Barbara said. “I think he had a large impact on his community and is very proud of the growth of the sleepy little pioneer town and the businesses he grew up and down Lincoln Avenue. He was also proud of the paper, of course.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.