Obituary: Dennis W. Lum |

Obituary: Dennis W. Lum

Dennis W. Lum September 8, 1941- July 7, 2019
Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

September 8, 1941 – July 7, 2019

Steamboat Springs resident Dennis W. Lum passed away peacefully on Sunday, July 7, 2019, at the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center at the age of 77 due to complications of vascular disease. In his life and his death, he was surrounded with the love of many family members and friends.

Born in San Francisco, Dennis spent his early years in northern California and moved to Reno, Nevada, in 1954 where he graduated from Reno High School in 1959. A long-time professor of Sociology at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, and a part time instructor of Sustainability Studies at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Dennis had an amazing love of books and knowledge. He was a voracious reader of important works in many fields including literature, the arts, politics, economics, history, food, culture, philosophy, native wisdom, and environmental and social issues. He also read many works of fiction and was a frequent user of the Bud Werner and the Colorado Mountain College libraries where he enjoyed talking with library staff and recommending books. Dennis dedicated his influential teaching career to helping his students develop a sense of empathy and a commitment to action for a more just and sustainable world.

Dennis created community by developing lasting bonds with people wherever he walked in life, whether that be to the grocery store or bank or as he undertook his professional and civic work. He encouraged people to be their best selves, and the relationships he built also made his own life rich, deep, and satisfying. Throughout his life, Dennis was a poet, a social justice activist, an incredible cook of multiethnic foods, a politically engaged citizen, an avid fisherman, a lover of gardens and the outdoors, a sports enthusiast, a poker player, and an engaging conversationalist. He had an infectious sense of humor and deep compassion for those facing hurt and injustice.

As a young man, Dennis enlisted in the Air Force and later in the Peace Corps where he did work with indigenous people on Palawan Island, speaking in their native language of Tagalog. Dennis earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History and his Master of Arts degree in Government from the University of Nevada. He also earned his Master of Arts degree in Sociology and completed his doctoral studies in Sociology at the University of California San Diego where he was a Chancellor’s Fellow, a UC Regents Fellow, and a Leopold Schepp Fellow. During his years at UC San Diego, he also received several additional scholarships and awards to support his academic work.

Dennis was preceded in death by his mother Annabelle Hong Rutherford, his father Stanley E. Rutherford, and his brother Stanley Rutherford II. He is survived by his wife Tina Evans, his daughters Kristen Lum (Robby Robison) and Stacey Lum (Jason Curran), his grandsons Garran Wishon and Taz Curran, his sisters Callie Woods and Paula Meckley (Craig), his niece Courtney Hamilton, and his nephews Hunter Hamilton, Nathan Meckley (Angelique), and Justin Meckley (Mac). Dennis is also survived by many, many friends whom he embraced as family.

Celebrations of Dennis’ life will be held August 11 at Chris Park near Durango, Colorado, and August 15 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Ceremony details will soon be made available via the Yampa Valley Funeral Home website at: In lieu of sending flowers, those who cared for Dennis are encouraged to donate in his honor to the Durango Public Library in Durango, Colorado, or the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs.

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