Jill and Ernst Behr’s southeast Denver home looks and feels like a quaint New England beachfront cottage. As we sat and chatted about her life, I began to see Jill as a classic, dynamic woman of many talents who has experienced American life in both the East and the West and has managed to remain delightfully sound, solid and centered through the years. Someone we can all admire.
Jill’s been married for 44 years to her husband Ernst, and they have raised three highly successful children that have blessed them with seven grandchildren. You can tell by all the beautiful family pictures throughout their home, how much they value and love their “clan.” Even through the years when Jill was the epitome of the total career woman working in various fields, she still kept it all together for the family.
Jill has also been an anchor in our community staying involved with organizations such as: The Women's Library Association, The Junior Symphony Guild, Central City Opera, The Children's Diabetes Foundation, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Volunteers of America, the Junior League; and Jill will now be taking on the role of President of the Denver Center Alliance (the volunteer group assisting the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in their fundraising and educational efforts) in May 2011.
With strong values and a calming “modern” mother earth quality about her, this fearless, wise leader lives her life with gusto as she keeps adding to her knowledge, insights and talents. Jill loves to reinvent herself and seek out new adventures and experiences. In addition to her commitment to several nonprofits, Jill is finally taking some time for reading, painting and poetry.
As I talked with Jill and listened to her well-earned wisdom, I realized she clearly could teach all of us a lot about the balancing act of life. Jill smiles as she reflects: “My life is just grand right now… I’m blessed.”
First of all, tell us about all the upcoming nonprofit events you are involved in? On September 15th, I’m chairing the Patron Party for Western Fantasy with co-partner Kay Burke. This year’s theme is Golden Garter Saloon – so we’ll be high steppin’ like Miss Kitty at the event. Come September I’ll be learning the ropes as President Elect of the Denver Center Alliance while working with master leader and current president Gayle Novak. I’m also on the 2011 Le Bal de Ballet committee.
What are your goals for your upcoming presidency of the Denver Center Alliance? My goal is to continue to grow the 30-year tradition of the Alliance as viable, energetic guild of more than 200 members which supports the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ theatre and education programs. In its 30-year history the Alliance has raised over $15 million from its signature fundraiser “Saturday Night Alive” and an additional $200,000 with other alliance events.
How would you define your life right now -
Do you believe you are where you are meant to be? I have a beautiful family and wonderful friends. I believe we are all on a path and life gives us opportunities and challenges to work through anguish and enjoy. If it weren’t for the complexities of life, we would never grow.
What was your favorite job while you were this awesome career woman?
I loved working in the advertising arena and being able to orchestrate creative solutions to business problems. Long ago I developed a national trade show initiative for good old Mountain Bell. I produced a 2-story exhibit that housed a secret operator. He was an improv actor who controlled the voice and movements of a 6’ good looking blue-eyed silver robot I had designed with the help of ex Martin Marietta employees. The robot was named “Alex.” “Does that ring a bell?” His head moved 360 degrees, his chest had a TV to run commercials, his arms moved to shake hands with customer. He had a pop-out drawer for business cards and brochures. Alex broke the barrier with customers by inviting them into the trade show area and introducing them to sales people. This endeavor lasted 7 years and brought in millions of dollars for Ma Bell.
Do you ever miss living back east? I need my shore fix every summer when I visit my sister in Ocean City, N.J. We had a shore house in OC while growing up and its part of my blood. The sea breezes, sailing, the water, salty air, white-hot sandy beaches, the boardwalk, rides, taffy, fudge, the melodious harmony of the ocean waves….yum!
In the professional world, how does someone know when it’s time to make a change? When the environment becomes toxic (as it can) or when you’ve been there, done that and need a new challenge.
Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? Stephen Covey. I worked awhile for his organization and have met him and his wife in person while living in Salt Lake City and here in Denver on one of his tours. He lives his mantra and has a great sense of humor.
What is your fondest childhood memory? There are many. Dancing lessons and performances. Sailing. Singing. Playing the bongos with my father’s buddies’ jam sessions. He was a gifted musician – piano, sax, clarinet, and xylophone. I stayed home from dates to be able to jam at the shore with my Dad.
Sounds like you are reading a lot these days, What book can you recommend to all of us? “Eat, pray and love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved her memoir of her search to find balance and love in her life. A spiritual and experiential journey graced with humor and candor.
Since you have also worked in the fashion industry, do you personally have a "fashion addiction?" Hmmmm. Always checking things out. Like the classics, fabric and workmanship. But, like to add an edgy slant in style, color or jewelry.
What is your most treasured possession, and the item you would grab if (heaven forbid) your house was on fire? Family photos.
I ask all people that have been married a long time this question: "What is the secret to wedded bliss?" Commitment. Adjusting and growing with each other’s needs and goals. Being thankful.
If you are going to have a (decadent) snack, what would it be? You got me. Did I mention fudge? One of the few things I learned to make as a youngster.
For being such an accomplished woman, What do you consider your greatest accomplishment? Raising three loving, talented, productive, caring, beautiful (inside and out) children. Our greatest gifts.
Since you have a talent for reinventing yourself, what would you still like to learn how to do? I want to go and oil paint in Italy while my husband takes cooking lessons.
What important life lesson have you learned that you could share with us?
Try not to judge others too harshly, we all have our flaws. Look at situations as opportunities to grow. Treasure your friends – always. Be receptive and open to others. Trust in God.
How do you want to be remembered by future generations?
As a lady who loved her husband and family foremost. One who embraced life’s detours, found pleasure in doing and getting things done. One who gave of her time and energy to family, work, charities and others.
Congratulations upon being able to express so many strong and positive values. It's a big part of what we see in you. We are proud to know you and celebrate this lovely exposure for you. Good luck with your upcoming endeavors. Bev & Bob
Jill, You look wonderful and remind me so of you sweet and beautiful Mother. Sounds like you have been involved with many worthwhile endeavors. God Bless You and sounds like we will see you soon in Ocean City very soon. LOVE, REB
Jill - so great to met you again!
Lark Wittens Katchur