Richard "Dick" E. Kroeckel Jr.

September 6, 1945October 11, 2020

Richard “Dick” Eugene Kroeckel Jr., was born in Indianapolis, Indiana into a family of piano players. Dick was taught to play piano by his aunt and quickly found his calling in ragtime. He started playing professionally in Evergreen, Colorado and soon became part of the Central City Colorado Summer Fun, playing at the historic Tollgate and Glory Hole Bars.

In the mid-sixties Dick was summed to play for Uncle Sam. During his time in the Army he worked with entertainment tours in places like Ft. Polk, Louisiana. He also played the church organ for the Army chapels.

After the service he returned to his home once again, this time setting in Georgetown where he was hired as a bartender at the Silver Queen. The owner soon fired the current band and requested for dick to take over. Dick, once again, was back doing what he does best, telling stories and playing the piano. Dick would remain in Georgetown for the next 5 years.

The 70’s found Dick playing in the then Cherry Creek Inn, Red Slipper Room in Denver. As Dick’s following grew, so did the request for Dick’s talents. Dick began playing in saloons throughout the mid-west including the Kaleidoscope Players in Raton, New Mexico.

In 1976, Dick was asked to perform in ‘On The Road’ with Charles Kuralt on the CBS Evening News. That night the entire viewing audience was able to enjoy the ragtime sounds Dick had been blessing Colorado with for more than ten years. Later that year, Dick appeared in Estes Park with the Al Fike Show. As fate would have it, their closing night would deliver the worst flood in Colorado history, the Big Thompson Canyon Flood. At the same time, Dick built his first orchestrion, a coin operated piano that came complete with a complement of drums, pipes and even a xylophone. For the cost of a coin, you could hear the greatest ragtime hits of all time. Dick also began working on pianos all over the state. One of Dick’s finest pieces of work was for the Governor’s mansion in Denver.

By the 1970’s Dick was continuously being asked to make a record so fans could enjoy his piano stylings at home. Dick recorded his first album ‘Echoes From Lulu White’s Mahogany Hall.’ Familiar songs on the album were tunes such as “Maple Leaf Rag,” “Wild Cherries,” and “Ragtime Violin.” Since then Dick has made several recordings.

Dick was now performing nightly at the Diamond Belle Saloon in the famous Durango, Colorado Strater Hotel. Dick would spend an amazing twenty three years as the regular performer entertaining the guests with his renditions of “The Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Dick would even go so far as to add bellows of smoke from his trademark cigar, and playing not only blindfolded, but with the piano keys covered with a sheet.

During the 80’s began a short time when Dick followed another passion of his, the railroad. Dick took a four year “summer” job as a brakeman on the Durango & Silverton narrow gauge railroad. But soon Dick returned to Central City Colorado in 1987 and found entertaining fun again.

Dick settled in Arvada, Colorado where he had stock piled a large collection of player pianos. Every player piano he has was personally constructed by Dick. When not playing, Dick can be found tearing apart and rebuilding a player piano in his basement workshop. Dick continued to tour the country giving concert performances, at times he was requested to bring his 9ft Steinway player. Dick also amassed a collection of player piano rolls that numbers over 4000 individual rolls.

After a short stay in Deadwood, South Dakota, Dick made his way back to Central City playing in casinos. Dick once again found himself playing in the same buildings where he played almost thirty years before. The historic Glory Hole and The Tollgate Saloons were now casinos but the locals and some of the same customers were happy to see Dick return. Dick was the daily performer at Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Hotel/Casino for eleven years bringing endless enjoyment to the guests with his piano and stories. Dick never fully retired, until his passing he worked part time for a local mortuary and was still doing concert tours with the Theatre organists Dave Wickerham and Patti Simon.

Dick will be deeply missed by his sister Copper (Jim) Darlinger; brother Van Kroeckel; brother in law Ed Ray; nieces Missy (Tom) Saggau and Courtney Ray; great nephews: Charlie Saggau, Brodie Saggau and Tobie Bookstaver and numerous cousins and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents Richard and Mary Lou Kroeckel and his sister De Ray. Visitation will be Saturday, October 24, 2020 from 3-7:00 PM, Army Honors at 6:00 PM in the Olinger Crown Hill Chapel of Peace.


  • Visitation

    Saturday, October 24, 2020


Richard "Dick" E. Kroeckel Jr.

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Dave & Barbara Elwood

December 23, 2020

Dave met Dick through a mutual friend in Durango about 1982. It was instantly a close connection, through the shared love of music, the railroad, and the sense of humor. Later, when Barbara married Dave, it became the three of us, playing pianos, laughing at everything, sharing a love of good food. Dick helped us rebuild two player pianos, one of which we still have. Dick shared his sauerbraten recipe with Barbara, so that Dave could enjoy a German Thanksgiving every year thereafter. We'd call and catch up on all the news, sharing all our favorite funny stories. We'd look forward to a visit to Arvada and the Kroeckel Emporium, where Barbara would play the Steinway, and Dave & Dick would discuss mutual friends and railroads. Dick was a big man, with a big laugh, and he will always be missed.

Caiti Olson

November 9, 2020

I had the privilege of working with Dick in 2018-2019 at Olinger Mortuaries. He was always one of my favorites to be scheduled with, I appreciated his well-timed sense of humor, his grumpiness, and his authenticity. You could always rely on Dick to tell you the honest truth, which is such an admirable quality. My condolences go out to his family, friends, and the driver pool at Olinger, who worked with him, tolerated his grumpiness, and cherished him for so many years.

Chris Robinson

November 9, 2020

I met Dick back in 1972 while on leave from Vietnam. I have to say he was closest friend I have ever had. I loved Dick like a brother. Unfortunately I didn’t find out about his passing until today November 9th. He will be sorely missed.
May you Rest In Peace my friend.
Chris Robinson

Rick Molzer

October 23, 2020

I first met Dick at the Diamond Belle Saloon in Durango, where we shared our common interests of music and railroads. That was an exciting place, but Dick made it better; almost every time, I would request that he play Moon Winks. After that I would sometimes see him in Central City. Always looking for different and stellar programing as conductor of the Aurora Symphony I asked him to be our guest artist for the Fall, 1995 concert, and it was a big success. His amazing combination of musical talent, rare personality, mechanical ingenuity and humor was a blessing.

Nate Currier

October 22, 2020

Dick was sassy and fun, always making me laugh. Rest In Peace, kind Sir.

Patti Simon-Zollman

October 22, 2020

Ed and I met Dick in the early 1980s when Ed needed supplies to do repairs on the upright piano at the Organ Grinder Restaurant in Denver. It did not take long to become friends, to be invited to Dick’s home for an evening of Sauerbraten and piano music. Sometimes Dick and I played, sometimes we listened to rolls. One time Dick said “Patti, pull out some rolls you’d like to hear.” So while he cooked, I pulled some rolls out just a few inches so we could listen to some favorites. A while later Dick came into the music room, saw all the boxes protruding from the wall of rolls, and said “ long you planning to stay?” It was just one of many wonderful times in his company and enjoying his friendship. Over 20+ years Dick and I traveled together to play concerts. Never did I see him be anything but gracious and kind to anyone we met. He set a high standard, both as a musician and a person. We truly loved and treasured him beyond words.

Mike Ramsey

October 18, 2020

I first came to know Dick as a very young man and sneaking into the Red Ram in Georgetown, CO to hear him play. Little did I know that many years later, I would be working with him on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR in Durango, CO. I spent many a night listening as Dick performed at the Diamond Bell. You are already missed my friend.......Rest In Peace.

Mike Ramsey

William Roberts

October 17, 2020

I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Kroeckel over the last 7 years at Crown Hill Mortuary. He always made me laugh with his unique sense of humor and stories of Central City. He played at my father's funeral a few weeks ago, back in August, and I was grateful to him for doing that to honor my dad. I will miss him and will remember him every time I see a piano or hear the wonderful music that he so much enjoyed playing. It was an honor to have met him. My deepest condolences to his family. I know that wherever Dick is, he is playing, and is in good company with his fellow musicians.

Gary Miller

October 16, 2020

I first met Dick when I returned back to Denver from CA in 2000. I met Dick in Wichita, Ks. I would travel with other friends to hear artist on the Wichita Wurlitzer. I would always see Dick at the party afterwards. We became friends. Dick had an amazing talent I heard him many times at Mike Coups house and other places. I was very sad to hear of Dicks passing. I lost my mother on June 18th so it was very sad to hear of some else leaving us. Dick you will be greatly missed not only by all of your friends but your family as well.

Rest in Piece

Jay and Laura Johnson

October 15, 2020

All the years hearing Dick play at Harvey's/Fortune Valley. We had lunch with Dick nearly every day and heard so many of his story's. He was a funny man and a great friend.
He will be missed always.