November 08, 2005

For Adolph Coors IV, Money Couldn't Fill the Emptiness Inside

By Brandon Dutcher
April 1994


Young Adolph Coors IV worshiped his dad.

And why not? Chairman of the board of the family brewing empire, the rugged cattle rancher Adolph Coors III was also a loving father who always had time for his family. A former semi-professional baseball player, Coors was a private pilot, an architect and engineer, and a pioneer in the development of skiing in Colorado. Growing up in the 1950s, living in the beautiful ranch home his father designed and built, Adolph IV idolized his stern but affectionate father. "I wanted to grow up to be just like him in every way," Mr. Coors told me in a recent interview.

Like most mornings, young Adolph didn't see his father on the morning of February 9, 1960. As was his practice, Mr. Coors awoke at 5:30 to have breakfast before making the 12-mile drive from the family's ranch in the foothills west of Denver to the brewery in Golden.

As he arrived at a bridge outside of Morrison, Colorado around 7:30, Mr. Coors stopped to help what looked like a stranded motorist. What he encountered was a prison escapee who had been planning for this morning for two years. In a tragic moment that would make national headlines for months, Adolph Coors III was shot repeatedly and stuffed in the trunk of a yellow 1958 Mercury.

The car sped away. All that remained was blood on one of the bridge railings. Mr. Coors's ball cap and eyeglasses were found on the bank of the creek below.

For seven months, 14-year-old Adolph cried himself to sleep not knowing whether his father was dead or alive. In September, his father's remains were found in a garbage dump 20 miles south of Denver.

For the next 17 years, Adolph Coors IV was filled with hatred for his father's killer, the man who had shattered his world.

After a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Coors married his high-school sweetheart, B.J., and later they became the proud parents of Adolph Coors V. (Someone would later quip, "I didn't realize Coors came in fifths.")

Adolph Coors IV, the great-grandson of the German immigrant who founded the brewery in 1873, went to work for the Adolph Coors Company of Golden, Colorado with the goal of becoming its youngest president.

On the outside, he seemed to be living the American dream. But a gnawing emptiness gripped him on the inside, an emptiness he just couldn't shake. His marriage wasn't terribly strong, he wasn't happy at the brewery, and a consuming anger at his father's killer still tormented him. Not comfortable being alone with his wife, they would spend weekends with friends at their gorgeous mountain home. Living a life of quiet desperation, "I began to bury myself in materialism," he says. "My many futile attempts at covering up this emptiness were useless, because the emptiness always came back."

One evening, a friend told Mr. Coors that what he needed was a relationship with his Maker, and that unless he came to know Jesus he would go to hell when he died. Taken aback (that not being the kind of thing one says in polite company), Mr. Coors reassured himself with the thought that he was a good man from a respected family -- certainly the kind of man who would make it to heaven.

But in 1975 Mr. Coors came to realize that his friend was right. He now understands that there is a "God-shaped vacuum" in every heart, a void that can only be filled by God Himself.

"Apart from Jesus Christ -- regardless of how good we are, and what family background we have, and what we do in life -- we are not going to heaven," Mr. Coors says. "If we could earn heaven through our own good works, our own background, and our own genealogy, then Christ's death would have been meaningless."

Now 48 and living in suburban Denver, Mr. Coors is a businessman active in Christian ministry. Among other things, he is on the board of Kanakuk Kamp in Branson, Missouri. "There's a void in our lives created by God that cannot be filled with material things," he says. "That void can only be filled by a relationship with Christ."

Appropriating God's promise that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Mr. Coors was able to forgive the man who murdered his father. Coors even asked his father's killer to forgive him for harboring hatred in his heart for 17 long years. He now says he loves his father's murderer and prays that he too will come to know the Lord.

"There's a saying that 'he who dies with the most toys wins,'" Mr. Coors says. "That's the psychology of materialism: if we can surround ourselves with enough toys, our lives are going to be complete and happy." But Mr. Coors, a member of a family whose company shares were recently worth around $400 million, says "materialism won't do it."

"He left yesterday behind him," John Denver famously sang in Rocky Mountain High, and the same could be said of Mr. Coors. "You might say he was born again. You might say he found a key for every door."