Family remembers Arvada man who died following cardiac event at Keystone Resort
Daniel Mares was a family man.
As those close to him look back on his life, tragically cut short following a cardiac episode at Keystone Resort on Dec. 22, it was characterized largely by his effortless intellectualism, a carefree and joyful disposition, and the love he shared with his children.
“He was always smiling about something,” said Courtney Mares, Daniel’s daughter. “He was just positive. And he always made it very clear how much he loved us and how proud of us he was. He was very vocal about that stuff.”
Mares, 52, grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his brother Donald and his parents, Dennis and RoseMarie. In his youth, Mares spent much of his time outside, taking hiking trips near his grandparents’ property in Ogallala, and fishing and waterskiing on Lake McConaughy.
He attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he earned a bachelor of science and master’s in civil engineering. While in school Mares met his ex-wife, Kim Johnson, who noted that his love for the outdoors only grew with time.
“We always loved it when we were in college, and we would take road trips out here to go skiing,” said Johnson. “He always loved Colorado, so when he had a job opportunity here we jumped on it.”
After graduation, Mares moved to Colorado where he began working in the civil engineering industry, but family members say that his true passion was always in computers.
“He was a civil engineer by trade, but he was a computer programmer and software engineer by heart,” said Johnson. “He never went to school for it, but he was good at it.”
Mares would spend his free time devouring books on the ins and outs of coding and programming, and after years spent in software development departments of engineering firms, he broke off to start his own programming and consulting business in the late ’90s. Most recently, Mares was working as an independent computer programming contractor and consultant.
“He was extremely smart,” said Andrew Mares, his son. “Getting in there down and dirty with his brain was really what he loved to do.”
When Mares wasn’t on his computer developing apps and websites, he often took to hiking trails and the ski slopes. Courtney said the two of them would sometimes lose track of time on a hiking trail, venturing miles past their intended destination. On the gondola up to the top of Keystone Resort — what his kids say was his go-to mountain — he’d engage strangers in conversation, playfully ribbing beginners and offering helpful advice on learning to ski and snowboard (he did both, but preferred skiing).
At home he enjoyed watching his favorite shows — “Shark Tank,” “The Profit” and “Vikings” — along with renting science fiction and comedy movies to watch with his kids. His kids say that he also loved to ride his motorcycle, taking them on trips up to the mountains when they were younger.
“He loved to ride,” said Andrew. “He’d put us on the back when we were really young, and we’d cruise up the mountain pass. It was just such a joyful time. He taught me the basics and put me in a class, and now I ride his bike.”
But perhaps what Mares’ family and friends will remember most about him was his infectious joy. His family said that he was extremely outgoing, rarely sporting anything but a smile on his face, and that he had an adventurous personality that made him want to try everything.
“He went to those 1950s balls in airplane hangars, he loved to dress up for those,” said Courtney. “He would go to plays and street fairs. He was always going to concerts at Red Rocks, and he loved taking us to Film on the Rocks. There wasn’t a thing he would turn down really.”
“If it was something that might create a memory, he was 100 percent about it all the time,” added Andrew. “I’m not too much of a smiley person like he was, but every time I was around him it was contagious.”
But as Mares’ family copes with his unexpected death emotionally, they’re also trying to find ways to deal with it financially. Courtney, 23, is currently a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln living off student loans. Andrew, 21, is an electrical apprentice just breaking into the workforce.
“Obviously this was really unexpected,” said Courtney. “This was his first cardiac event, so I don’t think even he was prepared for it. There’s no will, no life insurance and no financial records. … so we have nothing, and we’re the only people our dad had. So we’re just asking for help to honor Dad the way we think he would want to be honored. Because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do anything for him.”
While the family is still hoping to find Mares’ financial records or a will on his computer, they’ve so far been unable to access it (Courtney said that the password just to access his Wi-Fi included dozens of random characters). In the meantime, the family has started a GoFundMe campaign titled ‘Honoring the Life of Daniel Edward Mares’ to help raise money for a proper funeral service.
While there are no set dates for services yet, the family said that they would be holding two separate services in Arvada and in Lincoln, Nebraska, for his extended family.
Mares will be remembered fondly by those who survive him: his children, his brother, his mother as well as a large network of extended family and friends.
“He was a fun-loving guy with a smile on his face 100 percent of the time,” said Johnson. “He loved his kids to no end, and he was so proud.”