Madie Dunn Gustafson

She was a highly respected Denver telecommunications attorney and adventurer.

Madie Dunn Gustafson, a highly respected Denver telecommunications attorney and adventurer, died at age 74 on March 16, 2024, following a valiant one and one-half year battle against metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Madie grew up with her four siblings in Yakima, Washington, where their father was a surgeon. She described a “feral childhood” where she and her four siblings rode their ponies up and down the hills and ridges through the fruit orchards, on the parental condition that they be home by dinner. Madie earned a B.A. in Communications and English (1972) from Northwestern University and a M.A. in Communications (1971) from the University of Denver. After teaching for five years at the Summit High School in Summit County, Colorado, Madie entered Colorado politics and served as campaign manager for Roy Romer who, in 1978, won election as Colorado’s State Treasurer. Romer’s advice to Madie was to go to law school, which she did, graduating in 1981 with a J.D. from the University of Denver Law School.

She began her legal career in 1981 at Holme Roberts Owen. Madie’s subsequent career in the telecommunications industry tracked the growth of the cable television industry in Denver from the 1980s and onward.

In 1986, she joined United Cable Television Corporation as corporate counsel. After United Artists merged with United Cable, she became Senior Vice President. Following more mergers, she held similar positions at TCI and AT&T Broadband. At AT&T Broadband, she became Senior Vice President—Franchising and Local Government Affairs, where she was responsible for local government relations, franchise renewal, transfer and compliance.

Madie was a member of the Denver Bar Association and the Colorado Bar Association, and she was admitted to practice before the Colorado Supreme Court and the District of Columbia Court.

Madie served as Treasurer and a member of the Executive Committee of the national organization Women in Cable. She spoke at numerous conferences on legal and system-operation issues. She served for ten years as a faculty member for the Practicing Law in Institute Seminars on the Cable Act. She also served as an adjunct professor of telecommunications at the University of Denver Law School. Madie returned to the practice of law in 2001 when she joined the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Cole Raywid Braverman. Cole Raywid Braverman merged in 2007 with Seattle-based Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT). Madie was assigned to DWT’s Washington, D.C., office, but worked from her home in Denver. In the immediate years preceding her retirement from DWT in January 2019, Madie negotiated cable franchise renewals for her client, Comcast Corporation, with Albuquerque, Colorado Springs and Seattle as well as with the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.

Madie’s interests ranged widely and included politics, socio-economic justice, theater, literature and travel. She was an especially active outdoors woman, who hiked in Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Peru, New Zealand, and Nepal as well as in Colorado and elsewhere in the American West. She loved gardening, dogs, skiing, swimming, kayaking and bicycling. She once said, “I’m always up for an adventure.” In Tanzania, she walked with the wild chimpanzees.

Anyone who knew Madie knew that her “spiritual home” was her singular home on Vashon Island in the south Puget Sound of Washington State. Her parents bought land on the Island in the 1970s and built their retirement home and turned the land into a botanical garden because they were Master Gardeners. Madie and her two sons spent many weeks at the home as the boys grew up during the 1980s and 1990s. Over the years, many friends and family members spent magical times with Madie at her home. She also developed many close friendships with other Islanders.

An active member of Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church since the early 1990s, Madie served as the chair of the Personnel Committee and the Safety Committee. Underthe auspices of the Church, she traveled to Nepal in 2007 and 2010 to participate in the Church’s aid-mission projects.

An extremely compassionate and generous person, Madie supported numerous non-profit organizations and causes, including women’s rights and Third-World socio economic development, especially those organizations serving women and children.

Madie was a long-time member of Northwestern University’s “Council of 100,” a body of successful women who had graduated from Northwestern and who returned several times a year to advise young women who were students or recent graduates about their academic majors and future careers. She also was a member of the Women’s Vision Foundation and Electing Women.

In recent years, Madie participated in Together Colorado, an umbrella organization of faith-based churches and related organizations that, among other things, works to reform state laws pertaining to incarceration and the legal status of low-income detained and prisoners of color.

Madie is survived by her husband, Dan Pilcher; her son, Erik Hellman, and his wife, Jessie Fisher; her son, Reid Hellman and his wife, Jen Adduci, and their daughter, Tecla; her step-daughter, Lila Pilcher; her step-daughter, Allison Kamstra, and her husband, Mike Kamstra, and their children, Kinley and Easton; her step-son, Ben Pilcher, and his wife, Laura, and their children, Paul and Elle; her stepson, Aaron Pilcher, and his wife, Adriane, and their son, Alden; and her “pandemic dog,” Cyrus, an Australian-mix, rescue puppy from the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico. Madie is survived by her sister, Kathryn Gustafson. She also is survived by her brother, Eric Gustafson and his wife, Nancy, and their three children: Garth Gustafson and his wife, Caroline, and their two children; Gavin Gustafson and his wife, Beth and their two children; and Madie and her husband, Joseph Leary, and their two children.

Madie was preceded in death by her parents, Dr. Jack “Gus” Gustafson and Mary “Boo” Gustafson; her brothers, Charlie and Hugh; and her first husband, Peter Hellman. A Celebration of Life will be held Friday, May 3, 2024, at 11:00 AM at her beloved Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia Street, Denver, CO, 80220. A reception will follow. Madie’s family suggests, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her honor to these Island non-profit organizations, Mukai Farm and Garden and Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust.