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Shocked friends and acquaintances pay tribute to Ted Eastburn

From every vantage point, Dr. Ted Eastburn looked happy and secure in life, personally and professionally.

The successful cardiologist had friends throughout Colorado Springs, from his two decades of local practice and his years (1999-2003) on City Council. He biked everywhere, joking that it allowed him an extra dessert on occasion. He recently became engaged to his longtime companion, and they had just bought a house.

"And there was so much Ted did behind the scenes that nobody will ever know," says longtime friend and Council colleague Richard Skorman. "He was always willing to help somebody in need. I'm sure there are many hundreds of people out there whom he helped. I saw him about a week ago and everything seemed fine."

Everyone in his life knew Eastburn was deeply affected by the 2007 death of his 22-year-old son Ted Jr., an Army soldier who committed suicide. But the 56-year-old physician still had the rest of his family and his widely respected practice.

Still, something wasn't right. Tuesday morning, locked inside his seventh-floor office in Memorial Hospital Central's East Tower, Ted Eastburn died of what police later described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"I'm devastated, and I'm sure everyone who knows him is devastated," says current City Councilor Scott Hente, also one of Eastburn's patients and good friends. "I ran into him just two weeks ago and he said, 'You know, we've gotta get together and talk. I'll give you a call.' Now, this."

As the news spread across the city, those who knew Eastburn were unanimous in praising him.

"He was a rare individual that you couldn't find anything bad to say about," former Councilor Bill Guman says. "I never saw him angry."

Mayor Lionel Rivera, who defeated Eastburn and five others in the 2003 mayoral election, says he never recalled disagreeing with Eastburn, "except [about] who should be mayor in 2003. But even during the election, we were friends. ... I'm upset to think that he's gone. He was a good man."

Eastburn had deep-rooted ties to the Independent, as his first wife, Kathryn, was co-founder of this newspaper and served many years as editor.

"He was driven, articulate, visionary and dashing," Indy publisher John Weiss says. "In my mind, Ted Eastburn's death is directly related to the Iraq war. Had his son not been deployed there, Ted Jr. would have never taken his own life, and neither would his dad.

"If Ted had been elected mayor in 2003, our city today would have been much stronger, more united and vibrant because of his leadership.

"Everyone at the Independent extends our hearts and sorrow to Kathryn and to Ted's children, Katie Hunter, Philip, Aaron and Isaac."

A service is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Colorado College's Shove Chapel.

Ted Eastburn, who grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and Memphis, Tenn., graduated from Vanderbilt's School of Medicine in 1980. He served his residency in the Army (1980-84) including a stint at Fort Carson before returning to Vanderbilt to pursue cardiology.

Eastburn returned to Colorado Springs in 1991 as a senior partner at Pikes Peak Cardiology, where he remained the past 19 years.

"He would give patients his personal cell number, and he'd go to the hospital in the middle of the night," Skorman says. "He was just always there."

routon@csindy.com

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