Sylvester Tally: Readers respond to “The sad death of the happiest man in Denver”

Readers had a lot to say about “The sad death of the happiest man in Denver,” our story about Sylvester Tally, the beloved longtime coffee purveyor at Denver’s city and county buildings. Susan Greene’s article describes the incomprehensible disconnect between Tally’s affable, effervescent and gregarious public face and the silent pain of living with a lifelong mental illness he kept secret, even to those closest to him.

Some readers didn’t know about Tally’s Nov. 28th suicide until we posted the story earlier this week. Others who’d been grappling for weeks with news of his death chimed in to discuss their confusion and grief. The story has drawn a wide swath of readers – including judges and criminal defendants, octogenarian former city officials and city kids Tally counseled – together in conversation about the friend they shared, or wished they knew better, or lamented they could have helped. It also has drawn people who didn’t know Tally to discuss their own mental health struggles or suicide attempts or the regret and sense of betrayal that can linger long after a loved one takes his or her life.

Tally was a master at starting conversations about the human condition. In his death, the conversation continues.

We at The Indy want to keep this conversation going. Please use the comments section below to tell us about Tally, your thoughts on his story, or your own experiences. This Talkback is, in part, a tribute to a man we knew and admired. It’s also a forum to discuss mental health, gender, race and faith –  issues that news outlets too often gloss over.

For now, here’s a sampling of readers’ thoughts about the story:

Every life is worth at least one read, and Mr. Tally’s even more than most. I really appreciated the open discussion of mental health in the Black community and the very clear message that faith, though powerful, isn’t enough to heal all ills. Marcos McQueen

My hiking buddy. Sly, may he rest in peace. The last paragraph of this article should be read and re-read. Solwazi Samuel Johnson

I am so tired of losing such amazing people to suicide. The black community needs to really get over the stigma of mental health issues and work on programs that help us know more, talk about and work on this. RIP Sylvester. Tiffany Dizz Trott

I can’t even read it… I start crying…Darlene J. Jones

I spoke with Syl every day I entered the building during my 20 years on the bench. I can’t express my disbelief and pain on his passing. Judge Beau Patterson

Getting tough out here.. and it’s not my own doing, I’m coping fine. But now I believe I have 2 close people to me who are also suicidal. And I don’t know how to help … frustrating Brandon Clark (Sylvester’s son)

Can we set aside the presidential worries and fears and simply stick to those we encounter and interact with on a daily basis? In doing so, maybe our little ripples of human interaction will make for a better change? Wade Gardner

I am rarely in the Denver city building, but Sylvester always remembered my coffee order, even when I hadn’t been there in a year.  Carrie Ann Lucas

The stigma about mental illness is huge. It keeps people like Sly silent, in pretense that everything’s fine. Each of us REALLY asking how each other are, and listening, and staying calm and loving if someone reveals they’re depressed or hopeless or suicidal, is doing a lot. Listening, asking “how can I help?” and providing a 24/7 resource # for the person to call: 844-493-8255. Then check in w them calmly within a day to ask if they called. We can all do this, human to human. Sue Brighten

He was an outstanding, friendly, conversational, funny gentlemen each day during the trial for which I sat as foreperson this summer. Brightened every day. JP Holston

Frequently people give what they want to receive. Thank you for posting this. It’s a much needed reminder. David M. Owens





The Colorado Independent is a statewide online news source operating in a time when spin is plentiful, but factual, fair and unflinching news in the public interest is all too rare. Our award-winning team of veteran investigative and explanatory reporters and news columnists aims to amplify the voices of Coloradans whose stories are unheard, shine light on the relationships between people, power and policy, and hold public officials to account. We strive to report the news with context, social conscience, and soul, and to give Coloradans the insight they need to promote conversation, understanding and progress in this square, swing state we call home.