NewsCovering Colorado


Colorado honors life and legacy of businessman and philanthropist Jay Cimino

Jay Cimino portrait.jpeg
Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-01 21:00:41-05

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Funeral services were held Friday for businessman and philanthropist Gerald "Jay" Cimino. He was a titan in the automotive world, leading the Phil Long Dealerships for nearly 50 years. His business success was overshadowed only by his generosity and passion for serving our community.

Cimino died peacefully at home last Saturday at the age of 87 surrounded by his family. He'd retired from Phil Long Enterprises just four days earlier.

His daughter Gina delivered the eulogy during the funeral mass at St. Paul's Catholic Church. She shared a side of her father that most did not get to see. Jay Cimino was born into a large Italian American family in Trinidad. He grew up with a twin brother and three sisters. His grandparents, and 11 aunts and uncles all lived next door.

Jay's father Vince was the eldest of 12 children and Gina said he was the leader and protector of the Cimino clan who died at an early age.

"In a recent conversation with Dad, he shared with us that he always tried to fill his father's shoes. To him, his father was larger than life."

Gina said her father was born with a natural curiosity and enthusiasm for life. He was athletic, charming, and ambitious.

"The Cimino Family's core values evolved around love of family, love of their hometown Trinidad, their deep Catholic faith, spaghetti on Sundays. Cars, cars, and more cars," Gina said.

Jay Cimino gave generously throughout his life. His close friend Chuck Murphy worked with Cimino to raise money for the renovation and reconstruction of the Marion House in Colorado Springs.

"Everybody else makes millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars. This guy gives away millions and millions of dollars. And all for the community," Murphy said.

Cimino built parks and playgrounds through the Phil Long Foundation in partnership with the Denver Broncos Charities. Former Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan said his friendship with Cimino began early in his coaching career as an assistant with the Broncos in 1984.

"He was always wanting to give back and that's why I think so many people are here today, just really a genuine person," Shanahan said.

Col. (Ret'd) Bob McLaughlin, the Executive Director of the Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center shared his memory of meeting Cimino for the first time. McLaughlin had just been promoted to Garrison Commander at Fort Carson when he took a trip to Trinidad and saw a semi-truck parked on the side of I-25 with a sign that read "Not One More Acre."

"I looked at that sign and said that must be a steak house. I'll have to go visit that," McLaughlin joked.

He later learned it was protesting the Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in Southeastern Colorado. Realizing he needed help from someone in Trinidad to bridge a relationship with the community, McLaughlin sought out a meeting with Cimino.

"And there I was in uniform, McLaughlin, I had my Irish name tag on and he looked at me and I looked at him and I didn't really understand the look," McLaughlin recalled. "And he said to me, are you sure you don't have any Italian heritage? And I said, as a matter of fact, I'm half Italian and my mother was a Marine."

Their friendship blossomed through the years and when McLaughlin retired from military service, Cimino quickly enlisted him to lead the effort to create the Mount Carmel Veterans Service Center. The charity has helped thousands of veterans and active-duty military service to make the transition into civilian life since 2016.

The name Mount Carmel held special meaning to Cimino. It was the name of his home parish growing up in Trinidad.

"When the diocese in Pueblo no longer had enough priests to staff two parishes in Trinidad, one of them closed and it was Mount Carmel," said Most Reverend Richard Hanifen, Bishop Emeritus of Colorado Springs.

"Some of you know what happens when Jay doesn't like something."

Cimino bought the building and renovated it. He created the Mount Carmel Wellness and Community Center as a gift to his hometown. Cimino gave other gifts to Trinidad, investing in job creation and tourism projects in the community.

Governor Jared Polis recalled his conversations with Cimino during the effort to make Fisher's Peak into a state park.

"He used to share stories of hiking to the top of Fisher's Peak while growing up in Trinidad, and when Jay returned from service in the Marines he actually attempted to hike to his favorite spot at the top of Fishers Peak but it had been fenced off," Polis recalled.

For years, Cimino privately championed efforts to get the Pro Football Hall of Fame to recognize Broncos linebacker Randy Gradishar. Those years of support paid off in early February when the Hall selected Gradishar as a Senior Finalist for enshrinement with the Class of 2024.

"He walked his talk and we are deeply blessed to have had him be in our lives," Gradishar said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn read a proclamation honoring Cimino into the Congressional record. Ryan Trujillo, Deputy Chief of Staff for Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade announced that Tuesday, March 26, 2024, will be Gerald "Jay" Cimino Day in Colorado Springs.


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