Main Avenue ‘fixture’ Johnny Bulson dies at 67 – The Durango Herald

Main Avenue ‘fixture’ Johnny Bulson dies at 67 – The Durango Herald

A celebration of life is planned for Saturday

Johnny Bulson sits in his favorite spot in the sun on Main Avenue outside Durango Coffee Co. (Courtesy of Katherine Walker)

A table in the sunshine outside the Durango Coffee Co. is a little less bright after the death of its favorite inhabitant, Johnny Bulson.

A Durango resident for several years, Bulson died Feb. 6 at 67 years old as a result of complications with a pressure sore. He was a quadriplegic who, despite his injury, was able to lead a full life.

“He taught me what’s possible even with an injury like that,” said Don Lewis, who was a former caregiver and friend of Bulson’s. “There are still many relationships, still so much love and still so much adventure to be had.”

After a cliff diving accident placed him in a wheelchair, Bulson went to school. He eventually earned a degree from the University of Northern Colorado in rehabilitative therapy. He then spent a number of years helping others rehabilitate from their own injuries.

Lewis said Bulson spent time volunteering weekly with the Durango Arts Center as a receptionist.

Before moving to Durango, Bulson lived in Telluride. He would volunteer to help at events such as the Telluride Mountain Film Festival.

Durango Coffee Co. co-owner Katherine Walker said she would always leave Bulson’s table open for him, and he would always come in positive and smiling.

“He had his spot right out front at the end of the building in the sunshine, and that corner does not look the same without that wheelchair there,” Walker said. “He’s been coming to Durango Coffee Co. for years. I was a barista here for about eight years before I became the owner, and he’s been coming in for about as long as I can remember.”

Lewis said Bulson was a fixture on Main Avenue in Durango.

Walker is hosting a celebration of life for Bulson from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Durango Coffee Co., where people can stop by to share photos and stories.

“It’s going to be kind of a party,” she said. “Johnny didn’t want a funeral or a memorial; he specifically used the words celebration of life.”

Miki Erschen said she knew Bulson back when they both lived in Telluride, where everybody knew him. Erschen said her friendship with Bulson blossomed when they reconnected after both moving to Durango.

“He was just the greatest person I’ve ever known,” she said. “Johnny was always optimistic and positive. He was able to live a very happy and full life because he was such a doer.”

Erschen said his calm and casual nature allowed him to connect with anyone he encountered.

“He made the very best out of his life, and he helped others make the very best out of theirs just by being friends with people,” she said.

Walker said Bulson had a way about talking with people that was inspiring.

“A lot of his interactions with people were pretty spontaneous,” she said. “If he was going down the street, people would stop and say hi, and he’d build – I don’t even know how many – hundreds of relationships that way.”

Lewis and his family were good friends with Bulson.

Lewis remembers good times with Bulson when they would camp in the desert. They even took a trip to Zion National Park.

“We had a lot of adventures in the desert where we’d camp under the stars, and I’d get him out of his chair and onto a camping pad,” Lewis said.

In an unfortunate coincidence, Lewis’ son, Cyrus, survived a skiing accident in November that left him with a C5 spinal cord injury that was similar to Bulson’s.

Before Bulson died, he was able to talk and connect with Cyrus about his own experiences after 37 years living with a spinal cord injury.

Lewis said that until recently he didn’t understand that he was receiving more from Bulson than he ever gave as a caregiver.

“It was a beautiful opportunity for me in my life to have been shown what’s possible now that I’m going forward and caring for my son with his own injuries,” Lewis said. “Now that he’s passed, I just realize that I was the one receiving from him.”

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