DENVER -- Although it’s been 19 years since legendary singer/songwriter John Denver died in a small plane crash in Monterey, Calif., his music and mission are still very much alive. Perhaps no one is more in tune with that than Dilion, Colorado musician/entrepreneur Willie Hoevers, a longtime Denver fan and advocate for continuing the icon’s legacy.
In December, Hoevers formed the nonprofit organization The Rocky Mountain Foundation for the Performing Arts (RMFPA), aiming to continue exposing Denver’s songs to the public, especially youngsters.
He said outside of promoting John’s music he also is passionate about motivating people to carry on Denver’s efforts to protect the environment and its precious wildlife and natural resources.
“John has been inspiring me for many years and his music has played such an important part in my life,” said Hoevers, who was born in the Netherlands. “After his death, his core group of fans seemed to have stuck together but outside of that, people have all but forgotten him.
“I wanted to find a way to keep what he started going and expose it to young people, too. If we can get the kids on board, they will make sure John’s songs and all that he stood for lives on.”
According to Hoevers, he plans to raise money for his foundation by offering charities and other nonprofits an opportunity to produce concerts that will feature one of the many John Denver tribute bands or solo artists around the world.
His vision involves having participating organizations invite local students to perform with the headliner, which will in turn give young people the opportunity to learn Denver’s music and hopefully grow to love it.
“I am in touch with many John Denver tribute acts all around the world, many of which I have hired to play in Aspen during the annual Aspen in Colorado event I produce,” said Hoevers, a bass player. “I want to give them a chance, as well as up-and-coming artists, to play John’s music for a whole new generation of fans.
“Most of them are very excited to be a part of the Rocky Mountain Foundation for the Performing Arts and will make themselves available for shows whenever possible. I have found that the artists who love John’s music are genuinely nice people, just like John was.”
Along with assisting charities and other organizations in their efforts to produce John Denver tribute shows, Hoevers will seek donations for his foundation from businesses and the private sector. He also has set up a Go Fund Me page at https://www.gofundme.com/rmfpa.
“All donations will be used as start-up funds for the foundation,” said Hoevers, an online radio personality for American Veterans Radio. “I set up it up as a labor of love for John and the music he left us and seek no financial gain whatsoever.”
Denver rose to fame in the 1970s with his wholesome country/folk music and boyish charm. By the end of the decade, the Roswell, N.M. native had established himself as one of the world’s most successful and beloved entertainers.
His signature songs include, "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Annie's Song,” "Rocky Mountain High,” "Thank God I'm a Country Boy” and "Sunshine on My Shoulders.”
Along with his musical career, Denver also was an outspoken activist for several environmental causes. He founded the charitable Windstar Foundation in 1976 in an effort to promote sustainable living.
On Oct. 12, 1997, Denver was killed at the age of 53 when his experimental Rutan Long-EZ plane crashed into Monterey Bay near Pacific Grove, Calif.
After the accident, an investigation by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) deemed the crash was due to Denver’s inability to switch fuel tanks during flight.