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Coffee, Joe "Awful" (Joseph R.), 1905-1993



  • Existence: 1905-1993

Joe (Joseph) Rutkofsky "Awful" Coffee was born in Russia in 1905, but began his distinguished citizenship in the United States when his family moved to Pueblo at the age of twelve. Coffee became a newsboy to help with the family’s finances, and his first job was to sell Pueblo Star-Journals on the street of his hometown. By learning the boxing of the street, he became a boxing pro at seventeen. Because the future of boxing lay in Los Angeles, he traveled there and began a long-time friendship with Jack Dempsey.

Coffee returned to Pueblo to continue boxing, but also graduated from Pueblo Centennial High School in 1925. He then entered Denver University where he was serving as boxing coach and trainer. While in Pueblo, Coffee assisted in the founding of the Pueblo Athletic Club and became involved in Steel Works YMCA. During his enrollment at DU, Coffee was instrumental in starting boy’s boxing clubs for the Highlander Boys, St. Vincent’s Home for Boys, St. Claire’s Orphanage, Clayton College for Boys, the National Jewish Home for Asthmatic Children and at the old Rudy Community Center. He also created the “Kid Gloves” Television show, the stars of which were the children to whom he gave lessons at various orphanages.

In 1943, Joe opened his restaurant, Joe “Awful” Coffee’s Ringside Lounge. During his twenty-three years in the business, he continued to take care of the various boxing programs at the aforementioned homes.

Joe was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, and then he retired from the restaurant business. He remained active working for and with mentally challenged and handicapped individuals. His civic contributions are numerous, including his participation in the founding of Wallace Center for Children, Laradon Hall, Hope Center and Pet Pride Palace. He served on the boards of each and has been involved with the Denver Utility Workshop, which employs handicapped adults and recent immigrants to the country.

Joe died in 1993.

Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:

Boxing: Coffee, 1950-1976

Identifier: B132.01.0001.0002
Abstract Joe 'Awful' Coffee, born Joseph Rutkowski in Minsk, Russian Empire in 1905 was a major figure on the Denver sports scene. After boxing, as a featherweight, for ten years across the Rocky Mountain region, he retired and went to college at the University of Denver. After graduation, Joe worked for the May Company, and then opened up Joe 'Awful' Coffee's Ringside Lounge in 1943. Coffee's restaurant operated for some 23 years, closing in 1966, and attracting such notables as Jack Dempsey, President...
Dates: 1950-1976

Colorado Jewish Athletes Collection

Identifier: B132
Abstract Collection contains notes and newsclipping of individual Jewish athletes from Colorado: Leonard Alterman, Abe Attell, Mandel Berenbaum, Joe Coffee; Max Cohan, Nate Grimes, Dorothy Heitler, Irwin Hoffman, Helen Hyman, Blanche Lange, Larry Loeb, Aaron Lutz, Alice Marx, Fay Morris, Ed Pepper, Harvey Salz, Howard Schechtel, Jack Shapiro, Morey Sharp, Craig Silverman, Sam Sugarman, and William Winograd.
Dates: 1920-2013

Individuals, 1962-1994

Identifier: B113.01.0001.0004
Abstract File contains newspaper clippings from 1962-1994 that are about individual people in the Jewish Denver community. The majority of the articles are from the early 1980s.
Dates: 1962-1994

Oral History Interview with Joe Coffee, 1981 October 5

Identifier: B098.01.0004.00075
Abstract Speaks about early life in Pueblo and carrer as a boxer.
Dates: 1981 October 5

Play Ball: Colorado Jewish Athletes, 2013

Identifier: B230.03.0023.00011
Abstract Brief biographies of Jewish men and women athletes as well as sports personalities from Colorado. Written and directed by Jeanne Abrams for the 2013 RMJHS Dinner.
Dates: 2013