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What would Julian do?

Last week, Glenwood Springs bid farewell to one of its most vibrant and well-known residents. He was a 103-year-old (almost 104) known to many simply as Julian.

In meeting Julian Vogt, his remarkable age was not the characteristic that stood out the most. His honest character was what always floored and humbled me. Whether it was conversation over soup or a random email about something he found funny, Julian inspired me to be a better person.

Luckily I have 61 years to get to his level.

By definition, honesty not only refers to being truthful and straightforward but also fair, sincere and loyal. Julian was all of those, and more. Reading many of the feature stories penned about him and the obituary in this week’s paper, I’ve been reminded of a life lived to its complete fullest. From international travel to a longtime marriage filled with love, Julian found joy in about every facet of life.

Or maybe joy found him.

Looking back at the nearly 104 years Julian spent on this earth, I believe it was his positive attitude and curious approach to life that helped him enjoy such a full experience. Of course I asked him once, over dinner, what was the secret to living past 100. “Everything in moderation” was his initial response, as he ordered up a light cocktail mix of white wine and grapefruit juice. He laughed between bites of beet soup about the last Symphony Swing concert he attended, where he and a friend were the only two on the dance floor. His notoriously graceful moves prompted others in the crowd to join the party.

A common occurrence for Julian.

Reminiscing about Julian’s beautiful life has prompted me to live life much like he did. He and his wife, Anna, retired to Glenwood Springs with the pristine Rocky Mountains surrounding them, inspiring adventure in nature and bringing renewed vitality to the community. I aspire to that. Julian’s support of the arts, especially dance, will be carried on by all the creative stewards of the valley, including the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts, Symphony in the Valley, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, Dance Initiative and more.

Julian loved them all.

Not only did dance — both watching and participating — bring copious amounts of joy to Julian, but he also loved to laugh. Comedy was as much a part of his daily routine as exercise. The last email he wrote me, toward the end of 2014, had comedian Paul Reiser’s name in the subject line.

I was immediately intrigued.

Julian apologized for not having written recently. He said he had just finished two days in the hospital for back problems. But he was writing anyway. So Julian. That sentence ended with a cute “haha,” which was a common sentiment of Julian’s, both in written and spoken interactions.

His spirited laugh always sounded a lot like a yodel to me.

Julian wrote, verbatim, “I doubt that such young people like you have time to read AARP. So, if you haven’t done so, see AARP Bulletin for October 2014, page 42, for Paul Reiser’s funny (for me) story, one page. Also, he starred in the movie ‘Whiplash,’ which you have probably already seen.” I admit I’m not quite reading the AARP Bulletin yet, but I’m getting close, so I made sure to check it out.

That’s what Julian would do.

He joyfully signed the email, “Haha, Julian,” and followed it with “P.S: I danced a little (had no date!) at Oktoberfests, Glenwood and Carbondale.” I picture him smiling and dancing to polka, half laughing, half yodeling as the festive crowds clinked steins of German beer and indulged in spicy mustard-covered brats and schnitzel. Julian loved the Alpine life, and I think that’s the most distinct memory of him I will keep close to my heart as I recall the deep, personal impact he has made on my life.

I think Julian would be OK with that.

So next time I’m at an Oktoberfest, I’m going to dance to polka. Especially if there’s no one on the dance floor yet. Someone has to keep the party going. If swing music comes on the radio, I’m going to blare it like it’s The Beatles (what he called pop music). If there’s a ballet performance coming to town, I’m buying tickets and taking my mom as my date, in Julian’s memory. And when “Whiplash” comes to Netflix, I’m going to watch Paul Reiser and remember how much of a fan a 103-year-old from Glenwood Springs was of his comedy.

Because that’s what Julian would do.

April E. Clark will be cheering to Julian with a grapefruit juice and white wine spritzer on their shared birthday, April 20. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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