Community organizes benefit for a widowed mother
Since July 19, not a day passes that Ashley Gundlach doesn’t cry.Grief is the ultimate tormentor. That hot summer afternoon the day after her third wedding anniversary Gundlach’s husband, Doug, died unexpectedly.At 25, Ashley lost her soul mate and the father of her children.He was also her best friend.”He spoiled me rotten, me and the kids,” she said. “He was just very caring, and he made you laugh all the time. He had a great personality, a great smile. He wanted to be mayor of Silt.”Like a downpour of rain at a family picnic, Doug’s death was unexpected. The seemingly healthy 37-year-old was getting ready for work, standing in the bathroom of his Silt Mesa home when he collapsed.”To have your best friend, your husband, the father of your kids taken away in seconds is hard,” Ashley said. “We had no idea whatsoever that he was sick.”Doug’s death was a result of a clogged artery.Ashley regrets the events of that fateful day one that started out as routine as a baby’s diaper change.”I got up for work and had a meeting that morning. He and the baby were still asleep, and I didn’t want to wake him,” she said. “I never said goodbye.”
On Saturday, Ashley, along with her late husband’s friends and family, will say goodbye to Doug in a big way.They’re hosting the inaugural Realm Festival from noon to midnight at the Klein Ranch in New Castle. The outdoor event centers around music, microbrews and camping – all of which Doug loved.”About a month before he died, strangely enough, he and I talked just the two of us about how we wanted to be remembered if we died,” said Dana Andersen, one of the Realm Festival organizers. “He said he didn’t want people moping around. He wanted people to party and have fun.”Doug also loved watching Cubs baseball, playing softball, and spending time with four girls – Heather, 10; Makyla and Peyton, both 8; and Addison, 17 months. He enjoyed quizzing friends and regular clientele at Burning Mountain Bowl, where he was a bartender.”He was a master of trivia, especially ’70s music trivia,” said Andersen, who works for Colorado Mountain News Media. “He remembered everything. And he was probably one of the hardest working people I know.”The goal of the Ream Festival is to establish a scholarship trust fund for Doug’s daughters. He was a dedicated, enthusiastic family man a characteristic Ashley adored.”The girls were definitely his world. He wanted to make sure he could be the best dad, and husband, he could be. We had a lot of fun,” she said. “We were just a really close family. We always made sure we had a family day every Saturday or Sunday. We’d go hiking, fishing, or just walking around the mall to buy the girls something cute to wear.”Ashley said her husband would be honored to know the community has rallied to help his family in their time of need much like he did when he was alive. Realm Festival organizers hope to attract upwards of 500 people to the event.
“He was always opening his door to others. He always had these great ideas for raising money for people who needed help,” she said. “For people to do the same for his family, he would taken aback by it. It’s just unbelievable.”Doug had recently helped with a colon cancer survivor benefit, recruiting New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin to tend bar at the event. In that one meeting, Doug made a powerful impact on Breslin.”He was very energetic about running some other fund raisers for people he thought needed help. He was just overflowing with ideas,” Breslin said. “Basically he was a very optimistic person and I didn’t know much about him, but I wanted to know more. He loved his family he talked about his kids and his wife a lot. I was sad (to hear of his death) because there’s not very many people around like him. A lot of people are cynical and unhappy with their occupations. He was a very cheerful person.”
Coping with the loss of Doug’s enthusiastic take on life has been heart-wrenching for Ashley.Being a widowed mother working two jobs constantly tests her strength.”I don’t know I say that a lot,” she said. “One minute I’m fine, then the next minute I’m so mad and angry that this is happening.”Ashley takes life day-by-day some days are better than others.”Today is actually a good day. I’m laughing, I’m smiling,” she said. “When I’m at work, I really don’t have time to think about it. But when I’m home I think about it a lot. I cry everyday because I don’t know what I’m going to do.”Since July 19, life has dramatically changed for Ashley and her girls.There’s the need for daycare for Addison. And there are worries of buying the home she and Doug were renting to own after relocating from Las Vegas more than a year ago.Planning for the future is just not the same without Doug.”I have to take life day-by-day,” Ashley said. “I can’t fall apart. I need to be strong for my kids and be patient and see what happens.”Community members have helped by dropping off fresh-baked bread or vegetables from their gardens. A neighbor baby-sits for Addison while Ashley works. Harry’s Equipment in Rifle loaned Ashley a riding lawn mower to cut the grass on the home’s nearly three-acre yard.”All of the sudden we went from two incomes to one, plus daycare problems,” Ashley said. “But I’m really grateful for the help you wouldn’t see this in Vegas.”Although financial issues create a lot of stress, missing Doug’s devotion is a struggle for Ashley. The couple was so close, they often finished each other’s sentences.”In his anniversary card, he wrote, ‘You’re my best friend and I love you so much.’ And I wrote the same,” she said. “Sometimes I would be like, we should do this today and he would say, ‘I was thinking the exact same thing.’ We did that a lot.”Doug’s death hasn’t quite sunk in, Ashley said. Sometimes, late at night when he would typically be coming home from work, she imagines life before July 19.”When I’m alone and can’t sleep, I keep thinking I hear him walking through the door,” she said.Andersen said he’ll never forget his friend who was always on the go.
“There’s not a day that goes by we don’t talk about him,” he said. “That’s how much he’s missed.”Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
What: Realm Festival, featuring live music, microbrews from Tommyknocker Brewery, a silent auction, and free camping. Bands include headliner Little Hercules, Rocking Horse, Environmental Stimulation Project (ESP), Dave Hill and Bruce Imig from The Dags, High Five, Wave Mountain Riders, The Joe & Terry Band, and DJ John Nedza. When: Noon to midnight, Saturday Where: Klein Ranch, 1777 County Road 241, New Castle (exit off I-70, turn left at the four-way stop, follow the signs and balloons through downtown New Castle to Seventh Street, turn right for two miles and take the right fork for 1.7 miles to the site). Why: As a scholarship benefit for the four children of Doug Gundlach, a Silt resident who died unexpectedly in July How much: $20 donation; kids 12 and younger are free
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