Former Pitkin County Commissioner Fred Crowley dies
Former Pitkin County commissioner and bona fide Aspen character Fred Crowley died Tuesday in Mexico, sources said Wednesday.
“He was — in my southern vernacular — a good ol’ boy,” said Aspen City Attorney Jim True, who served with Crowley on the county commission. “He was just kind of a down-to-earth, say-it-like-it-is (guy) but he would never try to be mean or unpleasant.
“He was always up and happy and just seemed like a good ol’ boy.”
Details about Crowley’s death, including his age, were not available Wednesday. Dan Glidden, a former Aspen police officer and a veteran like Crowley, said he received a phone call about the former commissioner’s death Tuesday night and that it occurred in Mexico, where Crowley lived during the winter.
Glidden did not know the cause of death.
“He was a great guy,” Glidden said. “What you saw was what you got. He told you exactly what was on his mind. There was nothing fancy about him.
“He was fun to know.”
A Boston-area native, Crowley was a decorated Vietnam veteran who moved to Aspen around 1970, according to an Aspen Times story from September 2005. He served as city and county building inspector before being elected to the Board of County Commissioners in the 1980s, according to the story.
“Elected by the working-class vote, or in his words the ‘S—t F—k Howdy’ constituency, Freddie kept editorial writers busy with his Southie vocabulary and his love of controversy,” according to a passage in the story. “If it’s true that God looks out for drunks and Irishmen, then drunks were likely neglected while he took care of Fred.
“A classic Aspen Times cover shows Freddie seated cross-legged on the sidewalk in front of the Jerome Bar on St. Patrick’s Day preparing a seven-course Irish dinner — a six-pack and a potato.”
Crowley served two terms on the Pitkin County board, though he resigned before completing his second term in October 1993. Former Pitkin County commissioner, city councilman and mayor Mick Ireland was appointed to finish out Crowley’s term.
True said that though he and Crowley were opposites politically, he remembers Crowley as an affable guy.
“He would be considered the staunchly conservative member of the board,” True said. “He didn’t support big government. He was different than a lot of us.”
Still, True said he could talk to Crowley about anything.
“Overall we didn’t necessarily agree (politically),” he said. “But I enjoyed serving with Fred. I just thought he was a good guy.”
Crowley received three Purple Hearts and fought in the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, according to a November 2014 Aspen Public Radio story. Other sources said he was seriously wounded in Vietnam.
Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Crowley told him about receiving a head wound in Vietnam that army medics didn’t think he would survive.
“One of the stories he told me, he was zipped up in a body bag and woke up inside it and had to unzip it,” DiSalvo said. “He was an unbelievable character who really did love life.
“He was a just a great Aspen character.”
True recalled Crowley telling another Vietnam story.
“He was leading a patrol and he had his hand over his head, trying to wave someone in a different direction,” True said. “Then he said he felt like a bee sting and he looks down and the top of his finger had been shot off.”
Crowley also was heavily involved in veterans’ issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and was a frequent participant in the Fourth of July parade as well as Memorial Day and Veterans Day festivities, Glidden and DiSalvo said.
“He gave a lot to Aspen in the ’70s and ’80s,” DiSalvo said. “I think he really cared about this community.”
DiSalvo said he particularly remembered Crowley’s gravelly, smoker’s voice and phlegmy cough when he laughed.
“He was a really nice and funny guy who smoked too many cigarettes for too long,” DiSalvo said. “His voice sounded like he had rocks in his throat.”
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