Heather Pearl Hamilton Tharp
Surrounded by her beloved children and animals, Heather Tharp passed away in her home in Silt, CO. Heather Pearl Hamilton was born to Henry Stuart Hamilton and Isabel Corrow in St. Johnsbury, VT, and reared in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom in the small town of Passumpsic, VT. Her father was a general store merchant and the Postmaster of Passumpsic. The youngest of 3 girls, she developed her famous love of animals while spending time on her aunt and uncle’s working farm. Heather graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy (‘51) and then graduated from Mt. Holyoke College (‘55).
While working as a freshman guide at Harvard College, she frequented the Harvard Square newspaper kiosk, perusing the western papers for job opportunities. She was enamored of the West and eager to explore its wide expanses. She responded to an ad in the Denver Post for a position at the Aspen Institute, and was hired by Bob Craig, the Institute’s director at the time. Her father equipped her with a ‘52 VW Beetle and sent her on her way across country to the Rocky Mountains. In the summer of 1957 she found herself in the original, cramped administrative office of the Aspen Institute, then located in the Hotel Jerome.
While working at the Aspen Institute, she met the handsome front desk clerk at the Aspen Meadows, William E. Tharp, with whom she fell in love. They married April 8, 1960, and had two children, Hamilton Stuart and Amanda Isabel. They lived in various Aspen locations finally settling at 712 West Francis Street in ‘64, where she lived for 32 years.
Together, Heather and Bill owned and operated The Omni Service, The Answerman, and the enduring Aspen Copy Service, which was originally housed in the Wheeler Opera House, closing two decades later at Jack Crandall’s Patio Building. She and Bill also managed the Wheeler Opera house under Don Swales until its sale to the City of Aspen in 1982.
Heather was an avid horsewoman, a joint Master of Foxhounds and an early staff member of the Roaring Fork Hounds hunt club along with Carol and Bob Craig, Marjorie and John A.F. Wendt, and Kit and Mike Strang. This later led to the popular Roaring Fork Hounds Pony Club, where Heather instructed and nurtured a love of horse culture in young equestrians for over 30 years. Along with Kit Strang, Vivian Goodnough and Marjorie Wendt, she mentored numerous young riders and jumpers in the Valley.
While both of her children were playing Aspen Junior Hockey at the Ice Garden, she joined several other hockey moms to charter the competitive women’s ice hockey team, The Aspen Mother Puckers in 1974. She was a founding member of the Glenwood Springs Ice Queens women’s hockey team, from which she retired in 2007. On her property in Silt, CO, she surrounded herself with horses, dogs and cats. Most recently, she volunteered with the New Castle Lions Club at the Community Health Fairs, as well as equestrian nonprofits. At a recent anniversary banquet of the Pony Club, Heather sat with her dear friend Kit Strang and delighted in hearing their former students tell her of their enduring love of horses and how much they treasured those days at the barn.
Heather is predeceased by her parents and oldest sister Joanne, and is survived by her older sister Patricia (Oneonta, NY), and children Hamilton Stuart and Amanda Isabel (Dennis) Winchell, grandchildren Brian, Brent, Cameron and Whitney, and nieces and nephews Lucy Bernier (Oneonta, NY), Mary Boel (Ithaca, NY), Alice Pantaleoni (East Worcester, NY), Dan Vinik (Tucson, AZ) and Amy Vinik (Bisbee, AZ).
There will be a celebration of Heather’s life later this summer. Donations in her memory can be made to HomeCare & Hospice of the Valley, any youth equestrian or ice hockey organization, or any animal care facility.
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