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True to the family name

Amanda Holt MillerPost Independent Staff
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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Dick Aspinall, 90, is not a regular guy. He’s an Aspinall.”We are not an ordinary family,” Aspinall said, sitting on the patio outside of the Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home in Rifle. “We do things when we’re capable. Aspinall is always honest and speaks up when something’s not right.”The state of Colorado is erecting a memorial to Aspinall’s father, Wayne Aspinall, in Palisade this summer. Wayne served as Colorado’s Congressman from 1949-1973. He was a Democrat in a predominately Republican area. He wrote the bills that made Hawaii and Alaska states.He introduced Aspinall to various presidents – Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald Ford.”Dad, he had a bet with (Franklin D.) Roosevelt about where the best peaches came from,” Aspinall said. “Do you know how Roosevelt campaigned? He had a rail car he hooked to the back of a train.”

On the day Aspinall got his driver’s license, his father told him to take the car to the peach orchard the family owned in Palisade, pick a box of peaches and take them down to the train tracks.”Not one of them could have been any smaller than that,” Aspinall said of the peaches as he held his hands out in a cup big enough for a softball. “I got a can of fresh cream from a new dairy in town and went to the tracks.”There, Aspinall said a secret service man approached him.”‘Are you by any chance Aspinall?’ Yes I am,” Aspinall said. “And he picked up the box and the cream and me and put us in the train car. ‘Take two steps forward and knock on that door,’ the secret service man told me, and I did.”Eleanor Roosevelt answered the door and welcomed young Aspinall in. They ate the peaches and drank the cream.”Georgia didn’t have a chance against these peaches,” Aspinall said.

Then he heard the engineer call out and he stood up to leave.”Mrs. Roosevelt grabbed me and sat me back down. ‘You’re not going anywhere Aspinall,’ she told me,” Aspinall said. “What was I supposed to do? You don’t argue with the first lady.”He rode to Salt Lake City with the first family and was met by a Utah State trooper afterward. The trooper drove him across Utah back to Palisade and he was afraid the whole time of being left in the desert by himself to fend off the rattlesnakes.Aspinall followed in his father’s footstep to some degree. He was a Marine for four years. He was a pilot and a teacher. “I was a small town kid and I should have stayed in that small town,” Aspinall said.But he didn’t. He worked at the Carnegie Endowment in New York City right out of college.



“I gave all my money away,” Aspinall said. “There were people there who were hungry. And there were women who would sleep above the subways because it was warm there. I would find them places to stay and I paid. If you don’t grow up with that you’re not used to it and it bothers. I came back so broke.”Later, Aspinall became known for starting up and building schools. When he had an opportunity to move his family to Belgium, he did it in hopes that they would all return speaking French.His daughter, who was only 4 years old, attended a Catholic school there and “was the only Aspinall to come back fluent.”Aspinall had a stroke when he was 49 and had to retire from the school business. He said it was stressful work and tried very hard to protect his students, though sometimes, the world was meaner than he anticipated.Aspinall is glad the state is erecting a memorial for his father. It will stand along one of his dad’s favorite walking paths in Palisade.”I am an Aspinall,” Aspinall said. “But I am not my father.”


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