Death do us part in 2014
Linda. Stewart. Nancy. Gunilla. Brad. Curt. Willard. Karl. Will.
One died in combat. One was murdered. Two had heart disease. Three died of cancer. One committed suicide. Three made it to old age, and one actually died of that condition. Six, however, died long before they should have.
These were some of our communities’ giants. Each touched thousands of lives. Many were my friends and I miss them dearly.
At each of the seven memorials I’ve attended this year, I have been reminded of our region’s resilience. Hundreds of people, some I know, many I don’t, reminiscing, mourning and celebrating together.
I can’t wait for 2014 to be done with. It’s been a sad year. My dog, Perro, even died last week, three or four years prematurely. I cried hardest for Perro, because he was such a gentle soul and most days really was my best friend.
I don’t want any more friends to die, at least not for a long time. Fortunately, my memories of those who have died are in the present tense, and every time I think of them they come alive.
Like Linda Keleher shaking her head in disbelief, dismay really, after I finished painting my small house bright yellow. When I asked her how she liked it, she told me “like” probably wasn’t a word she would use. She was a community stalwart with a sense of humor.
Stewart Oksenhorn — Stewy — would pop around the corner to my desk at The Aspen Times, usually with a grin on his face. He typically brought good tidings in the form of a lunch invitation, a CD to share that he had received gratis through his job as A&E editor, or a tale to tell about how this event or that person he just encountered.
Nancy Pfister was the perfect embodiment of Aspen in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. She was sexy and smart. She was charming. She lived a carefree, yet generous life. She was almost always the of center the party.
Gunilla Israel Asher and I rolled through Reno one night after a day of “management training” at the parent company of the Times. We harassed some poor singer in a casino bar with requests for 1980s tunes and demands that he rock out with his … well, never mind. Gunilla became publisher of The Aspen Times. She must have taken better notes than I during those management training sessions. Her memorial inspired former and present Times employees to stage a reunion this fall at Difficult Campground. Thanks, Gunilla.
Brad Hendricks was and still is — even in death — Good Enough for Government Work. That was his motto way back when he ran for Garfield County commissioner. Too bad he didn’t win. Brad grabbed me by the arm soon after I was elected trustee in Carbondale and lectured me on the importance of streets, sewers and cops. It’s taken a few years, but Brad’s advice, borne from his own experience as a Carbondale trustee, may finally be sinking in.
Curt Chase was respected as Aspen Skiing Co.’s director of ski schools back in the 1970s. Growing up, I heard his name every week, sometimes every day. About 1,000 people showed up for his memorial last summer on Aspen Mountain. Wow.
Willard Clapper was my teacher. He was my harasser. He was my coach. He was those things for a thousand or more kids who grew up in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. He was also my fellow yoga practitioner. Safe to say I’m one of the few Aspen natives to see Willard in yoga shorts sweating out a 90-minute Bikram’s yoga class in a 100-degree room. He was a great man, if not a great yogi.
Karl Siegel and Will DuBois were neither friends nor acquaintances. But they were much beloved.
I accompanied my girlfriend to Karl’s memorial. He was her friend. About 250 other friends showed up as well. I was struck by how at home everyone felt that night at the Woody Creek Community Center, even as they mourned Karl’s completely unexpected passing.
Will was a New Castle native and an honored F-16 pilot for the U.S. Air Force. He, too, died before his time. I wish I could have known him.
Allyn Harvey writes a monthly column for the Post Independent. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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