Trauger column: Don’t wait until they are gone — say it now
December 25, 2018
Over the last few weeks we have heard and read about the death of several community members. There have been obituaries, editorial columns, news articles, and tributes floating across social media. Reverent discussions about the contributions of these citizens is taking place on street corners and over dining tables.
It is good to honor those who have made an impact in our lives and to our communities after they have died. It is good to recognize their contributions and accomplishments. It is good to tell the world how much their lives, friendship and partnerships brought joy to us.
Jim Calaway, Leslie Bethel, David Dodson and Louise Jackson are four citizens who our community has lost over the last month. Each of these individuals touched many lives and made a difference in our community. They each did it in very different ways, but the mark that they left on this region will be felt, in some cases, for decades or longer.
I just have a question. Why do we wait until people are gone to write their stories and to tell them how much we appreciate them as people and as community members? What is the purpose of lauding them for their accomplishments after they are gone? Shouldn't we be telling those who have an impact on our lives how much they are treasured and admired while they still walk with us? Wouldn't it be more fun to share those thoughts with them and to be able to see their delight in knowing how much they were revered?
I think both Jim Calaway and Louise Jackson had that chance, at least a little bit, during their lifetimes. Louise,and her husband Dr. Carter Jackson were named citizens of the year in 2005. I am aware of several articles about the philanthropic efforts of Jim Calaway, as the library at Colorado Mountain College bearing his name and the Calaway Young Cancer Center at Valley View Hospital were dedicated. They probably had an inkling that this community and others in the valley valued them, not only for what they gave but for what they did and who they were. But again, I guess you can never hear those things too often.
I did not know Mr. Calaway well. I knew Louise Jackson by reputation only. I knew Dave Dodson years ago, but lost touch over the years. I wish that I had known them all better.
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However, I did know Leslie Bethel as a business associate and friend and I am very sorry that I never wrote a column about her. Although I told her how much I appreciated her efforts for Glenwood Springs, I should have taken that public.
Leslie and I did not agree about everything during my time on the Glenwood Springs City Council, but she and I understood that we both had the best interest of Glenwood Springs at heart. She worked tirelessly to make Glenwood Springs a gem that would serve the business community, the citizens and our visitors well.
Did I mention that she could be bullheaded? Yes, she could. She would crusade and lobby for what she thought was best. The pedestrian bridge and the detail on the Grand Avenue Bridge are recent evidence of that. She was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with CDOT, the contractors or city officials to see that things were done right.
Leslie was a visionary and a doer. She could see potential in things that most of us couldn't even imagine and she had the gumption to make it happen. She was intelligent, artistic, funny and driven. And she cared deeply about this community and it showed. She was beloved by many and feared by a few.
Leslie and I managed to find time to share a glass of wine and talk quite often, but not often enough. She had a lot of dreams, hopes and goals she wanted to accomplish. But, sadly, she was taken far too young.
Leslie's departure has left a hole in this community and in many hearts. Mine is one. But it serves to remind me that I must tell those who touch my life – whether I know them well or not – whose efforts, gifts, friendship and love I appreciate, just how much they mean to me.
Perhaps that is something we can all work toward in the new year. Let's not wait until the funeral to let people know how they have touched you. Reach out and tell them now. It will mean the world to them to know.
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and she currently chairs the city's Financial Advisory Board. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.