There are so many layers of emotions concerning the death of our beloved Stewart Oksenhorn. We are shocked and depressed, baffled and confused — but mostly heartbroken.
The Aspen Times family plainly adored and admired Stewy. The community cherished him. His family loved him. And we all respected him for his enduring work.
The tragic irony in this mind-boggling death is that Stewy shined a light on all that’s good in a world that routinely pounds us over the head with reasons to be cynical. His devotion to the subjects he covered — musical, visual, film, performance and food — carried through in the mounds of work he produced as the arts and entertainment editor of The Aspen Times.
Stewy was tireless in his research, yet his final products revealed an effortless, endearing style, while probing deep into his subject matters. Whether it’s journalism, athletics, business, medicine or anything else, the best in their profession make it look easy. That’s what Stewy did.
People loved being interviewed by Stewy. He challenged his subjects with thoughtful questions, and he didn’t take any shortcuts with the stories he wrote. He gave a voice to many creative individuals and groups whose work would have gone unnoticed, if not for Stewy. He told their stories, and damn, he told them so well.
He was a true professional and true to himself. He was a man of pajama pants or cut-off shorts, usually matched with a Grateful Dead, Denver Nuggets or Simpsons T-shirt. He was hardly a man of fashion, but he had his own distinct style.
On Friday, Stewy and I engaged in our normal conversations that focused on the future. We discussed his stories for the weekend and on what days they would be published. One was a story about The Howling Kettles, which did an impromptu jam session in our conference room Friday morning, Stewy reveling in it all.
The stories he delivered for our Saturday and Sunday editions were vintage Stewy, and left me with that usual satisfaction of understanding and appreciating the world’s creative forces that enrich our lives.
Stewart made his editors look good. He would deliver us a five-star meal on a routine basis. All we had to do was give them a taste and then let the world devour the rest.
We trusted Stewart to do his job because he did it so well. And, as a colleague told me Monday, we should trust the decision he made Sunday. But we can’t mask the pain. And we must carry on.
I dread the thought of Stewy becoming the latest statistic in Pitkin County’s high suicide rate. He was so much more than that, as I’m sure the relatives and loved ones of others who took their lives surely have felt.
We won’t let his suicide define his legacy, and we will celebrate his life.
Yet still, we can’t turn a blind eye to this epidemic that hit home Sunday like a deafening clap of thunder. Please, if you know anybody who is hurting, take some time to offer your support and friendship. We are fortunate enough to have the Aspen Hope Center, which provides counseling to those who are suffering or feeling destitute. The number there is 970-925-5858 and its website is www.aspenhopecenter.org.
We miss and love you, Stewy, and we pray that you know that. And to his relatives and friends, your Aspen Times family will always be here for you.
Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.