Helen Kalin Klanderud was born June 9, 1937, and passed away October 3, 2013. Her life was full and rich and filled with love for her four children, as well as the downtrodden, the homeless, and all the Joe the Plumbers of the world.
“Helen Klanderud worked every day for this community for 43 years,” Sheriff Joe DiSalvo says. “She was always going somewhere and doing something.”
She was equally at home chatting with a plumber at Little Annie’s and dissecting politics with a U.S. senator. Helen believed that Aspen’s locals were what shaped Aspen’s character.
With four young children in tow and a degree in social work, she moved to Aspen in 1971, having landed a job as director of the new Touchstone Mental Health Clinic. She held that position for five years, at the same time serving as social worker in the Aspen public schools from 1971 to 1973.
After leaving Touchstone, she was in private practice for 12 years, active in the schools and in her church. But she loved politics. That passion led to a run for Pitkin County commissioner in 1981 and, as the first woman elected to that board, Helen served two terms from 1981 to 1987. She had an unsuccessful run for State Senate in 1986.
Following her terms as a commissioner, she enrolled in law school. Upon her return to Aspen, she ran for mayor, losing to Rachel Richards in 1999. But in 2001, a rematch put her in the mayor’s seat for the first of three terms, leaving the office for good in 2007 due to term limits.
A few days later, to properly celebrate the end of that era and the beginning of a new one, she threw herself a 70th birthday bash for several hundred friends as the first customer of the brand new Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows. She claimed she and the Golden Gate Bridge were virtual twins, having been born in the same year. Known widely as The Lady in Black, she surprised the crowd that day by wearing an all-white outfit to usher in the new era.
Helen had a thick skin along with her lively sense of humor. About her time in the mayor’s seat, she was quoted as follows: “Maybe the stars all aligned at the right time, or maybe there are cycles that you go through, but it has been an exciting and challenging time to have been in office. To work with these organizations and the community at large has been very rewarding.”
Helen was a passionate member of the board of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and served on a number of other boards of local nonprofits, including Aspen Homeless Shelter, Aspen Writers’ Foundation (serving as president of the board at the time of her death), Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, and as a community member of the Jazz Aspen-Snowmass board. True to her spirit, she was a member of both the Elks Club Lodge #224 and the Fraternal Order of Eagles #184.
She is survived by her children Kaela of Port Orchard, Washington, Erik of Aspen, and Kurt of Castle Rock, her sister, Louise Donovan of Arvada, and grandchildren Christopher and Conor Ultican of Port Orchard, Washington. Her son Soren preceded her in death earlier this year.
Services for Helen Klanderud will take place at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen, followed by mass at 10 am. Interment will take place at Red Butte Cemetery, followed by a reception at the Hotel Jerome Ballroom at approximately 11:30 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations be made to your favorite charity that may include some of Helen’s pet projects, such as Aspen Historical Society, Aspen Counseling Center, Aspen Writers’ Foundation, or Aspen Homeless Shelter.
— Provided by the Klanderud family