Theyre part of Aspen
Ryan Summerlin December 14, 2005
The Aspen Hall of Fame would be hard pressed to choose four inductees who are more difficult to describe than Nick and Maggie DeWolf, Connie Harvey and Dottie Fox. One could mention words like inventor, wilderness hero, artist, gardener, physicist, painter and teacher to describe them, but none of the words do justice. Really, they are being honored because they stand out far beyond their personal accomplishments as dedicated supporters of the Aspen community.Connie and DottieHarvey and Fox, along with Joy Caudill (who has already been inducted into the Hall of Fame), are responsible for convincing Congress to preserve the three wilderness areas around Aspen: Hunter-Frying Pan, Collegiate Peaks and Maroon Bells-Snowmass.”You can’t separate the contributions of these two women from the beauty we’re surrounded by,” said founder and Vice President of the Hall of Fame Jeanette Darnauer. “We wouldn’t have the glorious hiking and wilderness trails without them.” Harvey, who grew up in New Jersey and moved to Aspen after being a ski bum in Sun Valley for a few years, said, “It’s a little intimidating [to be inducted]. I’ve been around long enough, eventually you become infamous and a little famous, more infamous than famous. “I’m too outspoken, I have opinions and I let people know.”Harvey actively served on many local boards regarding the causes of open space and agriculture, raised a family of six kids and worked a cattle ranch she bought in 1962. In 1996 the national Sierra Club designated her a local hero. “I’m a rabble-rouser,” she said. “I write my column in the Daily News and ask people to call their senator, and I call them myself.”Fox arrived in Aspen seven years after Harvey, in 1969. “I’m an endangered species,” she said, “I’m a Coloradan.”Apart from her conservation work, she is a recognized local artist and a teacher of 18 years at Colorado Mountain College. She has also been active as a volunteer on government land-use review boards and served stints as president of the local chapter of League of Women Voters and of the local Sierra Club.Fox is also a founding member of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, created in 1989 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. “Hiking was what inspired me,” Fox said. “I didn’t know anyone here. I just explored and realized how fragile these areas were.”When asked how she was able to help create the three wilderness areas, she laughed and responded that it’s the same way it is always done.”You get a group of people who are passionate about the wilderness and you do a lot of boring work. You go to public hearings, you make a lot enemies, you work with the forest service, with your congressman, and then you try to get people organized and excited and you get your hometown fired up. Put the pressure on Washington and eventually you get it.”She mentioned, however, that it was a love of the outdoors that fueled her work. “I love to hike, I love to ski,” she said. “As long as I’m outside lying in a sleeping bag under the stars, I’m happy. Connie and Joy and I have all hiked and backpacked together. That’s what makes you keep doing what you’re doing because you find out how beautiful it is.”
“Nick and Maggie DeWolf have been an institution in Aspen for a long time, they’re part of what makes our community so special,” Darnauer said. “Their contributions are numerous. I don’t think I can even summarize very well.”Nick and Maggie moved to Aspen in the 1970s. Nick retired early and jumped into community involvement. His business card says inventor, but he’s also a rabble-rouser, general grouser, and something of a wonderfully kooky nut. While Nick spoke on and on about various things, Maggie refused to be interviewed, saying, “Nick will talk enough for 10 people.”
He’s probably best known for designing and developing the dancing fountain – Aspen’s beach – on the Hyman Avenue mall.”It has a definite pattern,” he said, “but how long would you have to wait to see the same 10 minutes?” he laughed. “The sun will have melted into the earth – billions of years.”
He designed it to be seen from far away. “If you got stood up at the Wheeler,” he said, “then you’d have something interesting to look at. I underestimated the kids, though, they kidnapped the fountain.”These days, Nick is working to scan and retouch historical photos of Aspen. His desk was a crazy jumble of wires and hardware. “It’s more fun for me to do smaller projects,” he said, explaining his new formula, “I do projects within my own grasp, financed by myself, for under 10 grand.”I create too many projects. I guess I’m known around here as a creative, mad-scientist type.”Nick and Maggie have recently had the annual Aspen Center for Physics winter lecture series named after them.
“We pack the joint,” he said, “sometimes there’s 400 people listening to serious physics lectures. That’s why I like Aspen, we have a very high level of interest about things we don’t understand.”Nick has just gone through a year of Chemotherapy and spoke openly about his mortality. “I have the aura of being trusted and respected because I may croak,” he said. “A lot of people die badly, they could have a lot better time of it.”The four inductees griped a bit about “Olde Aspen” and how times have changed. By all reports, however, the Aspen Hall of Fame banquet – tentatively set for Jan. 26 – is one of the last bastions of “Olde Aspen,” a true community event and open to all. Banquet sign up forms will be available in Community Banks of Colorado starting in January. Or, for tickets, call Linda Keleher at 925-2172.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com