A `warrior’ remembered
“He pulled away from the pack one last time,” said Pastor Bill Hofto during a eulogy yesterday for Aspenite John Roberts.
“To be amongst the crowd that John fell in with, you could be neither timid or lazy,” the pastor of The Church in the Valley continued. “And John died doing what he loved.”
More than 250 of Roberts’ family members and friends, including a sizable contingent of local hardcore skiers and alpine athletes, gathered Wednesday afternoon at the Inn at Aspen to remember Roberts.
Roberts, 30, died Friday in an avalanche in Tonar Bowl, a backcountry area near Aspen Highlands. Longtime Aspen resident Michael Hanrahan, 49, also died in the avalanche. A service for Hanrahan will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Aspen Chapel.
Jay Fletcher, a friend and co-worker of Roberts’ for more than 10 years at Krabloonik – where Roberts was formerly head chef – watched his friend become one of the valley’s top mountain-sport athletes.
“He was 19 when he joined up at Krabloonik, and I liked him from the get-go. He had spunk,” Fletcher said. “I called him `kid’ or `son’ or `sonny.’ Still do. But slowly he became much more than the tag-along kid. He kicked ass; he kicked all our asses.”
Fletcher recounted several stories demonstrative of Roberts’ unflagging energy, spirit and ambition in long-distance biking, hiking, running and ski touring adventures and competitions.
“He’d be up against professional athletes in some of these competitions, and he’s placing in the top five or ten. And there’s Johnny, right up with ’em, and he’s a cook!” Fletcher said with a smile. “He’s a cook! And could he ski, too!
“Johnny Roberts was very special to a lot of us,” Fletcher continued. “He was a good man; he was a warrior… he was honest, hardworking, polite, loyal … he was a man of honor and all of us who knew John are stronger because of him. We are all very proud that John Roberts was our friend. He had a rich life with deep meaning. He was a great chef, too, and I’m going to miss eating his food.”
Yesterday morning, several of Roberts’ closest friends made a trip to the top of Highland Bowl, one of Roberts’ favorite places, to spread some of his ashes, Fletcher said.
“It was very spiritual,” Fletcher said of skinning up the ridge, an endeavor that usually involved Roberts breaking trail. “John got to go up one more time.
“Hopefully we can all gain from John’s loss, and be a little physically and spiritually stronger. That’s what John would have wanted,” Fletcher said. “He was a physical and spiritual mountain himself.”
Reading a prepared statement on behalf of Roberts’ sister, Karen, Pastor Hofto said: John “loved equally his family, his friends and his adventurous lifestyle. John will always be with each of you, and you’ll know when and why.”
Cynthia Meyers, Roberts’ girlfriend, said life for Roberts was all about pursuing his passions, while keeping fun at the forefront.
“It was always about fun: how much flour could you get on your dry-cleaned clothes at work?” Meyers said. “Johnny would say thanks for sharing all those fun times. They meant the world to him.”
Jim Roberts, one of John’s three brothers, said his family deeply appreciated the outpouring of support they’ve received from John’s friends in Aspen. The Roberts boys grew up in Vermont.
“I can’t thank you guys enough, it’s been a tough couple of days,” Jim said. “This is his family here. … I wish I was more a part of his life, he was just amazing. We’re going to miss him, but be strong like he would be.
“He was doing was he loved to do and I respected that in him,” Jim continued. “We knew some of the stuff he was doing was dangerous, but live it and love it, like John did.”
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