Art Daily, an Aspen pillar of compassion, dies at 79
After surviving Glenwood Canyon accident that killed his wife and 2 children in 1995, Daily found ways to turn his grief to help others in community
When Art Daily lost his wife and two sons to a rock fall in February 1995, the Aspen community mourned with him, grieved with him, and supported him. On Monday, it was Daily who had passed, but not before becoming a symbol of perseverance and a source of inspiration for those struggling with grief and loss.
“So many people opened up to him because they knew he had seen it all,” said his wife, Allison Daily.
Art Daily died in his sleep, she said. He was 79 and would have turned 80 in January but his health had been in decline, she added. He is survived by his wife, Allison; his daughter, Piper; two sons, Burke and Rider; and two brothers, John and Mike.
“His passion really was his children,” his wife said. “He was so proud of Piper and his two sons.”
Allison said she hopes there can be visual-type of community celebration for Art near the end of December.
An attorney and former city councilman, an outdoors enthusiast, a voracious reader and active in volunteer roles such as working with Aspen Junior Hockey, Art Daily also counseled people grieving the loss of a loved one, was a widower and husband, and the father of five.
“I’d say he was just a profile in courage,” said attorney Thomas Todd, who is a partner at the Holland & Hart law offices in Aspen. It was Daily who started the Aspen branch of Holland & Hart, based in Denver, in 1968. Todd and Daily worked together for 35 years. “He faced his grief head-on.”
Aspen commercial developer and landlord Tony Mazza, one of Daily’s closest friends, said: “Art’s resiliency, strength and compassion were the measure of the man.”
Daily came to Aspen when it was still finding its identity as both a ski-resort town and a community of longtime locals and long-haired transplants. He had plenty of stories to tell from college — both Duke University and Colorado College expelled him for mischievous behavior, Allison said.
“He has always been kind of a super-free-kind-of wild spirit,” she said. “He got himself into quite a bit of trouble before he decided he wanted to practice law, and that law was his passion.”
The South Orange, New Jersey, native would settle down at New York University where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1965. It was then to Boulder, where he completed law school at the University of Colorado in 1968, the same year he started the Aspen branch.
At Holland & Hart, he specialized in real estate and resort development.
“We had offices next to each other for 43 years, and when I came to Aspen, he took me under his wing,” recalled attorney Boots Ferguson, a partner at Holland & Hart in Aspen. “He treated me like a younger brother and showed me what the ’70s was all about. We had fun and we worked hard and we remained incredibly close.”
Daily’s daughter, Piper, was from a previous marriage, and he also started a family with wife Kathy. Together they had two sons, Tanner and Shea.
On Feb 26, 1995, his life was unfathomably altered when Kathy, Tanner, 10, and Shea, 6, were killed when a falling boulder hit the Suburban Daily was driving on Interstate 70 through the Glenwood Canyon. Art was not injured.
Aspen came to his aid, friends recalled.
“I think tragic loss brings out some of the best in this community,” Ferguson said. “You don’t realize that under all of this mayhem that we live in, that there’s this core that really cares about each other. They don’t just step up on the day of the memorial service; they continue the support for weeks and months and years.”
When Daily successfully ran for Aspen City Council in 2013 and in his failed re-election bid in 2017, he would often mention Aspen’s response to the tragedy as motivation to get involved in public service.
“I decided to run for council four years ago because I wanted to give something back,” he told The Aspen Times in 2017. “Following my tragic loss in Glenwood Canyon in 1995, this town showed up to support me in ways that are hard to describe. I felt I knew the town and its people and issues well enough to help on City Council.“
One of those people lending Daily support was Allison Snyder, who was 28, from Texas, and a new resident to Aspen.
The two met after Allison mailed him a mix tape of songs enjoyed by his late wife, Kathy.
“I wrote him an anonymous letter and told him I was praying for him and thinking of him,” she said. “I lost my brother to suicide, and I was mourning that, and I wanted to let him know I was thinking of him and signed it, ‘A friend.'”
The accompanying note touched Art enough to find her through the post office box number left as a return address.
After meeting they quickly fell in love, getting married some 18 months after the tragedy had struck Art Daily’s life.
They spent their lives together traveling and making the most of their time, Allison said, while collaborating on the memoir “Out of the Canyon,” which was published in 2009 and told the story of the events that led their lives to intersect in a mystical sort of way.
“After having lost Kathy and Tanner and Shea, he really understood the value and the importance of living everyday with the people you love,” Allison said.
Allison also became involved with Pathfinders, a nonprofit that originally had focused focused on providing psychological support to cancer patients and the terminally ill as well as to their relatives.
Pathfinders would expand its mission to help people during times of grief and loss, and victims and families impacted by any type of illness.
Art routinely gave time to Pathfinders, and most recently was helping lead a grief-counseling group for men in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“He loved helping people,” Allison said. “What is beautiful is that after he retired (two years ago), he really took to helping men with their grief. He really took to that.”
Snowmass Village resident Alyssa Shenk, who also sits on Town Council, was immersed in grief with her husband, Ben, and their son and daughter, when their third and youngest child, Max, died unexpectedly in January 2013.
Art reached out to family soon after, and they forged a friendship that lasts to this day.
“When I looked at this man and how much he lost, it made me realize that maybe if he could do it, I could do it,” Shenk said.
Daily also brought a level of compassion and understanding that is rare in Aspen politics, said Councilwoman Ann Mullins, one of his colleagues. The two became friends on the board when political tensions were high in town because of development and down-zoning.
“We were the two oldest on the council, and for all the jokes about him being so soft spoken, what he had to say was very, very important and very impactful,” she said.
When the two had a disagreement over policy, they could hash out their differences respectfully, she said.
“The thing about Art was, we could always talk it out,” she said. “Some people don’t want to listen and only hear what they want to hear. With Art, I’d go down to his office and we’d work it out.”
Ferguson said somehow, some way, his friend and colleague endured to the end.
“In many ways, Art was a survivor,” Ferguson said. “He managed through tragedy and I think he discovered that there was a fine balance between the magic in life and the tragic in life. He figured out how to embrace both.”
Donations can be made to Pathfinders, P.O. Box 11799, Aspen, CO 81612, with mention of the Art Daily Memorial Fund in the memo.
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