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Aspen celebrates Dr. Whit’s life

Joel Stonington
Friends and relatives gather for Dr. Harold Whitcomb's memorial Saturday at the Hotel Jerome. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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The Hotel Jerome ballroom filled and people spilled into the foyer as Aspenites gathered Saturday to celebrate the life of the beloved Harold C. Whitcomb.

Though it may not be possible to sum up the number of people whose lives the doctor touched, the more than 600 people who arrived for the memorial were some indication.

Dr. Whit, as everyone called him, died March 2 after he slipped into a coma on Feb. 26. He was remembered as a compassionate healer, a man of warm humor and infectious joy.

“Wow, what an outpouring of love,” said Whit’s daughter, Deirdre Morgan, as she looked out over the crowd at the memorial. “What was in people’s hearts really did matter to him. Each and every person this unique man came in contact with was important to him. Each and every one of you, you were important in his life.”

Dick Butera, a friend of Whit’s, called it the greatest honor of his life to be able to speak at the memorial.

“I don’t have the words to speak a eulogy for a man this great,” Butera said. “He set the moral and ethical tone for a lot of us.”

Speakers reminisced about some of Dr. Whit’s funnier moments ” leading a band down Main Street with a plunger and seeing him dance. All, however, talked about the immensely positive impact he had on their lives.

Butera said that even as Dr. Whit’s condition worsened, he would still greet Butera over the phone the same way: “This is the institute for the destitute, and I’m looking for someone as crazy as me to talk to.”

Whitcomb delivered virtually every baby in the valley for decades and had an office on Main Street for 35 years. He also helped get Aspen’s new hospital built. He was an expert on the stand-up bass and played in a ragtime band called the Dirty Old Men that was much in demand. He even occasionally performed for his patients. In addition to music and singing, he loved rafting and camping.

He is survived by his wife, Polly, and four children, Michael and Deirdre, whom Whit fathered in a previous marriage, Dorothea, whom Polly had from a previous marriage, and Oliver, whom they had together. Whit was preceded in death by a daughter, Verena Bent, whom Polly also had from her previous marriage. They were all raised by Whit and Polly.

The memorial service ended with Oliver Whitcomb, Whit’s son, playing a piece on the piano. Then a video with pictures from Whit’s life played on a large screen. Music and champagne followed.


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