Aspen Hall of Fame to induct four new members this weekend
The Aspen Times
The Aspen Hall of Fame will induct longtime locals Dick Butera, Joe and Judy Zanin and George Madsen on Saturday at the Hotel Jerome.
This year’s list of nominations included 18 names, although the Hall of Fame’s 17-member board of directors considers all previous entries. Established in 1987 by Jeanette Darnauer, the Hall of Fame includes names such as Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke, Friedl Pfeifer, Andre Roch, Ted Ryan and Herbert Bayer. The following are snapshots of community impacts the 2015 inductees have made.
Known for his roles in owning and resurging the Aspen Club and the Hotel Jerome in the 1980s and philanthropic efforts that have impacted teachers, hospital workers and single mothers, Dick Butera arrived in Aspen nearly 35 years ago.
He bought the Aspen Club in the early 1980s, when it was a 60,000-square-foot facility at the end of Ute Avenue, which was then an isolated, dirt road. Butera said the club, founded by a Wall Street wizard who went bankrupt while battling drug addiction, was known for its drug connections.
“They were selling cocaine in the kitchen,” Butera recalled Friday. “It was really a disgrace.”
Rebuilding the club with longtime resident Scott Davidson, one of the first things the pair did was start the Aspen Tennis Festival, which attracted the likes of John McEnroe and raised more than $1 million for local charities.
From there, the Aspen Club turned into a health and fitness center, and in the early 2000s, ownership changed hands when Butera’s family friend Michael Fox purchased it.
The club was the first in a long line of Butera projects. Traveling back to Aspen in the 1980s after a business trip, Butera was offered a seat on a private jet. Accepting the seat could have been a fateful moment, as the plane crashed in Aspen. Unharmed, Butera exited the plane and introduced himself to the owner, Jim McManus. A friendship was formed, and the two would purchase the struggling Hotel Jerome together for $6 million in 1985.
Butera recalls that the hotel was condemned and boarded up — except for the J Bar — and the inside was rotting out.
“Jim said, ‘You know, Dick, you love this place so much, you sort of have an obligation to fix this Hotel Jerome,’” Butera said.
While former owner John Gilmore had struggled to get a renovation plan approved by the city, McManus and Butera were able to advance with a project that restored the historic landmark’s grandeur. McManus would eventually buy Butera out, but his community involvement continued.
In the early 1990s, he and Tom Moore helped turn around a floundering Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club by contributing the funds for a new facility. Moore provided the land money and Butera provided the construction money.
Around that time, Butera also established the Distinguished Service Awards, which awarded $10,000 bonuses to 10 teachers and 10 hospital employees over a 10-year period.
“I knew that the kids were the heart and soul of the community and the school,” Butera said.
He also would donate heavily to Aspen Valley Hospital, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and the Christmas Wish Foundation for single mothers in the valley.
Butera has six children — Caroline, Richard, Tina, Betsy, Annie (who died of cancer in 1993) and 9-year-old Miles. When asked about his reaction to the news of his induction, he said what flashed before his eyes was his father, Harry Butera, an Italian immigrant who moved to the U.S. as a child and raised eight children with his wife. Harry Butera, who died in 1993, was recognized widely for his community involvement and philanthropic efforts in Philadelphia.
“I think of my dad a lot. He used to say, ‘Dick, there’s no right way to do the wrong thing,’” Butera said, adding that what excites him about Saturday’s induction is that Miles will have a chance to witness it.
“Maybe some day, 60 years from now, Miles will be in the Hall of Fame, and wouldn’t that be nice?” Butera said.
Joe and Judy Zanin
Joe and Judy Zanin married in 1959; Judy a senior in high school and Joe returning to the U.S. after a two-year stint with the Army’s 10th Division in Germany. They grew up together in Ouray, where their parents were close friends.
Living in Palisade and running a lumberyard, Joe landed a job in Aspen in 1964 working as a manager at the Aspen Valley Lumberyard for Tom Sardy. Soon after, the Zanins grew to a family of four, and moved into a home Joe built.
By 1970, Joe was running his own company, Joe Zanin Construction, Inc., which was responsible for much residential work completed in town between then and 2002, when Joe retired.
Known for volunteering his construction expertise, Joe designed and built the launch ramp for the Rotary Club’s first Ducky Derby in 1992. A 32-year Rotary Club veteran, Joe helps cook for the Sunshine Kids dinners and the Ducky Derby “stickering” party and is a March of Dimes bell ringer.
He’s also served on the boards of the Aspen Camp School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District, the Pitkin County Board of Adjustments and the Aspen Hall of Fame. He has enjoyed stints as president of the Aspen High School Booster Club and on advisory boards for U.S. Bank and the Aspen School District woodworking department.
“I was pretty surprised when they called us and said we were getting inducting,” said Joe, 79. “We were happy to be inducted. … My proudest achievement is being here and part of the community and raising my children here.”
A stay-at-home mother and bookkeeper for the family business, Judy is known for her volunteer work at the Thrift Store of Aspen and 21 years at the Aspen Valley Hospital.
Judy, 75, was named the AVH Volunteer of the Year in 1993-94 and later served as president of the volunteers. As a board member of the Aspen Valley Medical Association, she served as treasurer and president, as well as on two of its committees, one of which awarded medical- and health-related scholarships for individuals and AVH departments.
Judy is a member of the Aspen Chapter of P.E.O., which raises money for women’s continuing-education scholarships, and she coordinates the Christ Church Knitters. The Knitters sell winter hats and scarves to raise money for Christmas baskets for the less fortunate.
Joe said people will sometimes ask him why he and Judy don’t leave Aspen for the winter or summer season, like other longtime residents do.
“This is the greatest place for me,” he said. “I have no desire to leave here.”
In the late 1950s, George Madsen founded the Aspen Flyer and served as the newspaper’s sole employee, working as a writer, photographer, editor, advertising representative and distributor.
The paper, which was published three times a week, caught the attention of Aspen Times owner Bil Dunaway, who bought the Flyer and absorbed it into his own publication. Madsen would continue to work with Dunaway, writing a column from 1959 to 1972.
“He came to town and he immediately wanted to be part of the community,” George’s daughter, Beth Madsen, said Monday.
Madsen first learned of Aspen during a ski trip in 1956, when he was working for General Electric in Illinois and living in a fraternity-like house with friends. He returned to Aspen the following year, when he met his future wife, Martha. By 1958, the couple moved to Aspen and purchased a lot at Fifth Street and Hopkins Avenue, building the “Madsen Chalet,” a four-unit building Martha still rents today.
The Aspen Skiing Co. hired Madsen as marketing director in 1972, and he held the position until 1980, when he married his second wife, Connie. He was instrumental in creating the popular “Snow Host” program, which evolved into what is known today as the “Ski Ambassadors.” He also served as chairman of the marketing committee of the National Ski Areas Association while at Skico.
“Meeting people and talking to people was his thing. He loved that,” Beth Madsen said.
“He really wanted people to have a good Aspen experience,” Madsen’s daughter Cindy Buck said Monday. “He really wanted guests to feel welcome when they came to town.”
Urged by Sardy, Madsen got into politics in 1980, winning a seat as a Pitkin County commissioner and serving for eight years. Notable projects he was involved with included the two largest employee-housing projects ever built in the city and county, construction of a new jail, construction of the senior center and assisted-living facility and expansion of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
Madsen also was charter member of the Aspen Rotary Club and chairman of the “Fall Jeep Tour,” which he organized and ran for more than 20 years. He also volunteered for the Aspen Ski Club, serving as the starter of races, most notably the Roch Cup.
The 88-year-old Madsen, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, enjoys spending time with Cindy, Beth and his two sons, Tim and Bill. When asked about his reaction to the news of the induction, Beth said, “He keeps saying he’s honored. It’s a pleasure for him to be recognized.”