Aspen loses an icon in Eve Homeyer
July 21, 2009
ASPEN – Eve Homeyer, Aspen’s first female mayor and a tireless volunteer known for her commitment to the community, died Sunday of natural causes. She was 93.
Homeyer, who would have turned 94 on Friday, served as mayor of Aspen from 1970-73. But her dedication to public service went well beyond her years in elected office, and earned her a place as an inductee to the Aspen Hall of Fame.
She served on numerous boards, including stints with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Wheeler Opera House. Over the decades, it was public transit, open space, the Aspen Valley Hospital and senior citizens in Pitkin County that kept Homeyer focused.
Under her leadership, the city passed two separate penny sales taxes, purchased the golf course property, the Jenny Adair Sawmill Park, and raised $88,000 in 10 days to buy Rubey Park.
Aspen City Clerk Kathryn Koch said she remembers the state of disrepair Rubey Park was in at the time of the purchase, and Homeyer’s effort to beautify it.
“There she was in her dress, and we dug and planted flowers,” Koch recalled. “Eve was great. She was a lady and a politician.”
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Homeyer, revered as one of Aspen’s most forward-thinking mayors, might be best known for “walking her talk.” During her 1969 campaign, she vowed that if she was elected, she would never drive a car again as a way to bolster support for public transportation.
She never drove or owned a car after that pledge, and was a staunch supporter of RFTA, always either riding the bus or walking from her home on Cemetery Lane.
Former Aspen Mayor John Bennett, who was a friend of Homeyer’s and was elected to public office in the 1990s, said she taught him how to be a leader.
“She made such a point of not ever owning a car,” he said. “You felt guilty if you drove a car to a meeting … She was a force.”
After her second term as mayor expired in 1973, Homeyer went to work as the executive director for the Aspen Medical Foundation, helping to expand and improve health care in the upper valley, as well as helping to raise $1.5 million for a new hospital, which still operates today at the AVH campus on Castle Creek Road.
“A major part of Eve’s life was the foundation,” said Kris Marsh, current president and CEO of the Aspen Medical Foundation, and a close friend of Homeyer’s. “She was such a vibrant, energetic woman who contributed so much to this town her whole life.”
Homeyer helped raise money to remodel the senior center and led the effort to create what is now known as the Whitcomb Terrace assisted living residence near AVH.
The strawberry-blonde, petite woman proved to be a force to be reckoned with. She didn’t mince words and wasn’t afraid to share her opinions.
“She was a perfect leader in a town of independent people,” Marsh said.
Former Pitkin County Commissioner Joe Edwards ran against Homeyer in the 1969 election; he lost by five or six votes. He said that although she was a middle-of-the-road candidate, she turned out to be a great mayor.
“I thought she was even-handed and fair, and listened to all sides,” Edwards said. “I think she was a good mayor and a good politician.”
Close friend Rhonda Bazil said Homeyer was a uniquely political creature in that she enjoyed a good fight and was smart enough to outwit her opponents, yet she remained proper through all of the mudslinging.
“She was an inspiration to women who have followed her into leadership roles in this community,” Bazil said.
A staunch Republican for years but supporter of many liberal causes, Homeyer told The Aspen Times in 2003 that she changed her political affiliation to Democrat as a result of policies made by the Bush family that negatively affected women and the environment.
After moving to Aspen in 1959, Homeyer ran the House of Ireland, an import store specializing in fabrics and sweaters. She also became involved with politics as the vice chairman of the Colorado Republican Party, but it wasn’t long before she became bored with the position.
“All you did was talk to people who think the same thing you think,” she told the Times in 2003.
Bennett said he always admired Homeyer for her willingness to remain open.
“My hat is off to someone who can change her views,” he said. “I certainly learned from her grace and style.”
Born in Nebraska, Homeyer moved with her family to Iowa, where she graduated from high school. After earning a degree in astronomy at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, Homeyer embarked on a personal journey, “traveling around to find a place to live,” she said in 2003.
After meeting her late husband in Sun Valley, Idaho, the two discovered the sleepy town of Deckers, Colo. They bought an old lodge on the South Platte River, revamped it and turned it into a fishing destination. For the next 17 years they ran the lodge and business in the summer months, and skied during the winter in Sun Valley.
When Homeyer’s husband died of cancer in 1959, she struck out for a new home, which she found in Aspen, first becoming a ski bum at Highlands. She never had children or remarried.
“She was her own woman and she kept her life simple,” Marsh said, adding her circle of friends attempted to keep her lifestyle as independent as possible until her final days.
Marsh added that Homeyer’s commitment to community and her strong values are unique traits in today’s world.
“They don’t make them like that anymore,” she said.
In Meredith Ogilby’s book, “A Life Well-Rooted: Women of Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley,” Homeyer recounted how she was able to sustain her lifestyle as a community volunteer for as long as she did.
“Good humor, good health,” Homeyer said. “I suppose my ability to pace myself is good. He [my husband] taught me that money is not the end-all – it is the way to do what you want to do, and when you have enough, you have enough. Don’t just stack it up.
“I think that’s a valuable lesson, because I’ve never been one to say I’ve got to make more money. I’m glad I know how to work. I’m glad I’m willing to work – to keep busy. I think that work is terribly important. You have to know when enough is enough; you have to divide your life up so you don’t spend all your time grubbing or all your time loafing. I guess that would be the basis of my philosophy – to enjoy it along the way.”