Aspen pays its respects to beloved Martin Hershey
April 16, 2002
The man who ushered blue jeans and Saabs into local policing went out yesterday wearing judicial robes and clutching his favorite golf club.
Martin Hershey – prosecutor, judge, father, husband, golfer, ski instructor and former Aspen police chief – was buried in Red Butte Cemetery Monday afternoon, following a well-attended service at the Aspen Chapel and Synagogue.
“He helped create a better Aspen, and he touched us on his way,” Barbara Conviser said to the 100 or so assembled for Hershey’s remembrance. “May his spirit soar.”
Hershey died of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 75 last Wednesday. He is survived by his children, Lisa and Tony.
The memorial and remembrance was led by Gideon Kaufman, who serves as the lay rabbi for the Aspen Jewish Congregation.
Kaufman, a lawyer who had known Hershey since the mid-1970s, set a celebratory tone to the gathering by pointing out that even in death, we can find solace and blessing from “the cherished lives, love and good deeds of people like Martin Hershey.”
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Then Kaufman began the hour-long remembrance with a few memories of his own, including the story of the Hershey family’s move west.
In November 1974, Hershey, well along in his career as a prosecutor in New York City, decided to move to Colorado. As Kaufman tells it, Martin and Carol Hershey packed their two kids into their two cars and drove straight to Twin Lakes, only to learn that Independence Pass was closed for the season.
“So much for that pioneering Jewish spirit,” Kaufman said, generating a roomful of laughs and smiles. “Good thing it was 1974 instead of 1874.”
Kaufman also praised the New York City prosecutor who became the police chief of a small Western town, dressed his cops in blue jeans and sent them out on patrol in a fleet of Saabs.
Marty Hershey, Kaufman said, set a tone of tolerance in local policing that persists to this day.
The rabbi also had something to say about Lisa and Tony, especially about their unwavering devotion to their father through his last difficult years. The children kept their father in the Aspen area as long as possible and then made regular trips to his care facilities in Grand Junction and, finally, Rifle after he needed more constant medical attention.
“Tony and Lisa were dedicated and loving in the most remarkable of ways,” Kaufman said. Looking from the lectern at the two children sitting with their mother in the front pew, Kaufman said, “Marty was fortunate to have children like you.”
Tony recalled his father’s life by listing off his accomplishments. He served in the Navy during World War II. He earned a law degree and became a prosecutor in New York, rising to head of narcotics enforcement. He was Aspen’s police chief and later was elected to City Council. Following his divorce, Marty moved back to New York, where he became a prosecutor and then a judge.
Tony, who holds a seat on the Aspen City Council, said his father’s appointment to the bench in 1991 by then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins was a great moment for both father and son. “I want to tell you how proud he was to take the bench every day,” Tony said.
The busy judicial docket in New York didn’t keep Marty from returning to Aspen each winter to teach skiing at Buttermilk. Nor did it stop him from pursuing his true recreational passion: golf. He loved to play it, and he loved to watch it.
“If this service had been held yesterday, my dad would not have been able to make it,” Tony said. That’s because he would have been watching the Masters, professional golf’s most important tournament, on television or in person.
At Monday’s service, Marty’s closed coffin sat center stage, between the pews and the lectern, an American flag draped over one end.
Tears and a deep breath introduced Lisa to the gathering.
“I guess this is my last Monday with Marty,” she said.
She used to visit her father on Mondays wherever he happened to be. And despite the ever-growing challenges her father faced from Alzheimer’s, Lisa said the visits let her get to know him in a way she never had. “It was heart-wrenching to see my dad taken over by such a horrible disease,” she said.
Then, after thanking the staff of the regional Veteran’s Hospital for their constant care of her father, she finished with this:
“Dad, I love you and I miss you very much.”