Aspen remembers longtime local |

Aspen remembers longtime local

Joel Stonington
Hundreds attend Saturday's memorial for longtime local Jane Stapleton at the base of Aspen Mountain. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Aspen showed up at the base of Ajax on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the life of Jane Stapleton.Residents wore hats, straw hats in blue and orange, tiaras, crowns, hats with bows and ribbons, felt caps, stovepipe St. Patrick’s Day hats and hats with pinwheels.It added a lighthearted air to the memorial for a quick-witted, caring woman with a fantastic sense of humor who died in a car accident on Independence Pass last weekend, cutting short a life that meant the world to many in Aspen.

One of Stapleton’s hats, a straw stovepipe with a black ribbon, sat on a table with other items from her house. Surrounding the table and all along the railing of the Ajax Tavern were white boards with photos that the well-dressed well-wishers perused. She was assistant to Eric Calderon, general manager of The Little Nell, for many years, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story. Person after person walked to the stand on Saturday to pay respects to a woman they called the mother of The Little Nell, or “the chief of staff.” Calderon started with, “She couldn’t type worth a damn,” then continued, “She lied through her teeth to get the job.”

The laughs, it seemed, are exactly what Jane Stapleton would have liked at a memorial. People told stories of funny gifts, ridiculous nights, long conversations, of how she would call Eric “Ernie” because he forgot names, and of a woman who truly valued friendship. Stapleton’s daughters, Kelly Stapleton and Samantha Highfield, organized the memorial, and stood behind, thanking the speakers after each finished. People spoke of how hard it was to share Jane Stapleton, because she had so many friends and so many social engagements. Many also talked of Stapleton’s joy for writing. And person after person from The Little Nell stood up to acknowledge the care they had received, jokes, and gifts given and received.

“She really was the soul of the hotel,” said Calderon, who ended by saying, “I love you, Janie.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail is

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