Aspen Times editorial: Hoping for a healthy new year

There were plenty of news stories we’d like to forget in 2014 and a number of them that are worth remembering.

Aspen wasn’t all fun and games in 2014. In fact, it never is — we deal with real-life circumstances like any other community, and 2014 ushered in untimely deaths that gripped the town.

Gone are Willard Clapper, who touched many people’s lives, whether they were his students, his fellow workers at the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department or anyone else with whom he crossed paths. Aspen native Nancy Pfister was murdered at her home, and the El Jebel couple of Eliseo and Mayra Lorena Lopez were the victims of a fatal gun attack, allegedly by their nephew. The Aspen Times lost two people who were the fabric of the paper: Gunilla Asher to cancer and Stewart Oksenhorn to suicide. Untimely deaths are part of life, but 2014 seemed to sting more than usual, and there were other tragic occurrences, as well, including one involving Aspen High School student MacKenzie Langley, who is valiantly fighting to walk again following a car crash on Castle Creek Road.

But those tragedies also showed the good side of Aspen. The community came together, with much thanks to the Aspen Hope Center, to tackle the county’s suicide issue rather than give a collective shrug of the shoulders. Clapper’s memorial service was held on a splendid Aspen fall day, and the local crowd was there in full force to pay tribute. Langley’s classmates and other community members held numerous benefits for the daughter of Darnell and Bob Langley. Asher led a fun-filled life and kept a brave face to the bitter end; if anything, she made us come to appreciate the moment we’re living in, as cliche as it sounds.

The Aspen community also showed it still has some fight in it — residents signed a petition that forced the City Council to rescind a lodging-incentive ordinance that would have resulted in less affordable housing and bigger hotels. There were howls of protest of the Aspen Art Museum’s display of tortoises wearing iPads attached to their shells. And the chorus of dissent was loudly evident when a private wedding was held on the backside of Aspen Mountain in June — only because the area was zoned rural and remote by Pitkin County, a zoning rule that was meant to limit activity in the pristine area.

Indeed, 2014 was quite the news year in Aspen. It started with a plane crash on the fifth day of the year, and didn’t really let up.

For those of us who stay up late enough tonight to welcome the new year with festive clinks of Champagne flutes in the midst of celebratory confetti, 2014 deserves a goodbye in the biggest way. Here’s hoping that 2015 brings more good news and less tragedy not only to Aspen but everywhere else on Earth.