Ball players, firefighters will honor Aspen icon Clapper
The late Willard Clapper will be honored next month by two groups he loved best — baseball players and firefighters.
A baseball field will be renamed and dedicated in Clapper’s honor May 6 at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel.
Clapper also will be honored May 9 in Lakewood when the Colorado Fallen Firefighters Foundation will sponsor a memorial service and procession of fire apparatus. His name will be one of two added this year to the Colorado Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Belmar Park in Lakewood.
Clapper died Oct. 16 after a battle with lymphoma. He was 63 years old.
Clapper was a native Aspenite who returned to the town he loved after graduating from college. He was a teacher in the Aspen public schools for 29 years and continued working as an educator. He held every position at the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department except chaplain during his 35 years of service. He also was a longtime baseball coach for Aspen High School.
Clapper was well-known throughout the upper and middle valley and was immensely popular.
He was an early supporter and founding member of the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District. It was formed to develop ball fields and preserve open space in the midvalley by the Eagle County government building in El Jebel.
The current Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District voted to dedicate one of the baseball fields in Clapper’s honor. Field 1, closest to Valley Road, will be named Willard Clapper Memorial Field. The dedication ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. May 6. The public is welcome to attend.
Anne Austin-Clapper, Willard’s wife, said she hopes people who Willard coached with as well as players who suited up for him will attend the ceremony.
“Baseball was Willard’s passion,” she said. He would see ball fields developed in Grand Junction and Eagle and wished that something that great would be constructed in the midvalley. He helped make it happen, Austin-Clapper said, and now a field will carry his name.
“He’d be blown away if he knew,” she said.
Three days later, firefighters from across Colorado will help honor Clapper. Fire departments from across the state have been invited to honor all firefighters who sacrificed their lives while protecting lives and property as a firefighter.
Colorado is one of several states with a Firefighter Presumptive Cancer Law. Under that law, Clapper’s cancer was considered to be a cumulative effect of his years of service as a firefighter, according to Rick Balentine, fire chief of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department. Because of that, Clapper’s name will be added to the Colorado Fallen Firefighters Memorial. He will be the first member of the Aspen department to be added.
The Aspen Volunteer Fire Department is sending its eight-member honor guard, and it will have two fire trucks in the parade. The procession still start at Garrison and Center streets in Lakewood at 10:30 a.m. and arrive at the memorial on South Allison Parkway at about 11 a.m. There will be a memorial service followed by a reception.
Austin-Clapper said she will attend the ceremony, which will be held for family and close friends, with her daughter, Ashley Austin.
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