Bench a fitting tribute for local mom
Lifelong peace advocate and longtime Aspen resident, the late Claire Sandersen, was honored recently with a granite bench placed near the Roaring Fork Valley Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Quarried in Uniweep, Colo. and inscribed with the words, “Another Mother For Peace,” the green granite bench sits on the western edge of the circular monument, providing a place for quiet reflection. The monument is next to the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen.
Sandersen, whose son Bill died in 1968 at the age of 22 while fighting in Vietnam, was instrumental in creating the existing monument, designed by local architect Wayne Stryker and dedicated on August 9, 1987.
“Every single Memorial and Veterans Day, my mother stood at that site and pleaded for peace, so no more sons would die,” said daughter Ann Owsley. “That was her favorite site in Pitkin County, she just loved it there. Our family is deeply moved that the bench will be there forever.”
Sandersen, who died on Christmas Day 1998, was a longtime member of the Pitkin County Red Cross and co-founder of what today are known as the Aspen Counseling Center and the Community Health Services Visiting Nurses Association, among other community organizations. But it was the local Democratic Party – with which Sandersen was affiliated for decades – that spawned the idea to create a bench for her.
“A memorial for Claire is something that absolutely everybody can agree upon – she’s totally irreplaceable,” said Camilla Auger, a longtime friend of Sandersen’s and chairman of the Pitkin County Democratic Party.
Auger said several groups helped to make the bench a reality, including local veterans, the county and city governments, and Sandersen’s family.
“The bench is exceptional,” said local Rick Buesch, a Vietnam veteran. “It’s absolutely perfect. I’m very grateful for it, as are the rest of the veterans in the community … she’s more a veteran than we are; she lost a son in the war.”
The “Another Mother For Peace” inscription is the namesake of an organization founded in the 1960s by American mothers wishing to put an end to the war, Owsley explained.
“The goal was, `Not our sons, not their sons,’ it was just for peace. There were many causes very dear to my mother’s heart, but the veterans and peace were most important to her,” she said.
Auger said a dedication ceremony for the bench is planned for the near future, after it is properly installed along with a small, informational plaque..
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