Bennett Bramson lives life helping others; now he & wife face medical issues
A guy who has dedicated innumerable hours to helping others since moving to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2002 now is in need himself.
Bennett Bramson is the kind of uber-volunteer that successful communities need to thrive. He has been the top seller in the Aspen Rotary Ducky Derby since 2006. Last year he singlehandedly sold 1,700 ducks for the fundraiser, which helps several nonprofit organizations.
Bramson, 61, served as the president of the Aspen Board of Realtors in 2011-12 and was selected as Realtor of the Year in 2012 for his various efforts.
He was recruited to the board of directors of the Basalt Chamber of Commerce and eventually served as chairman. When downtown merchants complained about poor business during the recession, he urged them to help themselves. He led the way by co-founding a committee that organized special events and another that landed a big fly-fishing tournament for multiple years. He’s also part of a committee that is planting street signs at strategic spots to guide tourists off Highway 82 and into the town.
Bramson is a doer rather than a talker.
“My problem is I can’t say ‘no’ to anyone,” he said.
Now some of his closest friends hope the community will remember all the good deeds Bramson has performed. A series of medical events have put Bramson and his wife, Jessica, on the brink of a tough spot.
Bramson’s hips finally reached the point where they had to be replaced after years of wear and tear from athletic pursuits when he was younger and from an active outdoor lifestyle as an adult. Nearly all the cartilage was gone, so even walking was painful.
The replacement was no big deal. He had surgery on one hip in May and is on tap for the other replacement in August. But a medical exam in preparation for the surgery led to the discovery of tumors on a kidney and a possible tumor in his colon. He said his doctor told him that there is an 85 percent chance that the tumors on his kidney are malignant. He will have the tumors removed in October.
Meanwhile, Jessica learned of her own medical problem that could require extensive surgery. The family preferred not to detail Jessica’s issues.
The Bramsons have health insurance, but the deductibles, co-pays and uncovered charges are expected to run in the high five figures and possibly exceed $100,000.
Bramson’s friend and former co-worker Trudi Watkins-Johnson insisted on helping by organizing a fundraiser — despite his initial objections.
“I’m embarrassed by the idea that I’m going to have my hand out,” Bramson said. He stressed they aren’t the kind of people who possess a lot of toys, such as boats and snowmobiles, that they can sell to cover expenses.
Technically, he doesn’t have his hand out. Watkins-Johnson has organized the event with the help of numerous sponsors and donors. “Brews & Beverages, BBQ Buffett, Band and Bowling Benefit” will take place from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 1 at ElJebowl in El Jebel. Organizers are suggesting a donation of $25 at the door, but any amount will be accepted. The event will include food, bowling, live music and a silent auction. All proceeds will go to the Bramsons’ medical expenses.
Watkins-Johnson said she hopes community members will “pay it forward” by supporting the Bramsons in their time of need.
The adversity hasn’t altered Bramson’s efforts to help others. He helped set up the Ducky Derby booth in the Hyman Avenue mall last weekend. He is signed up to work 38 two-hour shifts in coming weeks. He said he isn’t dwelling on his condition or worrying about the past or the future.
“I’m going to have whatever time I have left — and I’m going to make the best of it,” Bramson said.
He is thinking positive about successful surgery, full recovery and a long life.
“I’m not going to make it easy for the cancer,” he said.
Scores of his friends on Facebook have expressed their amazement at his positive attitude. Bramson wrote on Facebook that he lives his life following three basic mantras: You will always do good for yourself by doing good for others but asking nothing in return; the Winston Churchill credo that says, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”; and, finally, the life we lead is the legacy we leave.
Bramson said it’s easy for him to keep a positive outlook.
“I’ve had a lot of interesting challenges in my life,” he said. They included the divorce of his parents when he was 4 and the shared time with his parents that resulted, somewhat of an oddity in the 1950s. His dad died when Bramson was 8, and he lost his mom when he was 22.
He’s never felt sorry for himself as a child or an adult.
“Sometimes life can throw crap in your face,” he said. The key is to wipe it off and keep moving ahead.
Anyone with questions about the Aug. 1 fundraiser can contact Trudi Watkins-Johnson at email@example.com.
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Lift-Up has helped feed hungry families in the Roaring Fork Valley for 38 years, but experienced in a surge in demand this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. It is making changes to meet the demand and address allegations of incidents of discrimination.