Brandt was `one of the really good guys’ |

Brandt was `one of the really good guys’

Brent Gardner-Smith

The America’s Uphill race on Aspen Mountain took place on Saturday without Chuck Brandt.Brandt wasn’t there physically, but the longtime Aspen attorney and dedicated athlete who died March 7 from cancer at age 61 was present in spirit.”It felt like Chuck was right there with me,” said Art Daily, Brandt’s former law partner at Holland & Hart, one of Aspen’s biggest law offices.Daily started his day by racing up Aspen Mountain in an event that was dedicated to Brandt. Later that morning, Daily spoke at a memorial service for Brandt, which was held at a packed Aspen School District theater.Daily said he raced up Aspen Mountain many times with Brandt, who was an avid marathon runner and mountain biker.”Chuck never missed that race,” said Daily.When he and Brandt raced in America’s Uphill, Daily said he would always look up and see Brandt’s hat bobbing along in front of him in Spar Gulch.”And he was always in front of me,” Daily said.Brandt began his career as an attorney in Aspen in 1966, a year after the Denver-based law firm of Holland & Hart decided to open a branch here. At first, the Aspen office was seen as a boondoggle by the 50 or so attorneys in the Denver firm, Daily said. But it grew into a success, and Brandt was always a strong advocate for branch offices. Today, Holland & Hart has 250 attorneys in 11 offices in six states.”Chuck was a vital part of it,” Daily said, noting that Brandt “was a delight to practice law with.”Several years ago, Brandt retired from Holland & Hart and realized a long-held dream of starting a law firm in Aspen with his wife, Emmy Lou, and his sons, Garret, C.T. and Gray.”He was combining two of his passions, work and family,” said Daily, who ended his remarks by saying, “Open your arms, Lord, one of the really good guys is coming home.”Throughout the service, friends and family spoke of Brandt as a man of true integrity and as one who earned the respect of his colleagues and clients. He was described as a careful lawyer, always looking for a solution in any situation, and was a “wonderful mentor” to the other attorneys at Holland & Hart. And Brandt was a cheerful man who “simply never had a bad day.”Brandt was also described as “rock steady,” and it was said that those who knew him “benefited from his tolerance.” One speaker admitted to the audience that he had once struggled with alcohol and said how Brandt was there when he most needed help.”You know, Chuck, that changed my life,” the speaker said, looking up toward the heavens.Aspen School District Superintendent Tom Farrell remembered Brandt as “the most well-rounded person I’ve ever met.” Brandt served as school board president for five years, and during that time he hired Farrell as superintendent and oversaw the development of the elementary school and the theater where his memorial service was held.”Chuck Brandt was what most of us want to be,” said Farrell, who described him as fair, generous, calm and caring.As Farrell spoke, one could feel the several hundred friends, family members and community leaders in the auditorium all sharing a sense of agreement, all sharing a sense of, “Yes, that’s right, that’s the Chuck Brandt that I knew, too.”Many in the audience had known the Brandts since the late 1960s, when Aspen was small and tight-knit. For almost the last 20 years, the Brandts lived in Snowmass Village, and many there knew him as a friend and a neighbor.When Chuck Vidal took the stage to speak, he said he wasn’t sure which he would use more, the notes in his right hand or the tissues in his left. A friend of Brandt’s for 30 years, Vidal said in a choked voice how the gathering in Brandt’s memory made him think about the “fabric of community” in the valley.Vidal told a story about Brandt’s upbeat philosophy on life. The two were backpacking near Lenado and had strayed from the trail. After a while, Vidal said to Brandt, “You know what, we’re lost.”Brandt replied, “No, we just don’t know where we are.”Then Vidal, managing to laugh, said he and Brandt spent the next several hours wandering around in the woods debating the subtle difference between being lost and not knowing where you are.Vidal also described Brandt as “a fixer.””He didn’t have problems, he had situations that needed fixing,” Vidal said.It was this attitude that made him such a good attorney, Vidal said, noting that Brandt would approach a complicated real estate transaction with the idea of making sure everything in the transaction was fixed correctly.Yes, Vidal said, Brandt “loved fixing things.” He drove an old yellow Jeep Wagoneer that always needed fixing. And he bought a 40-acre ranch in Hotchkiss, Colo., and found plenty to fix there, too.Vidal said the property never did have enough water. “I’ll always remember him walking up the hill with these old gloves . and a couple of tools to fix the head gate,” said Vidal.Then, several years ago, Brandt was diagnosed with cancer.Vidal said Brandt approached his courageous battle the same upbeat way he went about fixing other things in his life.”He was gonna fix that too,” said Vidal, welling up with emotion. “He just ran out of time.”Return to The Aspen Times or

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