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Buesch remembered by many with smiles, tears

Jennifer Davoren

Rick Buesch smiled up at friends and family from the cover photo of a program distributed at his memorial service Saturday afternoon.

The snapshot of Buesch, taken as he stood beside the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, is how much of Aspen remembers the local detention officer and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Without him, the memorial might never have been placed in front of the Pitkin County Courthouse.

More photos lined the walls of the Joan and Irving Harris Concert Hall lobby: Buesch as a student of New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Ill.; Buesch posing with his family during their visit to his home in Paris; Buesch clad in camouflage as he prepared for a day of hunting with friends.

The man known for his organization of Memorial Day services was remembered by citizens of Aspen this weekend during a tribute and vigil at the concert hall more than three weeks after his death at the age of 56.

Remembering his brother and the man he called his best friend, Thomas Buesch provided a eulogy full of stories of a younger Rick Buesch, from his time as captain of the New Trier football team to the years he spent with the U.S. Marine Corps. After reading an excerpt from “Beowulf,” a hymn of praise for soldiers, Tom Buesch spoke of Rick’s “greatest accomplishment” – the construction of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.

The “site for Vietnam vets to continue healing” should see an addition in the near future – a stone bench will be erected near the monument in Rick’s honor, serving as a mate to the bench built in the memory of the late Claire Sanderson.

Tom Buesch said he is constantly recognized as Rick’s brother, and a trip anywhere in Aspen will mean a visit with residents touched by their time with Rick.

“I can’t tell you how many times people have told me how much they owe Rick,” he said.

Buesch’s sister, Nancy Jacobson, could not attend the memorial service due to a recent illness, but her daughters, Vicki Guliani and Kelli McCormick, were present to speak on their mother’s behalf. Jacobson’s daughters read from a letter detailing the life of a devoted brother ready to donate bone marrow to a cancer-stricken family member.

Jacobson thanked her brother’s acquaintances for their concern for Rick’s family after his death and their friendship during his life.

“If love could have saved Rick, his life would be eternal,” the letter read. “Was he aware of how much he touched other people?”

The audience, dotted with men and women wearing the parkas of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office and Aspen Police Department, offered stories throughout the memorial service. Sheriff Bob Braudis spoke of the first time he saw Buesch, the well-spoken man he called “the human thesaurus,” dressed in formal military attire in a sleet storm as he aided a fellow Marine in his campaign for county commissioner. Aspen police officer Dan Glidden remembered the man he would address as “commander” during their extended friendship.

Mourners came together to celebrate Buesch’s memory, but they couldn’t help but question the reasons for his death. The Rev. Gary Peters, a former counselor to local war veterans, said he saw Buesch’s passing as a way for others to heal.

“This catastrophe could open up a transitional place for some of us to rest,” Peters said.

As the Rev. Richard Lyon concluded the memorial service, he invited Buesch’s friends and family to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial for a candlelight vigil. It was there that flags, flown at half-mast since the news of Buesch’s death on Jan. 10 spread through Aspen, were returned to their usual positions.

A community potluck dinner brought mourners to the Aspen Elks’ Lodge later Saturday evening and provided another opportunity to share memories of Buesch.

Rose Lauriski, Buesch’s friend for more than 40 years, provided pictures of the man who shared her home for 12 years after his return to Aspen.

“Rick had such an array of friends that it was just unbelievable,” she said. “I saw so many people I knew that I didn’t know were friends with Rick.”

Wayne Stryker, the architect involved with the design and construction of the veterans’ memorial, remembered the day in 1987 when Buesch knocked on his office door and shared his dream of erecting a tribute to local veterans. A group of 10 people was responsible for getting the memorial project off the ground, but Stryker remembered the determination Buesch displayed in keeping the memorial dream alive.

“Rick was absolutely determined to achieve his goal,” Stryker said. “It wasn’t his monument, but it couldn’t have happened without him.”

Aside from involvement with the monument drive, Stryker recalled Buesch as a generous and gracious man.

“He was a person who had a high degree of respect for other people and therefore commanded respect,” Stryker said.


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