Business leader dies at 65
October 6, 2007
ASPEN ” Molly Campbell, formerly the longtime manager of The Gant condominium complex, died Thursday at her home in Old Snowmass. She was 65, and had battled with cancer for some time.
“Oh, my God,” said local developer, community activist and longtime friend John Sarpa, when told of her death. “What a loss.”
Campbell, who came to Aspen on a lark in 1970, drove here with a roommate from New York City, where she was working as an elementary school teacher.
She was the general manager of The Gant for 32 years, retiring in 2006.
She also served on the board of Stay Aspen Snowmass, in its different incarnations, for 26 years, and was once called “the grande dame of Aspen” by another stalwart of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board, local businessman Don Sheeley.
“Molly is probably one of the most powerful, influential people in this town. She’s extremely bright, politically savvy and gets things done,” Sheeley said in a 2006 profile in The Aspen Times, published as Campbell prepared to retire.
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“She’s one of those people who, every positive attribute you can come up with, you could say it about her,” said former Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud on Friday.
Campbell was chairwoman of the ACRA board when Chris Nolen served as chamber president, from 1999-02.
“She was a tireless worker,” said Nolen, who worked with Campbell closely. “She’d bike over first thing in the morning, after already being at her desk at The Gant for God knows how long.
“She knew everyone in the lodging and the business community, and she’d been around long enough to have the dirt on a lot of people,” Nolen recalled with a laugh. “Let’s just say she managed to get things done.”
Diane Moore, Nolen’s predecessor as chamber president, remembers turning to Campbell, who was then just a member of the board, for advice.
“I think she was one of the brightest business women in this town, personally,” said Moore. “She just always seemed to be a step ahead of everybody in terms of the trends and what was going on. What a loss for this town.”
A native of Florence, Ore., Campbell earned a BA in history from the University of Oregon and went immediately into the Peace Corps, she told The Aspen Times. She ended up working for two years in the Central American nation of Belize, as a community development specialist, before returning to the U.S. and getting her master’s degree in education in New York.
After arriving in Aspen in 1970, her first job here was as a clerk at the Fasching Haus condominium complex, where she worked for three years before going to work as a reservationist for The Gant. By 1980 she was general manager of the 123-room condominium resort, which she is credited with bringing into the 21st century with more than $5 million in renovations.
Sarpa served with Campbell on the board of directors at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, on which Campbell twice served as chair, and on the committee that won voter approval several years ago for a lodging tax that contributes $500,000 a year to ACRA’s marketing efforts.
“She was key in setting up one of the first marketing committees for the chamber,” Sarpa recalled.
And Sheeley said that Campbell’s interests went far beyond her job at The Gant.
“She doesn’t just look at The Gant, she looks at the whole community,” Sheeley told The Aspen Times. “For many, it’s me, me, me, and for her it’s we, we, we.”
Donald “Donnie” Lee, who succeeded Campbell as GM at The Gant, was originally hired by Campbell in 1985 as a “houseman” on the condominium grounds crew. He had worked his way up to assistant general manager by 1997.
“She was a very strong and vivacious woman,” he said Friday. “We’re better off having known her.”
In recognition of her community activism, The Gant named its new conference center after her, and The Gant Condominium Association in concert with Destination Hotels and Resorts last year created the Molly Campbell Community Service Award.
The honor, which includes an award presented annually to an Aspen resident who has made an “an outstanding and enduring contribution to the community through service and volunteerism,” according to a 2006 item in The Aspen Times.
There was no information available regarding a memorial service as of press time on Friday.