Callahan remembered as rock in community
Many friends of Cynthia Freeman Callahan say the longtime Aspen resident’s exact age was a mystery when she died last Sunday in her Cemetery Lane home.It was one of those unique characteristics people remember most about Cynthia – she decided that age was her personal business – and hers only.”A woman who tells her age will tell anything,” family friend Maryellen Secrist said Cynthia used to say.
Cynthia and her husband, John, moved to Aspen in 1965 with their two young boys and had two more children, both daughters born in their Cemetery Lane house. They were part of a close-knit group of families that over the years became part of the foundation of the community. Though they came to Aspen because of the skiing, the Callahans stayed because it was a great place to raise their family, practice the activities they loved and become involved in community organizations and institutions. “Aspen really has a heart and soul, and we’re blessed to have such good friends here,” said husband, John, who married Cynthia in 1960, the year after they met on a ski trip to Sun Valley.Friends admired Cynthia’s multifaceted interests. She volunteered at the Thrift Shop, displayed her watercolor paintings locally, and showed her champion dogs all over the country. She was involved with the Aspen Historical Society, the Roaring Fork Kennel Club, 4-H programs, and was an active member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church parish. Longtime friend Maryellen Secrist remembers that whenever she hosted their book club, she would do something special, like when the club members were discussing “Seabiscuit,” she themed the afternoon around horses and crafted a quiz.It was that extra level of care – especially toward the people in her life – that time and again friends and family remember about Cynthia. A natural mentor, she searched out people interested in art or painting and encouraged them to cultivate their talents, said friend Peggy Mink. Daughter Anne Marie McPhee recalls how her mother would bring each person at the post office a gift basket of cookies on the busiest days of the year.
“She was willing to open her door, be a mother to anybody who needed her love,” said Nancy Humphreys, Cynthia’s other daughter. She remembers one Christmas when her mother cooked dinner for 12 total strangers, transient friends her children had brought home.Cynthia took great pride in her children’s achievements – both sons are AVSC coaches – and “she always thought her family members were the stars of the family, she never considered herself like that, even though she was the real rock of the family,” Mink said.Though they were outwardly different, Cynthia and John’s solid, caring relationship impressed many. “The proof that their methods were good is that they raised good children,” said close friend Linda Keleher. “The children always came first with John and Cynthia.”According to her family, even though Cynthia always had a lot going on, she rarely angered or showed stress. “She’s like the calm water that runs deep,” said daughter Nancy. “She had a great way of getting things done without making it seem like she was doing all of the work.”
“Cynthia was the epitome of the beautiful, productive lifestyle we’d all like to achieve,” said her friend Connie Nostdahl.Keleher summed up her friend like this: “I think Cynthia was one of the rare people in this life who really knew what was important. She had the unique ability to sort through the trivial things and leave them behind. As John would pack for a camping trip, she packed for life. She kept her load light by taking only those things along that she would need.”
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