September 5, 2006
Donna Dowling, editor of Roaring Fork Sunday from 1995 to 2001, died Aug. 31 after a short fight against cancer. She was 41.Dowling was diagnosed with stage IV malignant melanoma in February. According to close friend and former business partner John Duffy, she pursued different treatments before the progressive disease took a turn for the worse.
Dowling and her then-boyfriend and current husband, Curtis Robinson, first moved to Aspen in 1994 to work as reporter and editor, respectively, of the Aspen Daily News. After a year, they left the publication along with Duffy, the newspaper’s general manager, to begin what was then the valley’s only Sunday newspaper, Roaring Fork Sunday.The publication was Dowling’s vision, Robinson said, a combination of in-depth investigative pieces and long features.
“Donna was all about significance – she was constantly asking ‘What’s the importance of this? Why does anyone care?'” Robinson said. “She also had great respect for the valley reader – that people in the valley actually give a damn. She thought that newspapers don’t have respect for readers – they start with the assumption that readers don’t want to read, and she thought that people do want to read.”Dowling was also a photographer and artist, excelling at a mixed-media, collage-type art that blended words and pictures. She returned to the Roaring Fork Valley to show her work at the Woody Creek Gallery in 2002.
“She put her heart in soul into anything she did, and didn’t do anything halfway,” Duffy said. “She was like that with people too – when she talked with you, you had her 100 percent attention, and she shared in your joys and sorrows.”Dowling was raised in New Jersey, and later attended journalism school at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., before taking an internship at the Los Angeles Times. She and Robinson married at the Aspen Chapel in 1995, and have a 2-year-old son, Finnegan. They were most recently lived in Arlington, Va.A local celebration of Dowling’s life is in the works for later in September, as is a showing of her art at the Wyly Community Arts Center; details will follow.