Editorial: Mary Eshbaugh Hayes is our Aspenite
ASPEN ” Mary Eshbaugh Hayes celebrates her 50th year as an employee of The Aspen Times this week ” a newspaper that is 126 years old.
Admittedly, if you do the math, it doesn’t add up. Hayes actually came to the paper in 1952, which is 55 years ago, but she doesn’t count the five years she took off from work in order to start a family.
Mary is not the type of person to call attention to herself or ask for any accolades. Most people around town these days know her for her regular appearances at fundraisers and parties, where she quietly gathers people together for photos and jots down names in notebooks before moving on. The photos and a description later turn up in “Around Aspen” in The Aspen Times Weekly, which is known as her society column.
Ironically, Mary doesn’t seem to care if she’s rubbing elbows with all the right people. Her love of our town’s characters seems to begin with her dedication to community journalism.
Newspapers, especially in small towns, are known for high turnover rates. They’re the places where fledgling reporters flock to pad a resume before heading to a larger publication. But for years that was not true of The Aspen Times, where the common refrain into the 1970s was, “You can’t get a job here unless someone dies at their desk.”
Mary arrived at the paper as a reporter and photographer. In 1977, she was promoted to associate editor of the newspaper. Since her first year at The Aspen Times, the town’s population had grown from 1,000 to 6,000. Over the following years, she became managing editor and then editor in chief.
In the late ’80s she oversaw the creation of The Aspen Times Daily, when the then-weekly Times was losing ground to the Aspen Daily News. She was responsible for hiring the newspaper’s first staff photographer, and she fought to keep the Times’ community orientation when others wanted to focus on national and international news.
The community might now be most aware of Mary when she’s attending some of the town’s biggest parties, but around the office, she’s our staff historian.
“Call Mary Hayes,” is commonly heard when a historical question arises. Mary doesn’t mind when you call after dark with a question or two; if you need a photo of a longtime local for an article or obituary, she’ll dig one from her cluttered attic and meet you at the front door when you run over to her house.
Her book “The Story of Aspen” is an indispensable profile of this town’s history written in her own words, from stories she wrote for the Times over the years. Her other book, “Aspen Potpourri,” is a quirky mix of local profiles ” some famous, some not ” and their favorite recipes or craft projects.
She loves this town, and we love her for it. Thank you, Mary.