Experienced Aspen: Lucky to be in Aspen
King Woodward’s jack-of-all-trades work ethic has him soaring since the day he landed in Colorado
Editor’s note: This feature is one in a series we call “Experienced Aspen,” a special section recognizing the life and experiences of Aspen’s most well-rounded citizens. For more, go to the B-Section of our Dec. 22 electronic edition.
Heading into town for a quick errand is not always possible for King Woodward these days. A resident of the Whitcomb Terrace assisted living community in Aspen, he has to adhere by the facility’s strict rules that help keep its at-risk inhabitants away from possible COVID-19 exposure.
“To just pack up and go downtown to see your dentist or go to get something, no, we can’t do that,” Woodward said. “I can walk around this building and also the building next to me, which is closer to the bicycle path down there. It will be nice when it’s over. My car is parked in the hospital garage and it’s got a dead battery in it.”
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t made life any easier for people like Woodward, who is 91 but still likes to get out and about. A longtime employee of the Aspen Institute who rubbed shoulders with people including Herbert Bayer and Walter Paepcke, Woodward has called Aspen home since 1956.
He moved to the area after being discharged from the Air Force late that year. Not many months prior, he had visited Aspen with a group of his military friends — they had been stationed at the Pentagon at the time — making the long trek from Washington, D.C., to Colorado via trains and buses and with a lot of unknown thrown in.
“I called and booked a small apartment for four of us through the Chamber of Commerce. At that time, there wasn’t a lot going on,” Woodward said. “We always ate in some place that didn’t cost us too much money. There were a couple of cafeterias at that time. But we also spent a lot of time at The Red Onion.”
That brief visit was enough to make Woodward an Aspen lifer. He moved to Aspen permanently less than a year later and got his first job as a desk clerk for the Hotel Jerome. This started quite the employment journey for Woodward, who held jobs all over town, including at famed Aspen institutions such as the old Crystal Palace and the Copper Kettle.
But, bit by bit, he was pulled into the Aspen Institute, where he began as the conference manager and was given a front-row seat to Aspen’s transformation over the decades. He worked for the Aspen Institute for about 30 years over a couple of stints.
Today, largely because of the pandemic, Woodward’s life is a bit quieter, but he still manages to stay as busy as he can.
“I’m the type of person who likes to go out and I like to walk around when it gets a little warmer out and the sun comes out,” he said. “The only time I really watch TV is in the late afternoon when the news goes on in the evening. Other than that I’ll read and I’ll go onto to my computer and check out and see what’s going on there.”
Like everyone else, he very much looks forward to the day, hopefully soon, when the pandemic is behind us. He enjoys living at Whitcomb Terrace and takes advantage of any perks, such as free concert tickets and group outings.
Now that a vaccine has become reality, he hopes the COVID restraints will soon be removed and he can continue on like he has since his arrival in 1956, age being nothing but a number.
“People have asked me, because of my age, if I signed up to take the vaccine, and I said yes, because some people, I think it’s questionable if they are going to take the vaccine or not,” Woodward said. “I can’t complain. It would be nice to get the lockdown and the virus over with so we can go back to going to concerts and things like that. People are lucky to be here.”
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No official vote has taken place, but the Dillon Town Council has decided to push forward with an ordinance at a future meeting despite a contentious debate that clearly divided council members on the issue.