Greg Mace Award goes to two longtime volunteers in Aspen
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Greg Mace Award, an annual honor usually bestowed on just one outstanding Pitkin County volunteer, will be shared by a pair of well-known good Samaritans this weekend.
Aspen residents David S. Swersky, a 22-year member of Mountain Rescue-Aspen, and Craig Ward, heralded for his work in organizing the local Nordic trail system, will receive the award Sunday during a ceremony at the Benedict Music Tent. Their names will be added to a list of community members who have received the award since its inception – a list immortalized on the Greg Mace Award itself, which is currently on display at the Wheeler Opera House.
The award honors local volunteers who, like Mace, have contributed countless hours to their community, said Lynne Mace, Greg’s younger sister. When Greg, a former director and president of Mountain Rescue, was killed during a mission with the organization in 1986, the Mace family created the award to recognize those who share his community spirit.
“It means a great deal to my family,” Lynne Mace said of the award. “It’s an incredible award – the Aspen Hall of Fame is for the sort of all-around citizen, but this was the first one for just a local volunteer.”
Mace said the award’s selection committee looks for citizens with “length and breadth of service” in their particular organization. Swersky and Ward are exemplary in this respect, she said.
“These guys are phenomenal,” Mace said. “Their bios say a lot about their longevity … and these two guys exemplify everything Greg loved and did.”
Swersky first moved to Aspen in 1971 for the same reason as many of his neighbors – the skiing – but soon fell into his first volunteer job. Not long after his arrival, he began teaching science at the Aspen Community School; since the struggling school wasn’t able to pay its teachers, Swersky began silversmithing in his spare time to make ends meet.
Swersky, now a local dentist with a thriving practice, is also recognized for his efforts with a citizens’ advisory board that helped develop the city’s mass-transit system. However, his two decades of work with Mountain Rescue ultimately led to his Greg Mace Award nomination.
A former U.S. Navy recruit, Swersky specialized in both dentistry and emergency mass-casualty medicine in his time with the military. That experience, coupled with a love of the backcountry, led to his eventual Mountain Rescue membership, he said.
Swersky has served as president of the organization and is now one of a handful of veterans who help organize rescue missions. He’s also recognized for organizing Mountain Rescue’s annual avalanche workshop.
Swersky said his continued involvement with the organization is all thanks to Greg Mace’s influence.
“When Greg died, I realized a number of people would have to step up to try and fill that void – he did the work of three or four people,” Swersky said. “It inspired me to get more involved with Mountain Rescue.”
Ward, a local realtor, is also known for his work with outdoor-oriented organizations – he’s currently president of the Alfred Braun Hut System board. However, the former Olympian and member of the U.S. Ski Team is better known for his work in creating the local cross-country trails that connect Aspen and Snowmass Village.
Before Ward arrived in Aspen, local cross country skiers would have to beg a friend to create a skiable track with their snowmobile. However, as the executive director of the Aspen-Snowmass Nordic Council, Ward worked closely with Greg Mace – then the manager and part-owner of Ashcroft Ski Touring and Pine Creek Cookhouse – to develop the system of trails that local Nordic enthusiasts can enjoy to this day.
Ward also serves as a volunteer coach for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and as a member of the local Rotary Club.
Receiving an award named for a good friend is “a humbling experience,” Ward said.
“There are so many people in this town who are so deserving,” he said.
Swersky agreed, citing the hundreds of volunteers that help better Pitkin County as a part of local volunteer efforts.
“It’s just overwhelming to me, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I never thought I’d be so honored.”
[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is email@example.com.]
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