Hundreds celebrate life of former chief |

Hundreds celebrate life of former chief

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Hundreds gathered at the Prince of Peace Chapel and later at the volunteer fire station on Saturday to remember Willard Charles Clapper, former fire chief and respected community icon.”I will miss most talking to my father,” said one of Willard’s sons, Willard Clapper Jr. “As he liked to say, he has gone home.”

After Clapper spoke, there was time for audience members to tell stories or remember moments. And out came bits and pieces about Clapper Sr.’s time on the school board, funny stories of playing golf and of his service in the Aspen volunteer fire department. The stirring and upbeat service included songs sung by Clapper’s granddaughters, Traci, Kelsey and Shawn Clapper; a slide show; balls tossed into the audience; and a singing of “Amazing Grace” to end. Throughout the service, Clapper was remembered as a dedicated fire chief, honest and good-natured father, and beloved friend who had a sense of humor and a tremendous bear hug.

“This is an incredibly wonderful family,” said Patti Clapper, whose stepfather is Willard. “The door was always open to people.”After the memorial, the crowds went for a big barbecue at the volunteer fire station. There, kids climbed on the fire trucks, firefighters barbecued and a large picture of Clapper was placed on the No. 8 fire truck. “He taught me more than any other single person about how to be a fire chief,” said Ron Leach, fire chief in Carbondale. “He did more for emergency and fire services in the Roaring Fork Valley than anyone else, and I’ll miss him.”

Earlier, Pastor Tom Jones closed the service by telling people Clapper’s last words, words of contentment and gratitude.”I want to thank you,” Clapper said. “I want to thank you for all you’ve done for me.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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