Hundreds say goodbye to Aspen’s Bryan Sax
December 14, 2008
ASPEN ” It’s clear that Aspen native Bryan Sax had a profound effect on people, judging from the nearly 1,000 friends and family members who attended his memorial service on Sunday.
The grand ballroom of the St. Regis was nearly at capacity Sunday afternoon, where hundreds of loved ones said good-bye to the 37-year-old. Sax died Dec. 6 in a plane crash over the Florida everglades.
“Bryan loved you all and he would be so blown away by this gathering,” said Bryan’s mother, Marcia Sax.
More than a dozen people spoke during the service, telling stories about the larger-than-life man whose smile and positive attitude toward life were contagious.
Sax’s cousin, Louis Katz, said although Sax’s life was cut short, he accomplished more in his lifetime than most people. Sax was known predominately as a husband, a father, a coach, a mentor, an all-American ski racer, a pilot, a friend and a bartender at Jimmy’s American Restaurant and Bar.
His passion and zest for life was elevated by his family ” wife, Christy; their daughter, Zaya, 7; a stepson Dante Lizotte, 13; and a daughter from a previous marriage, Hannah, 13, as well as his father, Don Sax, Marcia and his sister, Rachel.
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Katz paralleled Sax’s life with that of Austrian composer Franz Schubert, who died before he could complete Symphony No. 8 in B minor, although it has lived on through the ages and is known throughout the world as the “Unfinished Symphony.”
“Bryan’s life in many ways is an unfinished symphony,” Katz said. “His death is not only a tragic loss to all of his family but the entire community.”
It’s been said that the only thing bigger than Sax’s smile was his heart ” and possibly his thighs. Childhood friend Pete McBride said while the pair were training for the 24 Hours of Aspen in the late 1990s, he measured one of Sax’s thighs, which was 32 inches around.
“That’s the size of my waist … he was a big kid and a big man,” McBride said. “But his physical size does not compare to his spirit … he was a fountain of positive energy.”
Sax was a big fan of nicknames and he had many. McBride remembers one of the first ” Sax was known as a kid as “The Boot” because of his ability to play defense on the soccer team. Even as a child, Sax’s strength was evident ” he could kick the ball the length of the field.
“He was essentially a brick wall,” McBride said. “His playing defense was symbolic of our friendship; always present, he was there. He was solid.”
Sax also was known as “The Freight Train,” “Bry Guy,” “Bry Boy,” “Sax,” “Saxy,” “Sax Man,” B. Sax,” “The Machine,” “The Turbo Whale,” “The Funny Guy,” “Bry,” “Sexy Sax,” “B.S.” and lastly, “Yum Yum” ” a term coined by the Gay Ski Week crowd, which came to Jimmy’s just to watch him bend over behind the bar.
“He made so much money, everyone wanted to work with Bryan during Gay Ski Week,” said Jimmy Yeager, owner of the restaurant where Sax worked for about eight years.
McBride recalled racing with Sax in the an all-day, all-night 24 Hours event on Aspen Mountain. Skiing at 80 mph, Sax crashed in Spar Gulch. With a concussion, he skied to the bottom on one ski, got in the gondola and continued racing. On the next lap, Sax crashed on the Little Nell but put his skis back on and skied to the bottom again where McBride was waiting for him.
“The first thing he does is look at me, smile, giggle and apologize to me,” McBride said. “He could make everyone laugh and it was usually at the expense of himself.”
And it was Sax’s imperfections that made him so endearing.
He was known to sweat a lot and had issues with body hair (he waxed his back and shaved his legs). His friends also said his larger-than-life presence often times translated into loudness and clumsiness.
“He was kind of like a puppy,” Katz said. “He would whack things with his tail but you couldn’t stay mad at him long.”
McBride, who was assistant coach for the ski team at University of Colorado-Boulder where Sax was captain, said although Sax’s giant slalom win on the East Coast wasn’t graceful, it was in true Sax form: He took out every single gate in his quest to win the title.
“He never came out of his tuck,” McBride laughed.
Seth Wolkov, Sax’s college roommate at CU, remembered his eating binges. The two would go to the grocery store and Sax would put his arm straight out, clear the food off the shelf, and then head straight to the check-out line.
“We wouldn’t even be at the car and Bryan is stuffing egg rolls in his mouth,” Wolkov said of their trips to Whole Foods.
He added that based on Sunday’s turnout and the 500 or so people who have logged onto the Friends of Bryan Sax page on Facebook, Sax was truly loved.
“I think it’s amazing how many people Bryan touched,” Wolkov said.
But beyond the funny stories and cherished memories, Wolkov said Sax will have a lasting impact for so many other reasons. He listed “Bry Guy’s” rules of life ” don’t judge; be loyal; take risks and go full speed, and make sure you love your life.
Wolkov said Sax lived by those rules every day and it was evident in the richness of his relationships; his dedication to his friends and family, his unwavering confidence and his love of life.
Wolkov said before any challenging moment, Sax would say he “ain’t afraid.” He also encouraged Wolkov to “move to Aspen and be rich” in life.
Yeager, who wore Sax’s bartending shirt during the service, said Sax was the best bartender he ever had. He also was a special individual.
“He just had a way about him,” Yeager said, adding Sax always gave people his full attention. “When he had you, you got all of him. It doesn’t take a lot to fall in love with that energy.”
And Sax had a lot of energy, which he happily passed around. He was known for his great, big bear hugs that would nearly break your back.
After Sax’s “bruthas from anutha mutha” spoke, a slideshow of photos depicting his life was displayed on big screens while a song written by his sister-in-law Stacy Blue ” “Fly Away Home” ” played. Wait staff passed out shots of tequila ” of which Sax was a connoisseur ” and those in the ballroom raised their glasses and toasted to his life.
“Bryan will always be there guiding us in loving ways,” Katz said. “What we all would do for one more bear hug, one more smile, one more ‘what’s up?'”