Jim Oliver, 61, the popular owner of Mail Boxes Etc. in Aspen, died unexpectedly Saturday, Feb. 2, while shoveling his Jeep out of deep snow in the parking lot near his store.
His death, thought by the Aspen coroner to have been caused by a heart attack, surprised many people as Oliver still was a very fit and strong man.
He was a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, a former motorcycle racer and a former diver in the Gulf of Mexico and other oil fields worldwide.
His Mail Boxes Etc. franchise was just across the way from the Aspen post office and for many locals, Oliver served as Aspen’s alternative postmaster. He was always willing to help customers with whatever task they presented to him.
“He was forever ready to help with the fine points of some project I was doing and someone I could count on as always being there for me,” wrote Catherine Garland of Aspen in a letter that typified the many comments his family received in the wake of his death. “He was a really good and kind man, and an intelligent one. I always enjoyed our long philosophical chats when he had the time.”
Once a very shy man, Oliver grew to enjoy the daily give-and-take with customers and he embraced his store as the totality of his world, being there often from 8 a.m. to midnight. He didn’t begrudge the hours or the work and passionately enjoyed what he was doing.
One of Oliver’s clear passions was his succession of Saint Bernard dogs, which became community icons in their place outside the store near Clark’s Market. He grew to love Saint Bernards while working as a young man at the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood in Oregon.
He went to great lengths to buy his three dogs ” Sampson, Hoss and Waldo ” from top breeders.
Waldo, who is currently looking for a new local caregiver, has been visibly grieving over the loss of his owner, with whom he enjoyed twice-a-day walks by the Roaring Fork River.
Oliver bought Mail Boxes Etc. in 1992 and was its sole owner. He planned to run the store until he retired in Aspen.
In late January, he had just returned from Washington state where he was caring for his 88-year-old father, who was recovering from a heart attack.
James Ernest Oliver was born in 1946 in Vancouver, Wash., across the river from Portland, Ore.
He was the son of Jack J. Oliver, now 88, and Lorilee Oliver, 86. His younger sister is Doris Oliver.
He served in the U.S. Special Forces while living in Oregon and during that time he also raced motorcycles professionally. In 1975, he moved to Morgan City, La., and worked as a diver at Oceaneering International. In 1983, after a diving accident, he became a consultant for an attorney who specialized in diving accidents and injuries.
Also in 1983, he married Maureen Ellis, who was visiting friends in Morgan City and was introduced to Oliver. In 1986, Jim and Maureen moved to Villanova, Pa., outside of Philadelphia and imported a line of custom contemporary English furniture.
In 1992, Jim moved to Aspen, while Maureen remained in Philadelphia. They remained close to one another, maintained a strong friendship and Maureen visited Jim in Aspen occasionally.
A remembrance of Jim Oliver was planned for Saturday, Feb. 23. Anyone wishing to honor Jim can make donations to the “Waldo Fund” at Community Bank, or the Waldo Fund boxes at Mail Boxes Etc. and others located in businesses around town.
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