Jon Seigle, a life well-spent
Jon originally moved to Aspen so he could ski. It was what we’d call today a lifestyle choice. Some of us were then focused on attending the best possible school; others wanted a head start on their career of choice; but all Jon wanted was to ski. Every day. In the best possible snow. For as much of the year as he could.Older generations would have been critical of this choice, of its apparent self-indulgence, or perhaps of a life wasted on frivolity. To us, though, choosing to live in Aspen and pursue skiing as often as possible was not grounds for criticism. If anything, we were envious of Jon’s freedom, of his having opted out of the rat race, of his willingness to follow his heart and not the expectations of others.A few years passed, and we suddenly became struck by the fact that Jon, despite having chosen to devote his life to the pursuit of fresh powder, was becoming far more successful than any of us. Instead of leading the life of an itinerant ski bum, Jon was fast becoming a real estate mogul. His business interests soon outstripped his law practice. Instead of being the lawyer who put the business deal on paper, he became the business guy who hired the lawyer, who then put Jon’s deal on paper. The irony was not lost on any of us. Here was the one-time ski bum, now living in Starwood, neighbor to entertainers and celebrities. Before long, he had a second home, this one in Hawaii, backed up to a national park. It was a tiny plot in paradise, a few acres of the Garden of Eden. Not to say there was anything shabby about his home in Aspen, Jon having moved down from the mountain and back to Cemetery Lane and a view of the valley out his living room windows. A different shot of paradise, but paradise nonetheless.And then, somewhere along the line, and pretty much unbeknownst to us outside of Aspen, Jon began giving back to his community. He entered into his long tenure with the Aspen school board. I can’t imagine that it was easy serving on the school board: all that time away from his beloved family, all those aggravations and disagreements. Pretty much any decision leaves someone, or some faction, unhappy. And to put up with that for 15 years requires a level of tolerance and perseverance that’s hard to describe. A few old friends came to the memorial service and were struck by the outpouring of affection for Jon. We weren’t surprised that people loved Jon, for, after all, it was close to 40 years since we had separated after high school graduation, yet we still felt moved enough to travel across the country and attend this service. Nor were we that surprised by the depth of love expressed by Jon’s friends and associates. We had known him for a long time, and we all loved him. So it was natural that others loved him too. But what caught us all unawares was the breadth of love for Jon, the number of folks in attendance at the memorial service. When we called for hotel reservations and told the desk clerk we were coming for Jon’s service, she hadn’t heard the news. “Our Jon Seigle?” she asked. It looked to us, to strangers, as though people from all walks of life in Aspen had turned out to pay their respects. Poor Liz had to stand in line for more than an hour, accepting condolences, and this after having delivered the bravest eulogy I had ever heard. This really had been a life well-spent. It had not been self-indulgent, but just the opposite. And he had given of himself, not just to his loved ones, nor even only to his friends. Jon had given of himself to the entire community in which he lived. We’ll all miss Jon. But I suspect that there are many who will feel that their lives are somehow better for having known him, even if they didn’t get to enjoy the full measure of his days.David Rothenberg was a childhood friend of Jon Seigle in Syracuse, N.Y. He wrote this piece after attending Seigle’s March 6 memorial service in Aspen. Seigle died in an avalanche while skiing in the French Alps on Feb. 27 at the age of 56.
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