Bob and Tee Child to be inducted into Aspen Hall of Fame
The Aspen Hall of Fame is holding a banquet tonight to induct Bob and Tee Child, Lester Crown, patriarch of the family that owns Aspen Skiing Co., and musician Bobby Mason.
While Steve Child was growing up in Capitol Creek Valley, visitors of all stripes were welcomed at his family’s ranch.
His parents, Bob and Tee, were involved in numerous civic endeavors that extended beyond the Roaring Fork Valley, and they had a lot of friends. So when people came to the Aspen area, they would come calling.
“They were known for their generosity of opening their home,” Steve said this week. “Their house down there was known as ‘The Universal Joint.’”
It was a play on worsd, he noted, because so much of the ranch equipment contained a universal joint. Steve said he got to know a lot of interesting people thanks to his parents’ generosity.
Their welcoming nature is just one of the reasons why the Childs, now deceased, are being inducted today into the Aspen Hall of Fame.
Bob and Tee were married for 57 years and their list of accomplishments is symbolically just as lengthy.
“They both really gave back to the community,” Steve said. “They gave up their time to participate in causes.”
Bob worked in accounting for Continental Airlines in Denver when they decided to move in April 1961 to the Capitol Creek Valley, where they had found a remote 1,500-acre working ranch.
“Bob envisioned an idyllic life with his family growing up in the shadow of Haystack Mountain,” the Hall of Fame program biography reads. “He told a newspaper reporter that he moved to the Roaring Fork Valley to raise children first and he would learn to raise cattle as he went.”
They raised six kids and countless cattle. Bob also helped found the Snowmass-Capitol Creek Caucus, foreshadowing involvement in politics for the rest of his life.
Bob and Tee were politically active, leading opposition to a possible ski area in the valley. Aspen Skiing Corp. envisioned a resort centered on Haystack Mountain. The U.S. Forest Service ultimately denied the concept in the late 1960s after the Childs helped organize heavy public opposition. Haystack Mountain and surrounding terrain was added to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.
The act catapulted Bob into Pitkin County government, first as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, then as a county commissioner. He was elected in 1976 and re-elected in 1980 and 1984. He helped champion slow growth and conservation. Bob came out of retirement from politics and won election in 1992 but resigned half way through the four-year term.
Steve followed in his father’s footsteps and is a Pitkin County commissioner.
A less visible accomplishment was probably the most important to Bob, Steve said. While working on the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Bob helped secure water rights for the Ute Mountain Utes in southwestern Colorado. It created a special bond with the Native Americans, who Bob felt were unfairly pushed off their traditional lands, probably including the site that turned out to be his ranch.
“He had shared sweat lodges with them,” Steve said. “They took him to ruins outside of Mesa Verde on tribal lands.”
Bob also was made an honorary member of the tribe. When he passed away “they held a special ceremony to honor him,” Steve said.
Tee achieved a lengthy list of civic accomplishments, but Steve said his mother was “sort of overshadowed” by what Bob was doing. She helped lead a volunteer effort in the early 1960s to start the Basalt library. It was staffed by volunteers and featured a donated collection of books.
“It’s kind of ironic that my son Nathan now works there,” Steve said.
Tee was a Basalt Girl Scout leader and a member of a revived Basalt Literary Sorosis Club. She volunteered as a “Blue Lady” at the Aspen Valley Hospital and served on the first board of directors at the Rocky Mountain Institute, the renowned energy efficiency “think and do” tank. She worked as a typesetter and proofreader for several years at The Aspen Times.
Tee passed away in 2000 and Bob followed in 2002. His ashes were spread on Haystack Mountain.
Before they died, the Childs backed their sentiments on conservation with action.
They placed a conservation easement on 1,500 acres of the Child Ranch so it would retain wilderness characteristics and could remain a viable agricultural operation but couldn’t become a subdivision. Development was limited to five houses. The Childs received the 2004 “Landowner of the Year” award from the National Western Stock Show for their conservation and wildlife work.
Steve continues to work a 160-acre part of the original cattle ranch. He said his parents would be honored and humbled by induction into the Aspen Hall of Fame and they would likely say there were many other deserving people. They would be humbled, in part, because they always considered themselves downvalley rather than Aspen folks.
“This is an incredible honor for them to be in the Aspen Hall of Fame,” he said. “We are Basalt people.”
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