Kay and Matthew Bucksbaum, champions of music school, inducted to Aspen Hall of Fame | AspenTimes.com

Kay and Matthew Bucksbaum, champions of music school, inducted to Aspen Hall of Fame

Matthew and Kay Bucksbaum
Courtesy photo Aspen Hall of Fame

Kay and Matthew Bucksbaum’s generosity toward the Aspen community has known no bounds, and neither has their affinity for their home away from home.

Now a widow, Kay Bucksbaum, who turns 90 in February, fondly recalled Friday from her Chicago residence the first time she and Matthew visited Aspen. It was the summer of 1953, and they were celebrating their 1-year wedding anniversary.

“We went to a couple of concerts,” she said of the Aspen Music Festival, “and we also could hear music students practicing at lunch, and we were entranced with that music, and we wanted to avail ourselves to Aspen.”

That story has been told often, and with good reason, for both Kay and her husband would chair the Aspen Music Festival and School’s board of directors, and their $25 million contribution, made in 2007, allowed the nonprofit to redevelop its campus on Castle Creek Road.

In 1997, the Bucksbaums funded an endowment supporting the New Horizons program, which provides scholarships to 30 music students to attend the music school for three summers.

At a ceremony Saturday at the Hotel Jerome, the Aspen Hall of Fame will enshrine the Bucksbaum couple as members of its 2019 class, which also includes Jon Busch and Dr. Barry Mink.

Kay Bucksbaum is not able to attend the event, but her son will make an acceptance speech on her and her husband’s behalf.

“It’s rewarding to me because Aspen has been a big chunk of our lives,” she said, “and it has been especially meaningful to us. It’s where we’ve made many of our closest friends.”

It’s also where she learned to ski, before calling it quits on Dec. 31, 2008.

“I loved to ski but I thought it’s probably not a good idea to keep skiing,” she said, recalling a broken pelvis and dislocated shoulder she suffered on Aspen Mountain.

At the time she told someone, “You just saw my last fall ever.”

Both Iowa natives, the Bucksbaum couple met on a blind date in 1951, and their romance took off. Prior to then, Kay Bucksbaum earned a degree from Grinnell College, where she served as the school newspaper’s first female editor, later bicycling through Europe and working in radio.

Matthew Bucksbaum would serve the Army Air Force in World War II, working as a cryptographer in the Pacific Theatre. He later earned a degree in economics from the University of Iowa, then went to work in his family’s grocery business before becoming a major developer of shopping malls.

Meanwhile, as a married couple they would continue visiting Aspen and build a home downtown, in the mid-1950s. Their daughter, Ann, was born in 1954 and their son, John, in 1956.

The Bucksbaums ultimately would build a home on 16 acres of property on Willoughby Way, which “became the center of three generations of Bucksbaum lives,” reads the Aspen Hall of Fame website.

The couple’s volunteering and philanthropy also extended to both being fellows of the Aspen Institute, and supporters of Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Anderson Ranch, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Aspen Historical Society, and Aspen Valley Hospital Foundation.

“For over 65 years, the Bucksbaum family has enjoyed a love affair with Aspen, and their love for their adopted home has tremendously benefited Aspen, Snowmass and the Roaring Fork Valley,” reads the Aspen Hall of Fame’s website.

They lived full-time in Iowa into their 70s. Matthew Bucksbaum died Nov. 24, 2013, at the age of 87.