Longtime Aspen resident Sharkey dies at 75
The Aspen Times
Thomas Sharkey was a man who wore many hats in Aspen.
Whether it was as an interior designer, skier, hiker, minister or friend to almost anyone who met him, one always could count on a smile and kind word from the longtime Aspen resident.
Sharkey, who was 75, died Thursday morning at his home after a decadelong battle with interstitial lung disease. His son, Gary, daughter, K.T., and family friend Ruben Bonomi were at his side.
“As a child, you learn so much from your father,” Gary Sharkey said. “He was always teaching us about life, and even in his death, he continued to teach by showing such grace and peace. He was quite amazing.”
K.T. Sharkey agreed with her brother and said her father could always make the best of any situation.
“He passed away smiling,” she said. “My father made it a beautiful experience.”
Thomas Sharkey came to Aspen from Texas in the early 1960s and was an avid outdoorsman. This year marked the 50th anniversary of when he moved to Aspen. He loved to ski, snowshoe and hike but not nearly as much as he enjoyed the people and personalities of Aspen.
“My dad couldn’t go 10 steps in Aspen without someone stopping him to say hello,” K.T. Sharkey said. “This was his community, and he loved it.”
He immersed himself into the Aspen culture and became a fixture with the Aspen Art Museum, the Music Associates of Aspen and the Aspen Historical Society. He was also a ski ambassador who could always be found smiling and helping on the slopes, even while wearing an oxygen tank on his back.
“Tom was so energetic,” said longtime friend Terry Butler, of Aspen. “He was everywhere, always having fun. Tom loved to know about people and life. He was a beautiful soul and never had one bad thing to say about anybody. He was kind through and through. He really loved Aspen and its people.”
How much did Sharkey love Aspen? The man had his phone number changed so the last four digits read 7908, the elevation of Aspen.
“Tom lived his life out loud,” Butler said. “He didn’t let his sickness slow him down. He often seemed to laugh his worries away.”
Sharkey was also a minister who married many couples in Aspen and spoke at many funerals. He was at ease comforting other people.
Carol Fuller moved to Aspen in 1973 but became friends with Sharkey in the late 1960s when she was visiting here. Fuller considered Sharkey her closest friend for the past 40 years.
She talked of how he would call her daily, often more than once, just to wish her a great day and tell her he hoped the sky was as blue over her house as it was over his.
“Tom walked through life without ego,” Fuller said. “He really took pride in being local. He was the heart and soul of happiness, and he brought it out in everyone around him.”
When he was volunteering with the various Aspen groups he was involved with, he was always the first to help, the first to make sure visitors were being taken care of and the last to leave until the work was done.
Sharkey had a special connection with the Aspen Historical Society and helped in many capacities over the years. He was involved with it for more than 20 years and was the secretary for the board of trustees.
Georgia Hanson has been the president and CEO of the Historical Society for the past decade and says Sharkey’s enthusiasm and willingness to help in any capacity will be irreplaceable.
“Tom was my No. 1 champion,” Hanson said. “His devotion to our society defies description. He seemed to know everyone in town and made everyone around him smile.”
Hanson talked of how Sharkey insisted on helping at the recent 30th-anniversary block party for the Historical Society despite being in a wheelchair. Just Monday, Sharkey asked if the board of trustees would mind having its executive meeting at his house, which it did.
“He was thrilled to be part of that meeting,” Hanson said. “I had no idea it would mean so much to him. Tom just loved to be with friends and be festive. He will be missed.”
The family does not plan on having a public funeral but will have a public celebration in Aspen in the near future.
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