Maude Twining: Life of a school secretary |

Maude Twining: Life of a school secretary

Courtesy F. StrombergFew who knew Mrs. Twining, Aspen's school secretary in the 1950s and '60s. would recognize this photograph of her in her youth.

Aspen High School’s annual graduation reminds those of us who attended Aspen’s schools in the 1950s and 1960s of one constant: Maude Twining, the beloved school secretary. When I was in grade school and the district was small, Twining ran the whole school office. When we were in high school she was the high school secretary. The year we graduated, students circulated a petition asking the school board to change policy so that Twining, then 75, would not be forced into retirement.

Maude Twining was a wonderful, ageless woman with whom every student interacted. She knew each of us and most of our parents. If you were sick, then she signed off on your going home, so you wouldn’t want to fake an illness. If there were an emergency and you had to contact your parents, then she would make the call. If you behaved badly enough to be sent to the principal’s office, then you first had to endure her disapproving gaze. If your teacher needed something, then she sent you to Mrs. Twining, who sent you back with whatever was needed along with a smile.

My generation knew Maude Twining in her school role, when she was already a senior citizen, as we would call her today, but she had another life most of us knew very little about. I don’t think any of us ever imagined her riding horses, for example. Nevertheless, Maude loved horses, especially her horse Mitzi that she had ridden at the family ranch on Owl Creek.

Twining was born in 1894. Her father, Fred Copeland, was the nephew of D.W. Brunton, a mining engineer, inventor and mining businessman. Copeland managed Brunton’s Sampling Works business in Cripple Creek and Aspen, so Twining lived in both communities. She moved to Denver for her senior year in high school and then to Denver University to attain a teaching degree. After her graduation, she taught in Utah until the flu epidemic of 1918 closed her school.

After returning to Aspen, Maude married Dr. Twining, who was much older than she. Before Maude had even entered high school, “Doc” had been mayor of Aspen. She helped him to run his medical practice and the hospital. As the population of Aspen shrank, Doc was the only doctor left who delivered babies, and those babies later became Maude’s students.

When he was mayor, Doc bought Aspen’s most stately home, the Sardy House. When he later was elected to the state legislature, he commuted to and from Denver; Maude moved into the Hotel Jerome because maintaining the house was too taxing for her alone. They continued to entertain at the house and Maude planted the lofty pine trees that surround it.

After Doc died in 1948, Maude renewed her life as an English teacher. She moved into the second floor of a section of the Cowenhoven building that had a second floor. When I lived in that building as a child, she would call my parents (her landlords) to turn up the heat. When the building changed hands in the 1960s, she moved to a Durant Avenue condominium.

Twining transported herself in as-big-as-you-could-get black Buicks and was independent even in old age. After retiring she had an active social life and maintained her friendship with Spanish teacher Don Alexander. She was the same age as my uncle John Herron and spent many evenings at his house. I enjoyed their conversations about Aspen in the early 1900s, when they were in their youth. Most of the time, however, she lived in the present and maintained her ever-optimistic and caring demeanor until her death at age 93.

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