Memorial for Lay draws hundreds | AspenTimes.com

Memorial for Lay draws hundreds

Chad Abraham

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Hundreds gathered for the private memorial service of Enron founder Ken Lay on Sunday as dark clouds hovered above the Aspen Chapel.Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, convicted along with Lay of conspiracy and fraud after the Houston company devolved into the nation’s largest bankruptcy, attended the service with his family and his attorney, Daniel Petrocelli. Both refused to answer questions and drove away in a gray car.Lay’s widow, Linda, and their family were also in the chapel. The couple was staying on an Old Snowmass ranch when Lay, 64, suffered a fatal heart attack Wednesday, about four months before he was due for sentencing, likely to decades in prison. He was suffering from severe coronary artery disease, according to his autopsy.Houston executives, including members of the Kinder family of the Kinder-Morgan energy company, were in attendance, as was the ranch’s owner, I.V. Pabst, and her family.

Security was heavy, and guards used umbrellas to block the faces of those arriving and leaving. They also guarded the entrances to the parking lot, which overflowed with about 125 vehicles. The crowd numbered 200 to 300, the chapel’s capacity, according to Joe DiSalvo of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.Attendees arrived early, and few spoke with media. A reporter for the Houston Chronicle entered the chapel and saw a portrait of Lay and a collection of sunflowers at the altar before security escorted her out.Fred Mallek, of the D.C.-based Thayer merchant bank and a former partner in the Texas Rangers, did answer questions, briefly.He said the service was “very moving.””It brought back the philanthropic man that he was,” he said.

Lay often used Aspen to disappear from the heated wake of Enron’s implosion and once owned four properties here. He donated thousands to the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.The Rev. William Lawson, a character witness at Lay’s trial, attended and was expected to speak. Another memorial service is planned for Wednesday at a Houston church.When asked what was said in the eulogy, one man outside said simply, “Ken is with Jesus.” He didn’t give his name.Aspenite Bonnie Behrend was turned away. She didn’t know Lay, but defended him.

“I know a lot of people say he’s one of the worst criminals on the planet, but he’s still a father. He’s still a grandfather,” Behrend said. “Regardless of what happened, what he did or didn’t do, he’s still a human being and a Christian.”She said she also sympathized with the thousands of Enron workers who lost their jobs and had to sacrifice their life savings as the company foundered.Occasional laughter arose from the reception after the service. Attendees walked to their vehicles as the rain fell harder.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com