O. Louis Wille
November 22, 2006
Aspen sculptor Lou Wille died on Nov. 10 at the Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale. He had been in poor health for several years. Lou was a truly unique individual, one of the last of the Aspen “Old Timers.” He was 89.Lou was born in Saint Paul, Minn., on April 22, 1917. He received a master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Minnesota. From there he went to New York City to experience the budding postwar art scene. There, he heard tales of free marble to carve from the Yule marble quarry in the Crystal River Valley. He came to Aspen in 1949 with his horse trailer, his dog and a few bucks in his pocket. Lou took up residence in one of the many abandoned Victorians and decided to stay. He could fix or make just about anything and, along with sculpting marble, he rebuilt and operated the Tyrol Apartments and later the Aspen Cortina. He also built and operated the Tyrolean Lodge on Main Street.
What he truly loved besides his family was art, birds, horses and traveling. As a sculptor he worked in marble, wood, ceramics and bronze. Lou also pioneered the use of chrome car bumpers as an art medium. His art is displayed around Aspen and the West. A large, welded car bumper eagle is a familiar landmark atop the Tyrolean Lodge. He also has a “horseman” by the Courthouse, a lion and a buffalo in the art park, and an eagle at the Eagle’s Club.During the 1960s, Lou kept a herd of up to 30 horses at Hallam Lake and at the Erickson Ranch on Red Mountain. He knew and bought hay from most of the ranchers in the valley and drove their kids on the Woody Creek school bus. He loved raising, training, riding, jumping and racing his trademark Appaloosa horses. He was field master of the Roaring Fork Hunt for a few years and had a fearless riding style. No obstacle ever stopped Lou, and he was happy to chase coyotes – but not kill them.Most people either raise birds or watch birds, but Lou did both. He raised most kinds of pheasants, ducks, geese, peacocks, guinea fowl, pigeons, chickens, finches, parrots, love birds, cockatoos and cockatiels. He nursed many injured birds, mostly hawks and owls, and released them back into the wild. He was an avid birdwatcher and was never without his binoculars on his many world trips.He met his wife of 45 years, Lynne Wille, when she took an art class from him in Aspen. They were married in June 1952 and had four children. He is preceded in death by his wife, Lynne, and his eldest son, Raoul. His middle son, Andre Wille, is a science teacher at Aspen High School and his youngest son, Pierre Wille, is an artist and manages the Tyrolean Lodge. His only daughter, Shauna Young, is a geologist living in Dallas. He has four granddaughters (Anna, Sara, Hazel and Josie) and three grandsons (Cody, Chris and Jamie). His friend, Higinio “Pancho” Solano, provided tremendous care and companionship during Lou’s last years.
Lou and Lynne were great travelers and crisscrossed the globe from Patagonia to Siberia, Bora Bora to Katmandu. They were among the first American tourists allowed into China on the Trans-Siberian Express and took the Orient Express to Istanbul. They trekked in Nepal, climbed Kilimanjaro in Africa and watched polar bears in Hudson Bay. It would probably be easier to list the places they hadn’t been than to list the places they had. Always eager to meet new people and experience new things, they left a worldwide network of friends.A lifelong political activist, Lou was a fervent pacifist and a conscientious objector during the war. He and Lynne were active in politics and in the community throughout their lives. They were grassroots supporters of the Democratic Party, and in the 1970s they helped lead local anti-war and anti-nuclear protests.They believed in helping others in any way they could. The Cortina and Tyrolean provided a refuge for many people over the years.Lou was a charismatic, energetic and tremendously hardworking man. His wide interests led him to know a wide variety of people in the valley and the world. He had friends from almost every walk of life; rich, poor, educated or not, Lou could find some common ground. Wherever he traveled, he knew someone. In the middle of the Utah desert, Lou would have to stop to check in on some old guy who raised albino peacocks. He was always full of surprises.
A true individual, Lou will be missed terribly his family and those lucky to have known him.In lieu of flowers, please support the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.