Justine Renee Kirk | AspenTimes.com

Justine Renee Kirk

On Saturday December 9th, Aspen lost a dear friend: Justine Renee Kirk, better known as Junee, peacefully passed away at Valley View Hospital following a nearly four year battle with breast cancer, which she fought with grace and grit.

Born February 3, 1944 and raised in Denver, Junee was the youngest daughter of Justine Sarkisian and Dr. Renee Rodriquez (consulate general of the Dominican Republic). She attended East High School and remained forever loyal to the old "Red and White." She pursued her undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona and spent a year abroad in France at the University of Bordeaux. Junee moved to Aspen in 1967, and later married Dr. Rodney Kirk.

Junee showed tremendous talent from a young age and was a passionate, lifelong learner, dedicating herself to and excelling at a number of pursuits. As a teenager, Junee was a dominating figure skater, winning a gold medal as an amateur in each of the three disciplines — singles, pairs, and ice dancing. In Aspen, she taught French — which she had already mastered — and picked up Spanish with studies in Mexico to fulfill a need as a Foreign Language teacher at the Aspen Middle School. Junee later obtained a masters degree in modern dance at Stanford University. She was also an exceptional watercolorist and pianist as well as a true ski pro — few could keep up, women and men alike! She found tremendous joy in sharing these passions with others, including as a teacher and a coach. For the past 20 years, Junee organized a hugely popular monthly Aspen Community Social Dance Club, featuring everything from the samba and the tango to the waltz. She was an avid traveler, and — refusing to let cancer derail her bucket list — she spent her final year exploring Asia, Africa and Cuba. Also to the end, she was the consummate hostess, entertaining friends at home as recently as Thanksgiving.

Above all, Junee did not falter in standing up for her beliefs and values, and herein lies her true legacy: She paid attention and had a strong voice, particularly in local politics. She was an ardent crusader for the Aspen that was. She did her homework and was not afraid to initiate a petition for issues close to her heart. She was a passionate supporter of the performing arts, and of environmental organizations both local and national, including the Aspen Land Trust, the Sierra Club, and various animal welfare groups. Indeed, whether as an advocate or inspiration, teacher or artist, hostess or loyal friend, it is hard to imagine that Junee has not touched everyone who has lived here for any length of time in some way. However Junee came into your life, she would have made an impression. She will be dearly missed.

Survivors include sisters Lillian MacKay of Lakewood, Washington and Dedee Rodriquez of Naples, Florida and four nieces and nephews. Her nephew, Kevin Chadwick, as well as many friends, seldom left Junee's side during her final days. A celebration of her life is being planned and certainly will embrace her love of music and dancing. Memorial gifts may be offered in her name to the Aspen Land Trust or a non-profit of your choice.

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