Obituary: Herbie Balderson
Herbie Balderson, a longtime local whose life and work represent and define the ideal of Aspen as a place that nurtures body, spirit and mind, died peacefully in his home, surrounded by family, on Monday, Dec. 29. He was 64.
Herbert Parham Balderson III arrived in Aspen in 1959 from California, with some friends in a VW bug on a road trip to Colorado. After living for seven days in the car, Herbie found work as a dishwasher at the Hickory House and by 1960, at age 20, he had graduated to bartender at the Blue Noodle.
In 1961-62, Herbie met Buzz Bent and Joey Cabell, the duo who founded the Chart House restaurant in 1963. They enticed Herbie to work at their restaurant, where he became the executive manager.
That year Herbie met and married Marcy Bayless, who had been visiting her sister, Polly Whitcomb. Together they fashioned a life of work and family, driven by their desire to be good parents and to live the ski bum/artisan/work hard/play hard/living-on-a-shoestring lifestyle of Aspen in the ’60s.
In 1975, the Chart House ownership was restructured and Herbie became one of the landlords. With his newfound time, Herbie began an artistic career as a collector/scavenger of pieces of nature that he used to create unique images and sculptures.
He began a long association with Stuart Mace and moved into chain-sawed wood carvings, predominantly robust female forms.
In 1980, Herbie moved on to wood turning, in which he became a master craftsman. Using both native and exotic woods, he created works of art that later toured the country as part of the Renwick Collectors Study Tour.
Herbie was also a logger, outfitter, mechanic, house builder and entrepreneur. His impassioned spirit of adventure led him to far-flung places, usually with Marcy and children in tow. He traveled the seas of Baja, rowed some of the West’s most provocative rivers and camped, hiked and hunted mushrooms throughout the Rockies.
He sought refuge from Aspen winter tourist seasons, and for 18 years he and Marcy took off to their home in rural Maui, Hawaii. In 1990, they fled a changing Hawaii and built a rustic retreat in the jungles of Costa Rica.
In contrast to his “dismissal of mankind” was Herbie’s faith and loyalty toward his friends, who are rare, unusual, renegade, comical, talented and abundant. Herbie’s generosity of spirit, ribald humor and his willingness to share his time and wisdom made him easy to know and easy to love.
Herbie always viewed his greatest achievement as his immediate family: his best friend and wife of 40 years, Marcy; his son, Dylan, a glass artist and woodworker, who, along with his wife, Jacqueline, have their own studio; his daughter, Erica, a graphic artist and designer who has her own business; and grandson, Wyatt, an independent 2-year-old. Herbie is survived by his mother, Betty Balderson of Rancho Bernardo, Calif., sister Kay of San Diego and brother Bobby of Maui.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the HPB III Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will provide support for a promising Roaring Fork Valley wood turner/woodworker to attend Anderson Ranch each summer.
Donations may be sent to: Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Herb Balderson Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 5598, Snowmass Village, CO 81615.
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