People of the Times |

People of the Times

Chief Willard C. Clapper is front and center with the members of his beloved Aspen Volunteer Fire Department in 1984. Willard Jr. has his arm over his dad's shoulder. (Courtesy Aspen Historical Society)

Willard is a man of diverse interests and skills – not in some kind of highfalutin, fancy-schmancy way – but in the way of the classic Western man. He was at home driving huge “maintainers” (those large ground-leveling tractors), repairing ski lifts, installing Wagner Park’s first sprinkler system, raising tons of kids, bringing natural gas to Aspen homes, or running the fire department. He was never a guest speaker at the Aspen Institute, though he probably should have been! His world is the world of common sense and down-to-earth problem-solving.Much of Willard’s time was spent with the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department, an association he holds dear to his heart. He was the formidable chief and motivation behind the department’s movement from a small town, “pile-out-of-the-Eagles-or-Elks-clubs” response to an incredibly well-trained and well-equipped organization. Many of us get a bit melancholy at having lost that fun-filled, looser time, but Willard knew that we would have to change with the times and move forward. It was not easy for him to take such an unpopular stance, but he did it knowing that it was in the best interest of Aspen and the Fire Department.Every kid in town knew Willard. He, along with his wife, Mary, attended kids’ events from Aspen to Limon. The Clapper house was sort of a flophouse for kids who needed a place to stay, a good meal and an adult whom they could trust. His heart is always open to help kids in anyway possible.If you were to define the true Western man, he would not be the hard-riding, cigarette-smoking, leather-skinned loner. Rather, he would be like Willard Clapper, an honest, hardworking man who shared a smile and a laugh, a man committed to community, to family, and to helping make others’ lives safe and secure. He never turned away anyone. If you were wandering about town on some cold, snowy, late night and saw someone who needed help, chances are you would see my dad, offering a pair of huge, calloused hands.-Willard C Clapper Jr.

Bob Lewis was a man of place, and the place he chose as his home and haven centered on two acres of woodlands and riparian riverfront on the Roaring Fork near Aspen. Bob found his place while fishing in 1950, when he caught a couple of small rainbows and headed up the river bank to build a fire and roast them on a willow branch.”I came up from the river and saw this gorgeous property on an alluvial fan with chokecherries, sedges, aspens, cottonwoods, blue spruce, serviceberries, engelmann spruce, and ponderosa pines. I knew Jim Smith, the rancher who owned the land, and I asked him if he would sell me a couple of acres. This place has been a source of learning, enrichment and inspiration for me in everything I do.”Bob was a 10th Mountain trooper, a skier and a student of nature. But first and foremost, Bob was a teacher of conservation, an ethic he derived from biologist Aldo Leopold, who said that if you teach people to understand nature, they will grow to love it, and if they love it, they will protect it. As founder of the Independence Pass Foundation, Bob took those words to heart.- Paul Andersen

Johnny moved to Aspen in 1891 with his parents at the age of 14. He started his lifelong interest in photography shortly after and eventually operated a photography shop in the Independence Building on Cooper Street, above his fathers famous Bowman’s Musee (a popular saloon with a “pioneer relics” museum in the back). His glass negatives have captured the life of Aspen from the late 1890s through the early 1920s, but his favorite subject appears to be his father, Col. John Bowman. Johnny’s negatives have documented Col. Bowman posing on his horse, in various mountain scenes, with his wife, with his wife and her chickens, helping dig out an avalanche (although he seemed to be supervising while posing without a shovel), in his “Musee” playing pool and in many other activities. There is a lack of images of Johnny himself, due to either his fondness for being behind the camera or the lack of anyone else with the skill to be behind the camera. Either way, we intimately know Col. Bowman with his Buffalo Bill-style goatee and buckskin jacket.- Anna Lookabill Scott

A true Canuck, Tom was born in Montreal. He was a wild one – he skied and raced motocross and won an annual race on ice at St. Agath du Monts.But we digress. His love was and is skiing, so he bought into a ski area near Mt. Tremblant. He developed lifts and did everything necessary to run the place. Then one day, he and a bunch of ski buddies, including Bobby Forrest, Peter Banting and Gordie Stone, took the train from Montreal to Glenwood Springs, skied Aspen, and that was that. He sold his interest in the Canadian ski area and returned to Aspen in 1963. His friends soon followed.Tom’s first job was cleaning toilets at Aspen Highlands. Then he became a powder guide at Snowmass, and when Snowmass opened to the public in 1967, he was assistant patrol leader. Later he was responsible for laying out, clearing and bulldozing the trails on Elk Camp and Alpine Springs.In the ’70s, Tom was head of the summer trail crew at Snowmass. He’d become a mushroom expert and, as they cleared runs, he carried a book to identify edible ones. He tried to share his knowledge with a couple of his crew, but unbeknownst to him they were intent on hunting a different type of mushroom. When they started acting weird, he figured out they were on a different page of the book than he was!He worked at Snowmass for more than 20 years, meanwhile marrying his spunky Irish wife Ellen and raising two children, Heather and Colin. He retired from Skico in 1985, helped create and manage the downhill course for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, then started T & E Enterprises, a sheet-metal company, which grew into a very successful business, now employing 15 people.- Gail Nichols and Carla Peltonen

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