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People of the Times

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The Aspen Historical Society offers these vignettes of Aspenites, to remind us that history is more than bricks and documents.Ted Mahon1972-PresentWhen he’s not quietly waiting tables at Cache Cache, mountain man Ted Mahon can be found summiting any one of the world’s highest peaks. Ted’s greatest accomplishment of late is to have summited Everest in 2003 on live television. From a cast that started as 500, Ted was one of four left when Outdoor Life Network’s outdoor reality TV series finally reached the Everest summit.What made the surreal moment almost ridiculous was a chance encounter with fellow Aspenite Dr. Jon Gibans, just a few hundred feet from the top. A curt wave and a promise to catch up the next time they were together at Cafe Ink and Ted was on his way to collecting $50,000 for his 4-month odyssey. Next up for Ted – the rarefied claim to have skied from the summit of all of Colorado’s 14ers. Only one man has ever done it before!!! Vince Lahey

Miggs Durrance 1917-2002Dick Durrance 1914-2004 The lives of Miggs and Dick Durrance parallel the story of recent skiing history in the United States and Europe. Dick began skiing in the 1920s when his mother took the family to live in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. After returning to the United States he attended Dartmouth College and became a legendary ski racer with technique unrivaled in the U.S. After college Dick became influential in the development of the ski resorts of Sun Valley, Alta and Aspen. In Sun Valley he met Miggs, who was training for the 1940 Women’s U.S. Olympic Ski Team. In Alta, Dick taught Miggs photography. Arriving in Aspen, Dick was made manager of the Aspen Ski Corporation and he brought the 1950 FIS Race to Aspen, putting it on the world ski map. Then Dick began to shift his lifelong profession from skiing to filmmaking and for years the Durrances traveled the world, filming documentaries with famed radio broadcaster Lowell Thomas. All the while, in Aspen and wherever they traveled together, Miggs was taking her coveted and now historic black and white photographs. Mary Eshbaugh Hayes

Jim Babcockborn?-1997Jim came to Aspen in the early ’60s as a teacher at Aspen High. He was married to one of the Dolle twins and was in on the founding of the Little Red Ski Haus, west of Wagner Park. His enthusiasm for the geology of the Aspen area was immense. As he taught, he was a work of art in progress – chalk and spit would fly in every direction as he hurriedly scribbled important thoughts on the board, talking all the while. Sometimes the cloud of billowing chalk dust would almost obscure him from view.As juniors, and as part of a discussion about fossils, we were introduced to the mythology of the biological philosophy “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” a theory that kept us in awe, mostly because of Babcock’s enthusiastic presentation, until it was fully explained. Tony Vagneur

Mary Martin1919-presentMary Martin was the perfect general’s wife. Her husband, Lt. General Bill Martin of the U.S. Air Force, insisted she could have done his job too. Mary was a warm-hearted hostess, superior cook, inspiring mother, sponsor of young artists, idea-woman and the town of Aspen’s unofficial gadfly. She had strong ideas and voiced them regularly at City Council meetings. It’s rumored that Bil Dunaway once threatened to eject her physically from the premises. She championed many causes, took on any challenge. Despite allergies to the sun, she donned veils and long gloves, cut through governmental red tape like a scythe, and led an expedition of female Aspenites on an Egyptian archeological expedition. Astonishingly, they discovered an ancient, important site.It was not until a few years ago that, to my great relief, Mary stopped calling me to order, “We’ve got to march on Washington.” She has never stopped championing women’s rights and correcting men’s wrongs.She and Bill now divide their time between Salt Lake City, Rancho Mirage and all their children. She drove the town fathers berserk, but I miss her wacky, loving presence. Martie Sterling

Ruth Brown1920-presentMany know long-time Aspen resident Ruthie Brown for her vision to create intermediate skiing on “experts only” Aspen Mountain. Ruthie’s Run was followed by the Brown Ice Palace, built on an empty lot across from her renovated Hyman Avenue miner’s shack. But family lore is what really captures Ruthie’s character.In the winter of 1963, Ruth landed in Washington, D.C. on a mission to find a boarding school for her oldest daughter. The fact that a snow storm had closed the entire city did not deter Ruth from renting a car and driving 50 miles in a furious blizzard. The headmaster, impressed with her undaunted, on-time arrival, accepted Darcey on the spot. Several years earlier, Ruth was sitting poolside at an Aspen hotel when her son made a mad dash to tag a “base,” a section of glass wall surrounding the pool. His “tag” cut the artery in his arm. With characteristic aplomb, Ruth slapped her hand over the spurting blood and got him to the hospital without further ado.To this day, Ruthie exhibits this stoic, no-nonsense approach to life. She’s active and independent despite failing vision and the other aches and pains of living a full 85 years. Laurene Brown Cochran

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