Rick Buesch mourned byvets, police
“He was a fabulous guy. He helped everybody and never asked for help himself.”
This tribute was voiced by Aspenite Tom Buesch, describing his brother, Rick Buesch, who was found dead in his Aspen home Wednesday. Buesch was a detention officer for the Pitkin County Jail.
Buesch’s death has been ruled a suicide, said Sheriff Bob Braudis. Braudis added his own tribute.
“He was a sterling man,” Braudis said. “Very well educated, opinionated and very generous with his time and energy. There are an awful lot of people whose lives he has touched.”
Buesch was well known for his leadership on veterans’ issues in Aspen. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam conflict, Buesch teamed up with the late Claire Sanderson to get the veterans’ memorial approved and placed at the Pitkin County Courthouse in 1987.
“He was the moving force behind getting that monument built,” said Jail Administrator Don Bird. The monument is the focal point of a healing process that’s still ongoing, especially for Vietnam veterans.
Thursday, as is the custom when an Aspen veteran dies, the monument was draped with memorabilia and flowers in Buesch’s memory.
Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland recalled a recent Veterans’ Day when the commissioners interrupted their meeting in the Courthouse Plaza building to join a veterans’ tribute led by Buesch and others.
“It was just simple and appropriate,” Ireland said. “It was a reminder of what these people contributed.”
Buesch’s experience in Vietnam had a major effect on his life, his brother said. In 1965 he was sent to Vietnam as a member of the Marine Corps’ 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, with the assignment of establishing an air strip at Da Nang. Later, his group was sent on covert actions in North Vietnam and Laos, Tom Buesch said.
“He was in tremendously brutal combat,” he said. “He was highly decorated.”
Just a few years ago, his brother said, Rick returned to what was formerly North Vietnam. At one stop, he visited a hospital that houses Viet Cong veterans who are disabled, blind or paralyzed.
“He was so moved he gave his medals to those veterans,” Tom said.
Buesch’s life in Aspen revolved around his job at the Pitkin County Jail. Bird, his boss, said he brought more to the job than was expected of him.
“You gave him an assignment, and he’d do it in triplicate,” Bird said.
Buesch’s personal philosophy rubbed off on the inmates, he said.
“He believed in personal accountability and being responsible for your actions,” Bird said. “We all bring our own messages. That’s what Rick’s message was.”
Tom Buesch agreed.
“There are numerous testimonials from former inmates about the help and counseling that Rick provided in their rehabilitation,” Buesch said.
Aspen police officer Dan Glidden, who counted Buesch as a friend, said Buesch had an air about him that expressed class, but underneath he was a very caring person.
“They broke the mold when they made him,” Glidden said. “It’s a loss for the profession and to the people here in town.”
Tom Buesch, a full-time humanities professor at Colorado Mountain College, agreed with Braudis’ observation that his brother, who never attended college, was nevertheless quite well educated.
“He amazed me all the time,” Buesch said. “He was self-taught.”
Buesch spoke French fluently and lived in Paris for a few years. After his stint in the service, he worked for a time as a translator in a New York theater, providing translations of live performances through headphones.
“He was extremely well read,” Buesch added. “He could talk with anybody at any level.”
Buesch was born in Evanston, a northern suburb of Chicago, on Nov. 29, 1944. His connection to Aspen came at an early age, Tom Buesch said.
In 1949 their father built a house at First and Bleeker in Aspen. The family stayed in their vacation home every summer, at Christmas and during spring vacation.
“Even though we were part-time residents, we virtually grew up in this town,” Tom Buesch said.
Buesch graduated from New Trier High School and enlisted in the Marines in 1963.
Braudis said Buesch, who was “religiously punctual,” failed to arrive for work on time Wednesday at noon. Deputies sent to check on his welfare found his house locked.
A locksmith was called, and deputies found Buesch’s body inside between 2:30 and 3 p.m. Several notes were found, addressed to friends and associates.
“There were five or six notes, with names on them,” Braudis said. One was addressed to Braudis, another to Deputy Tom Grady, and others to friends and relatives, he said.
Buesch’s only other surviving close relative is an older sister, Nancy Jacobson, of Alton, Ill.
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