October 7, 2009
Kay Reid wrote in her journal June 4, 1998: “Do I believe in reincarnation? Yes, I must.
“Just as a baby becomes older – then a teenager – then an adult – then on and on – surely we do not simply vanish at death but must somehow simply progress to the next stage of life and continue, but in a more advanced or ‘different’ form.”
When her husband comes back in his next life, there is a very good chance that the “different form” he will take will be that of a car. Not just any car – a high-performance sports car. Even in this life, Roy had many of the qualities of a sports car.
His muscular body loved to be in motion, and even at rest, the rumbling idle of his engine was detectable.
He was tightly wound, ready to spring into action at the smallest provocation. It’s as if he was waiting for the green flag, so he could roar down the speedway of life.
He required an enormous amount of maintenance – swimming every day (Kay remarked that his second home is the pool) and filling his days with tennis, golf and working out. He took care of his body like a prized racecar, fueling it with additives and supplements, as well as fine food and wine.
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Roy’s face lit up when he talked about the cars he had owned over the years. As if he were savoring memories of past lovers, he would describe each one in loving detail – the rich colors, the feel of the upholstery, engine specifications, performance capabilities, the handling, the power and grace, the unique qualities that made each car special. In cars, as in everything else, Roy Reid was a connoisseur. He wanted only the best, the first, the tops, the finest. He would fall in love. He “had to have it.” His lust for cars was exceeded only by his lust for life.
In 1961, on a trip to Spain with Fred Iselin, he fell in love again, this time with a sleek British number – a forest green Jaguar. Car fever hit him hard, and he would have no peace until the car was his. The price was too rich in Spain, but on the way home, going through London, Roy saw the car again and did the deal. The Piccadilly car salesman didn’t even ask for a deposit on the car – he simply told Roy that it would be a nine-month wait to get the car to the U.S., and that arrangements for payment could be made at that time. As promised, Roy’s new love arrived in Houston in 1962, and Roy was in car heaven again.
This would ultimately be the car that his daughter Karin learned to drive in.
Roy’s penchant for hot cars led him on many adventures. In 1971, on a trip to Denver, Roy bought his first Porsche from a guy who had a whole warehouse full of them – all different colors, models, and styles. Roy’s choice was a snappy little white coupe. When his fickle heart yearned for a new beauty a few years later, he arranged to trade the Porsche for a fabulous white Dino Ferrari owned by a California dealer. In order to customize the car to his own taste, he requested some special detailing on the car, including blue pin striping.
When the car was ready, he and his good friend Lloyd Baker made a road trip to California, stopping in Las Vegas to party a bit, before finally arriving in LA. The Ferrari owner arrived at Roy’s hotel to make the trade, and popped the hood to check out the engine. “What are you trying to pull here?” the car dealer yelled angrily from under the hood. “What do you mean?” Roy asked, truly innocent for once in his life. “This is a stolen car!” the dealer replied. “The ID number on the engine has been scratched off. I’m not an idiot, you know. I know a stolen car when I see one. The deal’s off.” And he took off into the night, and the $500 Roy had spent on having the Ferrari detailed to his specifications disappeared into the night as well.
Roy was disappointed, but there was nothing he could do. Back to Aspen he went, only to have the police show up at his door a few months later. It seems the dealer had reported Roy and his stolen car to the authorities. Fortunately, he had a bill of sale to support his claim of innocence. Lengthy conversations ensued, and Roy feared he would lose the Porsche as well as the $500 he had spent on the Ferrari. But the Porsche’s original owner had long since been compensated for his loss by his insurance company, so Roy lucked out. He got to keep the car. Of course, he didn’t keep it forever – he didn’t keep any car forever. He ultimately sold it to his buddy, Lloyd Baker, who, he speculates, probably disposed of it in Mexico.
Not all of Roy’s love affairs with cars were so dramatic or dangerous, but he often bought cars that were the first of a kind, or were unusual in some way. In 1934, for instance, he bought a blue roadster equipped with the very first V-8 engine made in America. In the late ’40s he bought a convertible sedan – quite unusual to find a 4-door convertible – a beige Cadillac La Salle which was striking and elegant. He had had to borrow money from his mother to buy a wedding ring for his bride, Kay, but somehow he managed to finagle a deal to buy this new car.
Such behavior is quite characteristic of this unusual man – when he wanted something he could always find a way to get it. Call it resourcefulness, call it determination, call it creativity, call it what you will – you didn’t want to stand in the way when Roy Reid decided he wants something. He was a man who knew how to get what he wanted. Like any personal quality – this single-minded pursuit of a desired object is a two-edged sword. It helped him woo and win a beautiful wife; it helped him become successful in real estate; and it helped him become a superb competitive athlete.
His penchant for fast, expensive cars didn’t diminish with age.
In 1980 (at the age of 62) he flew to New York to attend the U.S. Open tournament and visit his mother. Instead of flying home to Aspen at the end of his trip, he drove back in a brand new 308GTB Ferrari – silver with red interior. It was his pride and joy, the love of his life – but, alas, unbeknownst to Roy, it was to be an ill-fated love affair. Nine months later, Rip Martin, a local auto detailer, sweet-talked Roy into loaning the 1977 Ferrari to the Aspen Design Conference for a special exhibit on Italian design and automotive art. The car was prepped at Martin’s auto detailing garage, to ready it for the show. A celebratory cocktail party was held at the garage, and afterwards, Alan Drobnak, one of Martin’s mechanics, was assigned to deliver the Ferrari to the conference site on the west end of town. Drobnak never made it. The car was found off the road about 12 miles up Independence Pass, completely totaled, with a champagne bottle behind the front seat.
Roy was beside himself with anguish when he heard the news the next day. His beloved Ferrari, his stunning, exquisite piece of automotive art was lost forever. His heart was broken. Would he ever love another car again?
For 54 years, Roy continued his love affair with hot cars as well as his marriage to the love of his life – the beautiful Kay Reid. But did Kay ever come to terms with her husband’s automotive love affairs? We can find the hint of an answer in some notes she made for financial arrangements to be made upon her death: “When I die,” she wrote, “Roy will undoubtedly go out and buy a new car.” You can almost hear the sigh of resignation in those words. “Roy will be Roy” – no one knew that more than Kay.
True to Roy being Roy, on July 4, 2009, to be exact, at the age of 90, many decades later, Roy waited until his daughter Karin was “at a hometown parade” when he called the car salesman with whom he had worked for weeks and bought his latest baby – a beautiful white convertible sports car.
Roy Reid passed away in mid-September at the age of 91. His friends sometimes wondered what would happen at the end of Roy’s life. Perhaps he would simply put on his driving shoes, climb into his favorite sports car, and race westward with the setting sun, to see if he could beat it to the horizon. And when the sun came up the next morning, Roy wouldn’t be IN the car, he’d BE the car – beginning his reincarnated new life as a hot, fast, elegant car. So if you’ve recently seen an exotic car speeding down the road – a car you didn’t recognize – perhaps it was Roy.
• • • •
Roy graduated from Rutherford High School in Bergen County, N.J., in 1936, after which he entered Junior College of Bergen County in Teaneck. He graduated in 1938, then enrolled at Penn State College, where he pledged Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. For summer jobs he went to work at the American Can Company in Jersey City. This summer work consisted of checking for defects in the Tin Plate Department.
Roy landed a job with the Household Finance Corporation where he worked until joining the army in 1942 at age 23. In 1944, he received a Certificate from the Armored School, Fort Knox, Ky., and shipped out to Europe at the end of that year. Roy was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds received in action against the enemy in Germany on April 3, 1945.
The president of the United States officially appointed him as first lieutenant cavalry on May 2, 1946. That winter, Roy applied for federal employment in the European theater, asking for jobs in Germany or South America, as well as in New Jersey and New York City. He was studying German and had become skilled as a radio operator. Roy was extracted from the Army on April 30, 1946 in Schorndorf, Germany. He was proud of this career defending the United States and felt lucky to have survived the war. In 1956, Roy received a letter from the White House and President Harry Truman thanking him for the service to his country. He was honorably discharged as a reserve commissioned officer of the Army two years later.
Roy met Kay Kettering after he returned stateside – it was love at first sight. They married in 1949 at the Riverside Church in Manhattan, then moved to Lake Placid, where they taught sports and music. Roy had gotten a taste of the special European lifestyle while he was in Germany and would spend the rest of his life in resort communities: Lake Placid, Aspen, Sedona, Rancho Santa Fe and Vero Beach.
When the young Reids moved to Aspen, Roy taught school, coached the ski and basketball teams, worked on potato farms in the valley, loaded chairlifts.
During this time Roy joined the Professional Ski Instructors Association, the Rocky Mountain Division. He was a member for 45 years and a ski instructor for 35 years. He was an insurance agent and then founded Roy Reid Real Estate, which later became Coates, Reid and Waldron – the top real estate agency in Aspen.
Roy’s face always lit up when he spoke of Aspen: “It was incredibly beautiful. It was not only physical beauty . Aspen had the touch. If people make a place, we had the people.
Kay and I were no different from anybody – you had to scratch and scrounge. But if Aspen meant anything to you, you made it.”
Roy spent the final years of his life in Vero Beach, Fla. He was surrounded by beautiful scenery, beautiful cars, and beautiful women – and his best friend Tiger the cat. Roy worked out daily, never giving up on what he believed to be the secret of a great life – taking care of himself.
He died peacefully in his sleep, a modern death, without pain – never looking back. Roy was grateful to have had a good long run; he always knew he had been blessed by Lady Luck.
“And nobody deserves it more than I,” he would often quip, with a sly grin and a glint of mischief in his sparkling blue eyes.
“He was my hero and my best friend. Every person that met my father has told me what an extraordinary man he was, and how kind. He was not a charity minded man, he never helped at the soup kitchen – Mom always encouraged that in our family – what Dad did was to encourage his friends and acquaintances to work hard and become more than they could be and to enjoy life while doing this!” says Karin Reid Offield.
There will be a celebration of his life in Aspen next spring when the snow begins to melt off Ruthie’s Run on Aspen Mountain. He will rest in peace and with his wife Kay, stepson Ed Marsh and family Kettering at the Ute Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, his daughter Karin asks that donations be made in his name to either the Aspen Grove Cemetery Association (624 W. North St., Aspen, 81611) or the Aspen Historical Society (620 W. Bleeker St.).
His epitaph will read: “Never never never give up!”
(Thank you, Winston Churchill.)
Inquiries for the celebration can be directed to Karin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Special thanks to BJ Gallagher for her editorial help with Roy’s life story.)