Aspen’s “mountain man,” Sam Caudill, died Sunday, May 13, 2007, surrounded by family. He was 84. An architect and champion of wildlife and wild places, he was a well-known character.
Sam was born in Tulsa, Okla., on June 5, 1922, although he spent most of his childhood in Shelbyville, Ky. He studied architecture at Cornell University, graduating in June 1946. His college years were interrupted by World War II, when he was recruited and trained as a “mule skinner,” traveling to southeastern China as a member of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services. He ended up working with Chinese parachute guerilla fighters near the Burma border.
In January 1947, while working as an architect in Colorado Springs, he heard about the new ski area just opening in Aspen and decided to visit and go skiing. Drawn by the mountains, he returned five years later, married, and started his own architectural firm. Sam and his firm, Caudill and Associates, designed many prominent buildings in Aspen and Snowmass. They include the Pitkin County Library, Aspen High, Middle and Elementary schools (before the latest remodels), Aspen Sports, Snowmass Conference Center, Timbermill/ retail restaurant complex at Snowmass, the Aspen Art Museum, the U.S. Bank building, and the Aspen Clinic and Professional Building, where his office was for many years.
His most creative work began when he was commissioned to design Aspen High School in 1965. Inspired by frequent family adventures in the canyon country of the Southwest, exploring Anasazi dwellings and the surrounding desert, he incorporated the curved domes and colors in the new school. It won several awards and brought international recognition. His architectural style became known for echoing the character of the site, reflecting the history of the area, and his use of local materials, while also interjecting innovative technology and detailing. In 1992 the American Institute of Architects named him Colorado Architect of the Year.
Sam contributed a great deal to the local community, serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Aspen Chamber of Commerce (president), Pitkin County Board of Appeals and six years as Scoutmaster for the local Boy Scout troop. He is probably best- known for leading the golden retrievers in the Wintersköl parade, which he did year after year ( 1989- 97), wearing his trademark black O’Farrel hat and striding down Main Street, staff in hand.
Sam loved to spend summer weekends with his family, camping, hiking, fishing and hunting wild mushrooms in the surrounding mountains. Hunting in the fall was a ritual that renewed his spirit. Passion for wild country led to his appointment to the Colorado Wildlife Commission (1975-83), where he fought for legislation to protect nongame species and wildlife habitat. He also served on the Colorado State Water Quality Control Commission (1978-81).
Concerned about the four-laning of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, he joined the Citizens Advisory Council to help guide the process so the canyon would not be destroyed. In December 2000, as committee chairman, he was invited to the White House to accept a presidential award for the canyon design from President Clinton.
Family was very important to Sam. Upon arriving in Aspen, he met Joy Maxwell, and they married on May 31, 1952, in the Community Church. She showed him how to fly-fish, taught him to love mountain solitude, and together they raised five redheaded children in the house Sam designed on Maroon Creek, below Red Butte. He is survived by his wife, daughters Jody Cardamone (Tom), Julie Hertzberg (Greg), Anne Goertzen (Todd); and sons Boone Caudill (Janelle) and Robin Caudill (Janis Vos). Sam has three granddaughters ” Kate, Maggie and Beth; eight grandsons ” Andy, Mike (Katie), Tom, Will, Luke, Jason, Jamie and Ben; and one great- granddaughter, Dylan.
Sam was a gifted musician who played the flute, saxophone, recorder, piccolo and best of all, the bagpipes, which reflected his Celtic heritage. He continued to sing, even in his last days at Heritage Park Care Center in Carbondale, where he would inspire others to join in. His singing repertoire included his trademark wolflike howls, which to Sam seemed appropriate for embellishing just about any occasion.
A memorial celebration is planned from 4 p. m. Sunday, June 3, into the evening at T- Lazy 7 Ranch. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to The Wilderness Workshop or the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
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