Snowmass founding member, Snowballer, icon Gary Rosenau dies at 96 | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass founding member, Snowballer, icon Gary Rosenau dies at 96

One of Snowmass' founding fathers and cherished community members, Gary Rosenau, died April 19 peacefully in his hometown of Philadelphia. He was 96.

Rosenau first visited the area he would later help incorporate into the town of Snowmass Village on a ski trip in the late 1950s, according to his daughter Gail Scott.

While Rosenau will be remembered for many reasons, Scott said, "his incredible love for the (Snowmass) community" rises to the top.

"Until the day he died, the luckiest thing in his life was moving out there and finding the people and the environment," Scott said in a phone interview. "And all he wanted to do was make it better."

Rosenau's early efforts to improve the community that would become Snowmass Village trace back to the 1970s.

As president of the Snowmass Homeowners Association — he and his wife, Anita, purchased a house at Melton Ranch in 1973 — one of Rosenau's jobs was to alert the snowplow driver when the roads needed maintenance.

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He also was tasked with paying for the service with homeowner assessments levied by the association, which at the time acted as a quasi-governmental entity, according to "The Story of Snowmass."

"It was hard to collect them sometimes, and we had roads to plow and maintain," Rosenau said in the Snowmass history book. "I got a hold of 15 other guys and we talked about incorporation as a way to garner the tax base. I couldn't see any other way to keep the roads open."

The tale of Snowmass' initial path to incorporation, like Rosenau's story, is colorful, quirky and full of life.

Rosenau knew a man by the name of Howard "Bo" Callaway who, at the time, had recently incorporated Crested Butte.

Upon soliciting Callaway for advice and securing an invitation to Crested Butte, Rosenau and his two buddies, Jim Bishop and Dick Slaughter, rode their motorcycles over the Elk Mountains to learn how to establish a town.

The trio called themselves "Snowmass Angels," according to The Story of Snowmass, and returned to Snowmass "eager to proceed." They asked another friend who seemed eligible to run for mayor.

While the incorporation garnered opposition from some, in 1977, with 197 votes for and 131 against, Snowmass Village was born.

From the 1970s until his final years, Rosenau lived to serve Snowmass.

"Gary was always looking for purpose (and) he was always looking for a problem to fix," Rosenau's son-in-law, Tom Quinlan, said. "While Gary was born and raised and eventually passed here on the East Coast, Snowmass Village is where his heart truly lies."

In his younger years, Rosenau served on the Snowmass planning commission and the town council. He also was involved with and supported several local organizations, including Aspen Camp for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Aspen Musical Festival and School and the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, among others.

Rosenau took great pleasure in helping others wherever and however he could later in his life.

"He couldn't do enough for people," Scott said. "He'd take people to doctor appointments, he'd get the mail for them, he'd bring food over for them. Just anything he could do."

In a 2014 Snowmass Sun feature titled, "The Secret to Longevity," Rosenau said, "When you get older, there's nothing worse than not feeling needed."

"That was exactly it," Scott said. And even into his 90s, she said, "I don't think he missed a Town Council meeting."

But Rosenau's life of service began well before Snowmass.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, Rosenau, a student at Syracuse University at the time, said in the 2014 interview, "I put the pencil down right there and joined the Navy."

He and Anita would elope shortly after, and following the war, Rosenau assumed his family's business, a successful children's dress manufacturing company.

Anita and Rosenau remained together until her death in 2008.

Rosenau's legacy also will be remembered as an integral member of the Snowballers — a band of brothers bound in friendship and a mutual love of Snowmass that loosely formed in the 1970s, according to The Story of Snowmass.

"For Phil Desmond, Gary Rosenau, and a cadre of their peers, the Snowmass Snowballers was a definition of brotherhood. … The Snowballers cavorted about the slopes at Snowmass for over 30 years, sharing lunches and personal exploits in a mood of playful camaraderie."

Randy Wood, whose father also belonged to the Snowballers, said, "That kind of group just doesn't exist anymore."

"Gary was very much one of those original Snowballers who had a great time skiing and telling stories."

A celebration of Rosenau's life will take place at Snowmass Chapel sometime in the afternoon of Aug. 11.

erobbie@aspentimes.com