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Telling Aspen’s story for six decades

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times
Mary Eshbaugh Hayes points out the young men of the 1952 Aspen ski team. Hayes has been reporting and taking photographs in Aspen for more than 60 years and is being honored for her contributions to the arts community at an event Sunday at the Red Brick Center for the Arts.
Michael McLaughlin/The Aspen Times |

From the very first day she arrived here, Mary Eshbaugh Hayes knew Aspen was special. Now, 61 years later, Aspen is acknowledging that Hayes is also special — very special. On Sunday, Hayes will be honored at the Red Brick Council for the Arts’ 2013 Artist Tribute event.

Hayes’ skills as a journalist and photographer are uncanny. Her words have always been true, and the images she captures on film are often stunning and consistently thought-provoking. The way in which she carries herself is one of humble grace and dignity. Soft-spoken with a keen sense of reading people and interpreting who and what they are, Hayes has become somewhat of an icon in Aspen.

Since Hayes began working as a reporter and photographer at The Aspen Times in 1952, her words and pictures have told countless stories about the people, places and actions that helped shape the Aspen community. Those stories are key to understanding more than a half-century of life in Aspen, how this town has changed, grown and evolved into the Aspen we know today.

“Mary has a bottomless knowledge of the Aspen area,” said John Colson, a reporter Hayes hired in 1985. Colson stayed with The Aspen Times until 2002 and is currently a reporter at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. “She is a wonderful, caring individual and dedicated journalist who wasn’t afraid to let her reporters write what was needed. It sounds a little cold to refer to her as an institution, but she is. She’s a golden resource to Aspen.”

“There are many layers of Mary. She is a woman of substance who absolutely loves people and finding out what makes them tick.”
Terry Butler
Owner and operator of the Residence Hotel

The Red Brick Arts Council recognized this, too, selecting Hayes to receive its annual award for outstanding contributions to the culture of the Aspen community at Sunday’s sold-out event.

“Mary has made such a great contribution to Aspen both culturally and historically,” said Angie Callen, executive director of the Red Brick Arts Council. “Her memory is so sharp. She remembers everyone she photographs. Unknowingly, she’s documented the growth of Aspen from mining town to Prada stores. We’re very excited to have the opportunity to honor her.”

Hayes, who was raised in upstate New York and studied journalism at Syracuse University, moved to Colorado in 1950 because of the skiing opportunities. In 1952, while on an Aspen ski trip, Hayes saw the Aspen Times building and decided to inquire if any help was needed. Verlin Ringle, editor and publisher at the time, hired Hayes to be a reporter and photographer.

It was also in 1952 that she met silversmith Jim Hayes, and after a winter of skiing together, the couple married in 1953. They had five children and raised them all at their home on East Bleeker Street in Aspen. Jim died in December.

In 1956, Bil Dunaway bought The Aspen Times and had Hayes begin writing a weekly column called “Around Aspen” that provides readers with a look into the social lives of Aspenites. She continues to write the column to this day.

Hayes was editor of The Aspen Times from 1977 to 1992, a time of great change and evolution in Aspen. She’s also written two books — “Aspen Potpourri” and “The Story of Aspen” — and is working on a third, a memoir.

“There are many layers of Mary,” said Terry Butler, owner and operator of the Residence Hotel. “She is a woman of substance who absolutely loves people and finding out what makes them tick.”

Butler has known Hayes for 45 years and still sees her as the same person as when they first met.

“She’s always been very humble,” Butler said. “I’ve never known her to have an ego whatsoever. Mary is very smart, and I love smart people. She’s always had the ability to padlock information and keep it in her head forever. She’s given so much to this community in so many ways and continues to do so. Without question, she deserves this tribute.”


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