Thalberg remembered as private, passionate |

Thalberg remembered as private, passionate

Joel Stonington
A portrait of Katharine Thalberg graces the lobby of Paepcke Auditorium as hundreds of people leave following a memorial service for her Saturday afternoon. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)

Paepcke Auditorium was standing room only Saturday as the Aspen community gathered to celebrate the life of Katharine Thalberg. Thalberg, owner of Explore Booksellers and Bistro, died Jan. 6 after a battle with cancer. She was 70. Dogs barked just before the first speaker took the podium, sparking laughter and lending a light note to the memorial. By its conclusion, however, there were few eyes dry in the crowd of around 400.”How could such a shy, reserved and private person have such a strong impact on our town?” asked Thalberg’s husband, former Aspen Mayor Bill Stirling.

Indeed, many of those who spoke of Thalberg doubted if she would have attended the memorial service because she so shied away from public recognition. Her daughters, Ashley, Brooke and Deva Anderson, reflected on how much Thalberg loved Aspen, music, politics and, of course, Explore Booksellers. Good friend and author Jim Salter, too, mentioned the bookstore. “I have always considered [Explore] the most distinguished jewel in this bejeweled town.” His comment was followed by immediate applause. Thalberg, the daughter of fabled Hollywood mogul Irving Thalberg and actress Norma Shearer, moved to Aspen in 1973. She was lauded Saturday for her role in trying to ban the sale of fur in Aspen in the late 1980s.

“Everywhere I go, I always carry my experience of Katharine with me. She had high standards and she was always one-upping herself,” said Dan Matthews, former anti-fur campaign director for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.The memorial swayed between remembering Thalberg’s public and private lives, with remarks from people like Matthews and a letter from New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Some of the most touching comments, though, were from Thalberg’s husband and daughters.”I miss my mother,” said Brooke Anderson, “and it really helps to know that you do, too.”

Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is

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