Thalberg’s legacy a more notable Aspen |

Thalberg’s legacy a more notable Aspen

With the passing of Katharine Thalberg earlier this month, Aspen lost a piece of its collective soul. As an animal-rights activist, as the wife of a prominent local politician and as the founder of one of Aspen’s most cherished businesses, Thalberg was one of the people who helped shape Aspen’s modern identity. She urged us and helped us to think and to educate ourselves and to realize the “body, mind and spirit” ideals inherent to postwar Aspen.A two-year battle with cancer ended Thalberg’s life, but she has left a legacy in town that bears note.First and probably foremost is Explore Booksellers, an aptly named bookstore that has become so much a part of local life it’s hard to imagine Aspen without it. Explore is much more than a place to buy a book; it’s a renovated Victorian home full of warm, book-filled nooks that’s simply a nice place to browse or hang out. There’s fine vegetarian food in the upstairs bistro, a bright sun room and, oh, that French-pressed coffee … .When a local author publishes a new book or an out-of-town author passes through, Explore is the place to listen to a reading and meet the writer. Many Aspenites had their first job at Explore. It is a fine bookstore with world-class standards and a strong community orientation. And it was Thalberg’s vision that created it.Thalberg had her share of local detractors. She was known as a private and often prickly person, unimpressed by and sometimes intolerant of ideas or personalities that bothered her or clashed with her worldview. But those qualities were interwoven with her strong will and idealism. They were part of what created the vegetarian Explore Bistro and gave birth in 1989 to Aspen’s proposed ban on fur sales. That issue, which Thalberg pushed with her husband, Bill Stirling, who was mayor at the time, vaulted the community into the spotlight and brought attention to animal rights issues worldwide.Agree or disagree, Thalberg challenged people to think about the way humans treat animals. When the letters to the editor poured in last year about the treatment of dogs at Krabloonik, Katharine Thalberg’s legacy was present in each and every one of them, and she wrote a few herself.Had Katharine Thalberg never arrived here, Aspen would be a less notable place.

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