Ursula Benton, 76, a longtime former resident of Snowmass Village, died peacefully in Boulder on Dec. 29, 2012, surrounded by her family. Her passing followed an 18-year struggle with Parkinson’s disease.Ursula moved to Snowmass Village from New York in 1983 with her husband, Harry, in search of the Western lifestyle. She fell in love with the Aspen valley, and with Harry found a home among a group of similarly inspired transplants called the “Snowballs,” who together cherished skiing, golf and the outdoors. She was a longtime member of Aspen’s Christ Episcopal Church.Ursula was born Ursula Laubach in Bremen, Germany, in 1936, the second of four children. A war child, she endured hunger and the experience of aerial bombings with her parents. These experiences were formative, instilling a life-long sense of frugality, practicality, grit and adventure.In 1957, the 21-year-old Ursula helped her father rebuild the family house destroyed in the war, laying the stone bricks herself. In that year she embarked to the U.S. to earn seed money to buy a farm in Germany, which she and her father wanted to operate together. She loved New York, where she stayed with relatives. However, she returned to Germany in 1960 upon her father’s death to help support her mother and siblings. She went into retailing, learning the trade through an apprenticeship at “Peek & Cloopenburg,” a group of department stores, and displayed talent and success in sales there, training under one of the founders. However, the memories of her three years in New York led her to return to the U.S. for good in 1963, when her mother was confident that she could raise the two younger siblings on her own.In New York, Ursula applied her retail skills in a German bakery on 86th Street, which was a meeting point for German expats and actors, and where Marlene Dietrich would buy her bread from Ursula. Later she met Harry, a young New York businessman from a Czech-Austrian family who had a similar sense of adventure and war experience. Ursula married Harry, who brought two daughters into the family, and together they had a son, Paul. Although Ursula was a mother and homemaker, she also embarked on business projects, applying her practical nature, including buying near their home in suburban New York a small office building, which she operated and maintained herself, and which she sold profitably.The happiest years for Ursula and Harry were in Colorado when Ursula’s youthful plans for being a farmer and Harry’s dream to be a cowboy led to years of joy on their working cattle ranch in Rifle, which they had until 1994, while also living in Snowmass.The year 1994 brought change: Ursula and Harry sold the ranch and she was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Throughout the following years of struggle with Parkinson’s, which included moving in 2007 to the nursing wing of the Frasier Meadows retirement community in Boulder, she never lost her positive outlook on life.Ursula was debilitated during the last three years, but found fulfillment in her family and two grandchildren, whom she loved and watched closely. A source of daily joy was her young, zestful caregiver, Amela, herself a war child, of Bosnia, and similar to Ursula in many ways. With her large and interesting family, Amela embraced Ursula for six years, and created daily laughter. To the very end, Ursula maintained the strong will to live: she held on consciously knowing that her siblings from Germany were en route to come to join her family at her bed side.Ursula is survived by her husband of 44 years, Harry, of Boulder, Colo.; son Paul and daughter-in-law, Sigrid, of Snowmass Village; sister Ilse Laubach of Hamburg, Germany, and brother Wolfgang Laubach, of Frankfurt, Germany; stepdaughters Lorna Benton of Boulder and Carol Baronfeld of Huntington Beach, Calif.; two grandchildren and three step-grandchildren. Ursula’s older sister, Marion, passed away in 2011 in Greenwich, Conn.Ursula will be laid to rest in the Snowmass cemetery surrounded by aspen trees, which she loved. A celebration of life is planned for the summer.Memorials may be sent to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (www.pdf.org).
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