Well-liked dentist is dead at age 51
Longtime Aspen dentist Dr. George “Howard” Hardy III died Saturday of an apparent heart attack while he was mountain biking in the Four Corners area above Hunter Creek. He was 51 years old.
The news came as a shock to Hardy’s many friends in the Aspen area, who described him as an incredibly fit mountain athlete.
“It’s the last thing we could imagine, that Howard would leave on a bike ride and never come back,” said Gideon Kaufman, a close friend to Howard and his wife, Joyce.
“Howard was a fixture in the community,” Kaufman said. “Aspen is a community of people – no matter what gets said about it – and Howard was a core member of what makes Aspen very special.”
The Ashtabula, Ohio, native received undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, before joining the U.S. Army as a captain and doctor. Following his discharge, he moved to Aspen in the mid-1970s and established his first private practice. Joyce and Howard married in 1977, and lived for many years in Brush Creek Village.
Patients in Aspen remembered Hardy for his sense of humor, and love of practical jokes.
“Our office is known as joke central,” said Dr. David Swersky, Hardy’s dental practice partner since 1983. “People came into the office just to tell us some jokes – because they know Howard was always game. Howard would always start a procedure with a joke. He was very caring about his patients.”
“Even if he was pulling your tooth, you had to chuckle – he was simply a very funny man,” added Kaufman.
According to authorities, Hardy was mountain biking with a friend above Hunter Creek at about noon Saturday, when he began experiencing chest pains, apparently brought on by a heart attack.
When authorities arrived on the scene, Hardy was in cardiac arrest, though passersby who had stopped to help initiated cardiopulmonary resuscitation, authorities said. At approximately 12:40 p.m. Saturday, advanced life support measures were initiated by medical personnel with no success. Hardy was pronounced dead at about 1:15 p.m.
The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office plans to conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death. Details were not available Sunday.
“We had a very special relationship,” Swersky said. “I’m not only losing a partner, I’m losing a brother.
“He was one of those people who managed to keep that balance – not working too much, not playing too much. He had it just right.”
“He knew how to enjoy a balanced life – he hiked, mountain biked and skied – and he was also a very respected dentist,” said Kaufman. “He had an incredibly close relationship with Joyce, and his life was really a lesson to all of us – how he managed to do it all so well.”
An obituary for Hardy appears on page 2-A.
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In 1895, the fad sweeping Aspen for women was to dye their hair red.