Willard Charles Clapper | AspenTimes.com
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Willard Charles Clapper

The family and friends of Willard Charles Clapper are saddened by his death on June 22. It is truly rare when a man passes, and his character is such that he leaves with a conscience as clear as a mountain stream and with the abiding respect of nearly everyone who knew him. Such was the case with Willard.Willard was born Nov. 19, 1928, in Towner, one of the many tiny farming communities that dotted the Eastern Slope of Colorado. Here, he and his two sisters, Vivian and Lois; his mother, Opal (Mason) Clapper and his father John (Hap) Clapper lived until they began a series of moves that ultimately landed them either on the Western Slope of Colorado or California. It was a difficult time for most Americans, and the Clapper family was no exception, but those early experiences provided an education that was instrumental in fostering Willard’s incredible common sense, and his seemingly endless words of wisdom that he shared with all who were smart enough to ask.

After a stint in the Navy, Willard joined his father in Leadville. Here, Willard met and married Mary F. Maddalone, an Aspen native, with whom he had three sons: Willard L. Clapper, Dale R. Clapper, and Thomas C. Clapper who married Anne, Kathy (deceased) and Patti, respectively. Within a short time he moved the family to Aspen and went about the business of becoming a bedrock of the community. Willard and Mary had three more children after moving to Aspen: Timothy S. Clapper, Jay J. Clapper and Karen Marie Clapper who, in turn married Stacie, Katie and Carl, respectively. Mary and Willard raised their brood and sent them off knowing they were very much loved indeed!Willard’s various Aspen jobs took him from the last “Water Company” to Aspen Highlands (though he couldn’t ski a lick!) to Pitkin County Road and Bridge, and finally to the Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Co. where he climbed the ladder from serviceman to manager. He was instrumental in bringing natural gas to the Aspen community and outlying areas. In between all of that he also served six years on the school board!

Other than his family, Willard’s other true love was the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department. He is well-known for this affiliation and served as chief for 14 years and retired after 25 years of honored service. The silver bell next to the fire station was dedicated to Willard for his 25 years of service to Aspen. At one time, his name was synonymous with Aspen fire protection. The department will miss him and carry on his legacy.Mary, the mom, passed away in 1991. As one door closed, another opened, and Willard was fortunate to meet and fall in love with another wonderful woman, Barbara Williams (this meeting facilitated by the wonderful Labrador, Honeydew!). Barb would soon become a Clapper. With Barbara, the family went from six kids to 10 with the addition of the Williams kids: Bobbe, William J. III, Wayne Hodge and Karen. Barbara and Willard enjoyed many years of wedded bliss, and her tireless efforts to aid Willard through his health battles will forever be remembered by all.

With so many children there have to be grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Willard and Mary’s grandchildren include Trevor, Traci, Kelsey, Shawn, Avery, Charles and Miller, with another on the way! Barbara’s children added another six grandchildren and seven great-grandkids, all loving “Papa” as well.Willard’s lasting gift to all was his persistent commitment to the truth. He did not lie to anyone, nor could anyone lie to him. In his passing, we should all give witness to the lasting benefits of being honest and true. Willard would appreciate that. Memorial services are scheduled for July 1, 2006, at the Aspen Chapel beginning at 11 a.m. A barbecue reception will follow at the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department station. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department earmarked for the Pumpelli Fire Chief Scholarship Fund.


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