Charles George Paterson
Charles Paterson was born Karl Georg Schanzer on July 7, 1929, in Vienna, Austria to Stefan and Eva Schanzer, a secular Jewish family with seven generations of history in the city. After a childhood irrevocably altered by the dramatic events of World War II and Nazi invasions, fleeing countries and continents, and switching languages multiple times, he was determined to find, in his words, “a happy place to live.” He never regretted his decision to choose Aspen.
Charlie Paterson adopted Aspen as his home on his first visit, Feb. 1949, during a weekend ski trip as a 19-year-old aspiring ski bum. He applied and was hired as “the” (there was only one) Hotel Jerome bellhop. At the end of the ‘49 ski season, he put a $75 deposit on three lots on West Hopkins, committing his life savings of $750 since, as he wrote to his father, “prices are sky rocketing.” Starting in summer of 1949 with a small cabin he built with scrap lumber and reclaimed windows, Paterson designed, built and ran the iconic Aspen ski lodge-turned hotel, The Boomerang, for which he created working drawings in the late 1950s as an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright
Paterson served in the US Army’s Mountain and Cold Weather Training Command at Camp Hale and Camp (later Fort) Carson, an elite cadre of instructors who taught skiing, cold weather survival skills, and mountain climbing and rescue to special forces, green berets and generals.
One of the earliest certified ski instructors in Colorado, he loved teaching skiing on Aspen Mountain-including teaching “top class” his last years. Hired as one of 11 instructors when he began his career with Fred Iselin and Freidl Pfeifer’s Aspen Ski School, he used to guide helicopter tours on the nascent Snowmass area before lifts were installed. He served on many community and volunteer boards including terms as president of the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association, president of the Aspen Chamber of Visitors Bureau, president of the Aspen Lodging Association, as well as being a member of the City of Aspen Board of Adjustment for forty years.
Throughout his life, Paterson remained a cheerful and optimistic person with a joie de vivre that never left him. He was committed to education and to helping people, and especially young people, in need. He believed in the transformative power of a good example and was exactly that for the many with whom he came into contact. He was a voracious reader, watercolorist and designer, prolific and stylish skier, and lover of classical music. He was devoted to the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he and his beloved wife of 49 years, Fonda Dehne Paterson, helped rebuild the campus and set up the Paterson Scholarship Fund. It was at the Festival that he found his first summer employment as a rope puller and usher at the Eero Saarinen music tent nearly 70 years ago. He will be sorely missed, but his friends and loved ones take comfort in the way he lived his life intentionally and with creativity and vision.
He is survived by his wife Fonda, daughters Carrie Paterson (husband George Domantay) and Jenny Rose (husband Evan Rose) as well as his cousins, nieces, nephews, and their descendants around the world.
A celebration of Paterson’s life will be held Friday, August 24 with an in-gathering at 4pm and program at 4:30pm at Harris Hall in Aspen with reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the Paterson Scholarship Fund, Aspen Music Festival and School or to the charity of your choice.
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