Obituary: James Gerbaz
May 14, 1943 – July 16, 2022
On the 16th of July, Uncle Jim banged the lift seats a final time, flipped em’ all up except for one, called in a final “last chair”, and only after the lift shack was secure, took his last ride up the hill and into the great beyond to be in God’s glory.
Jimmy was a third generation Aspenite born in the original Citizens’ Hospital in the spring of 1943. He came from a family of Italian and Slovenian immigrants who arrived in the Roaring Fork Valley in the 1890s and worked as ranchers, timber cutters, and miners. He lived his entire 79 years in Aspen in a house on South 7th Street which was originally a lineman’s shack for the Midland Railroad. Jimmy graduated from Aspen High School in 1962 and from that point on worked for the Aspen Ski Company as both a lift operator and summer trail crew on Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, and finally Buttermilk. Once asked if he would ever consider applying for a lead or supervisory position on the lift crew, Jim’s response was: “why the hell would I want to do that?” He was content to work on the lift crew (“just a liftie” as he would say) and eventually became one of the Ski Company’s longest serving employees surpassing the 60-year mark in 2021. He spent the last 20 years on the Mighty Mite surface lift at Panda Peak on Buttermilk where he was beloved by parents and children alike. His pickups after minor yard sales by the never-evers and 5 and youngers must have eventually numbered into the hundreds of thousands.
He was a lifelong bachelor and a devout Catholic who enjoyed watching sports (NASCAR, FIS World Cup Alpine Skiing, and Notre Dame Football) and listening to country music (Miranda Lambert and Garth Brooks). Interestingly, as a born contrarian, he hated the Broncos and John Elway in particular and would always root for the Cowboys or Raiders in a Sunday matchup at Mile High. And he would favor the Herminator to win the Hahnenkamm over Bodie Miller every time. He was also never one to back away from an argument regardless of how trivial or irrelevant the topic was to the poor unfortunate caught on the other side of the discussion. He rarely traveled beyond the roundabout other than a weekly trip to Glenwood to “run some errands and go to Walmart” or his once-a-year pilgrimage to Mack, Colorado to attend the holiest of holy music festivals, the Country Jam. Even recently, when he so very ill in the hospital, Jim insisted that family members secure his Jam VIP ticket for 2023 since he didn’t want to risk missing the next show.
Jimmy’s worldview was formed almost exclusively by day old copies of USA Today purchased from Carl’s Pharmacy or the occasional tidbit of news he would pick up at the counter of Breakfast in America in El Jebel. He never owned a cell phone or touched a computer, rarely listened to advice anyone gave him, and just wanted to live a simple life which is something he succeeded in spectacularly despite the ever more frantic pace of the modern world and, in particular, modern Aspen.
Jimmy is preceded in death by his parents Edmund and Albina Gerbaz and is survived by his sister Cherie Oates (Lennie), nephew Jeremie Oates (Sally), niece Sarah Oates-Hunter (Steve), nephew Cody Oates (Gillian), and great nieces and nephews Casey, Ellie, Florian and Hadley. His family will all miss him dearly.
A Mass and funeral will be held at St. Vincent Catholic Church in Basalt, Colorado on Wednesday, 20th of July at 11:00 AM, preceded by a Rosary at 10:45 AM. There will be a reception at noon at the Church followed by internment at Red Butte Cemetery in Aspen. We welcome all Jimmy’s friends and acquaintances, especially those from the Ski Company and all who knew him from “around town,” to come and celebrate his life and tell some funny stories with us.
Photo credit Aspen Historical Society, Ringle Collection.