Obituary: John Franklin Doremus

John Franklin Doremus 10/31/1926 – 5/31/2020

John Doremus passed away peacefully Sunday morning in his sleep after a long battle with Dementia.

John was born October 31, 1926, near Reading, Pennsylvania, the oldest son to Jack and Miriam Doremus. John had a Quaker upbringing and attended Earlham College in Indiana where he earned a BA in Economics. Upon graduation he served in the US Army at Lowry Air Force Base and was honorably discharged in 1945 at which point he returned to work in his father’s box company in South Philadelphia.

In the winter of 1951 he and his college roommate, Jim Adams, packed their belongings into an old jeep and headed to Aspen where they were able to secure jobs as Hotel Jerome bellhops for that year’s ski season. The following year, John returned to his old job, adding Head of Housekeeping at the Hotel Jerome to his resume.

After two seasons, John had fallen in love with Aspen and skiing and was determined to find a way to stay beyond the seasonal work available. In 1954 he founded House Care, Aspen’s first property-management company taking care of old Victorian homes. He added real estate sales to the business a few years later which he did on and off for the next 50 years. In 1961 his real estate business was sold to Mason and Morse and he went to work for Fritz Benedict for the next 8 years learning the ropes as a land-use planner and working on projects like Starwood, Red Mountain Ranch and Meadowood. By the late 1950’s, John was part of a group of citizens that worked to establish Aspen’s first zoning regulations. Profiled in the New York Times in 1958, the newly formed zoning commission found the fifty-one billboards littering the landscape along Highway 82 to be “undemocratic and poor organization that [they] obstructed some of the world’s loveliest views, including Independence Pass, Pyramid Peak, Smuggler, Red Mountain and the bejeweled waters of Roaring Fork.” John was tasked with an unenviable job of negotiating with the business owners for their removal. Those very same zoning laws remain in effect in Aspen to this day.

Over the years, John has served on the boards of several non-profit organizations. His passion for the Aspen Music Festival lead to 45 years on their Board of Trustees after which he was named a Life Trustee; Chairman of the Professional Standards Committee with the Aspen Board of Realtors; Director of the Aspen Chamber and Visitors Bureau; and Founder and past President of the Parks Association. He was a founding Member of The Park Association, now known as the Aspen Valley Land Trust and in 2017 was honored as one of the founding members at the AVLT 50thanniversary celebration. John was also a founder of the Park Trust which promoted the creation of many of the local parks such as Glory Hole Park, Iselin, Henry Stein, Freddie Fischer Park, Verena Mallory Park, Ute Park, Bavaria Park, Hallam Lake Park and Neale Street Park to name a few. Today, AVLT continues to pursue conservation of agricultural land and wildlife habitat, as well as scenic corridors and recreational properties from the Continental Divide on Independence Pass to the high country west of the Roan Plateau near De Beque.

In 2004 John left his beloved Aspen to spend his retirement in San Francisco.

John was preceded in death by his brother Tom Doremus (d 2015), sister Joanne Chislock (d. 2006), two ex-wives, Vivienne Jones (d 1994),Catherine Garland (d. 2015). John is survived by his sons Andrew Doremus (Jeanne Doremus) of Aspen and Ian Doremus (Julie Bright) of Eugene, Oregon, daughter Fenell Doremus (Vito Greco) of Chicago, 10 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in John’s name to the Aspen Valley Land Trust.