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Committed to a better Aspen

Jim Shaw

Figuring out what to do with our lives is a question most of us struggle with at one time or another. Some of us put it in terms of finding God’s will for our lives, others put it in more general terms. But no matter how we address it, most of us are aware of an underlying consciousness that we are searching for our purpose in life – what we were put here to do. The past few of weeks I have had the good fortune to assist Greg Poschman in editing the video biographies of four citizens who have dedicated their lives to serving Aspen: Nick and Maggie DeWolf, Dottie Fox and Connie Harvey. (The short biographies will be shown tonight at the banquet honoring them for their induction into the Aspen Hall of Fame.) As the stories of their lives unfolded in the editing room, a common theme appeared – each, of course, possessed an unwavering dedication to giving to their neighbors, but the striking commonality was that each served the Aspen community by giving of themselves in ways that followed their own enthusiasms. They were able to give so completely of themselves because they were doing what they seemed naturally bent to do.In each case their passions were evident in early childhood. As a parent of five children, I have found that it is very important to recognize that each child is uniquely equipped with gifts and enthusiasm. “Enthusiasm” is one of my favorite words. The derivation of enthusiasm is the Greek word “theos” for God. It is another way of saying that you are excited about what you have received from God.All four of these people, each of them in their 70s, could be easily described as characters. They each followed their individual enthusiasms. Each, of course, had difficulties at times, but common to each would be a description of a “life well-lived.”As a child growing up in Austria, Connie naturally gravitated toward enjoying wild places and the creatures that live there. She never lost her passion for the wild. It fueled her drive to join with Joy Caudill (an AHOF inductee in 1998) to form the Aspen Wilderness Workshop which played a leading role in protecting hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness near Aspen.Nick DeWolf is doing now what he loved doing as a child. It all came to him very naturally – he just made it a point to use his energy and enthusiasm to benefit his neighbors. Nick is best-known for using his genius with computers to program the dancing fountain near the Wheeler Opera House, which has been entertaining kids for more than 25 years. The list of projects that Nick and Maggie DeWolf have been involved in since moving to Aspen in the 1970s is very long. At the moment, Nick is completing another project for which he will long be remembered – he has scanned the Aspen Historical Society’s collection of delicate glass plate negatives and turned them into digital photographs so that we all can see the rich lives Aspenites lived at the turn of the 20th century.The third 2006 inductee to the Aspen Hall of Fame, Dottie Fox, followed her natural gifts and passion for painting wild places. She heard about what Dottie and Joy were doing with the Wilderness Workshop and added her charming enthusiasm to the battle to protect wild places for all of us. Her tireless energy for the battle came from her love of the land. These three dedicated ladies led the fight to petition Congress to make sure that future generations would be able to enjoy the beauty that they knew in the mountains around their homes. They worked tirelessly for years to help establish many of the wilderness areas around Aspen that people from all over the world now enjoy. As I’ve come to know these people during the editing process, it has been striking to see just how strongly they have been true to themselves. Each in his or her later years, shows the enthusiasms they had as a child. In one case it was animals and wild places, another it was interest in computer technology, and the third was painting the wilderness and the conviction that one person can make a difference. They followed their passions. The reason they are being inducted into the Aspen Hall of Fame is that they made sure that their enthusiasms helped others. That isn’t such a bad way to go.Jim Shaw is a filmmaker, newspaper columnist and former Aspenite who has been working with Modern Biograph Pictures on the Aspen Hall of Fame videos.


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