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We remember you, Sharon

Tony Vagneur

Bad news hits hardest when you’re not looking, but in reality, is anyone ever really looking for bad news anyway?We all read in the paper about the death of Sharon Briggs, and I suppose to most people, her name was unfamiliar, her history unknown, but nonetheless, she was one of us.I grew up with Sharon, in that way people can only grow up together in small towns. She was a few years older than I, and I knew who she was, but that was about it. The girls she ran with were fairly lively, and weren’t past giving me trouble about this or that or teasing me about things. Sharon wasn’t like that at all, and her shyness and reticence were what made her stand out. We never shared a class, never sat near each other at the movies, or had any other real contact, so it would be off the mark to say I knew her. Her family moved here in the 1950s and her dad set up shop in part of the old Banana Republic space, calling himself Briggs Blue Ski Rental. Every ski in the place was painted blue in keeping with the theme, and I think he managed to get some blue paint on the poles and boots, as well. A trip inside revealed blue skis and the ceaseless sounds of Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven and other classical composers. A year or two later, the shop moved down to the Brand Building.According to my friend Roy, Sharon carried a Bible to class every day in high school, signifying a faith she never lost. Truly a unique individual, if you think about it. She grew up here, and unlike most of her classmates, never left. Did she love Aspen that much, or could she just not see her way clear to follow a path somewhere else? Occasionally, I’d see Sharon crossing the street somewhere in town, usually with a dog in tow, and would say to myself, “There goes Sharon,” much as I always did in high school. She couldn’t speak clearly, had what was then called a speech impediment, and that was most likely responsible for a lot of misunderstanding between Sharon and the rest of us. She never appeared to be the object of teasing as most of the kids never tried to exclude her, but there was a divide there that kept Sharon from really participating in high school life. She and I had a conversation once, the subject of which I couldn’t ascertain, but recall her talking directly to me and aside from being perplexed by the sounds she made, I was totally unable to understand what she was saying. Mostly, I felt bad for her (and me), and clearly remember thinking that whatever she had to say must have been very important for her to reveal herself in that way.I’ve talked to a few of the kids who went to school with her, and no one could say they really knew Sharon either. They all felt guilty that they hadn’t tried harder to make friends with her, but also admitted that there was something about Sharon that could make one keep his/her distance.Her older brother, Leroy, came in and out of my life on a couple of occasions, and it was rumored a few years ago that he had died. Joey, the youngest sibling, whom she most likely was largely responsible for raising, and who was very close to her, was killed in Vietnam.In the unfortunate way we have sometimes of being the way we are, we just didn’t get closer to Sharon. For years, she walked around town with her dad, him with a curved pipe in his mouth and a tiny white dog in his clutches. What their conversations, if any, were about is a mystery now for the ages.So long, Sharon. Perhaps you didn’t know it, but we remembered. Tony Vagneur writes here on Saturdays and welcome comments at ajv@sopris.net


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