Letter: He was one of a kind
He was one of a kind
Having attended Stewart Oksenhorn’s memorial service last week, I can’t help but wonder if he had any idea of the impact he had on this community. Would Stewart have envisioned nearly 500 people crowding into the Wheeler Opera House on a Sunday afternoon to weep and laugh, to collectively mourn his incomprehensible absence, to celebrate his remarkable life, his rare being?
To my eyes, Stewart was nothing less than a wonder. As someone who has labored in the writing field, Stewart’s prodigious output, his very ubiquity, was a marvel if not a downright miracle. How could he possibly attend that many events, view that many movies, read that many books, listen to that many CDs, and go on to write insightfully about all of them? Plus be a sports fan, plus be a devoted, hands-on dad? Where did all that energy come from, and what now that it’s gone?
Beyond Stewart’s unquantifiable contribution to the Roaring Fork Valley arts and culture scene, it was his kindness and genuine interest in others that I will remember most. Years ago, when I was executive director of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation and a new mother, Stewart would regularly stop in to my office at the Red Brick Arts Center. We would exchange pleasantries, talk for a bit about upcoming author events, about books we liked or didn’t like. But what Stewart seemed most interested in, or at least the conversations that stand out most in my mind, were the ones about our kids. I took my son to work with me the first five months of his life. He slept in his car seat on my desk or lolled about on the floor under a canopy of dangly plastic things. Stewart would poke his head in and want to know how the sleep patterns were going. Was I getting any rest? Was the baby? Stewart’s daughter, Olivia, born two years earlier, hardly slept at all as an infant, and for that matter wasn’t sleeping much as a toddler. How was it integrating new motherhood and working full time? Wasn’t being a parent the most satisfying, challenging, thrilling experience ever, which we both agreed it was?
Other than family and close friends (women mostly, though not all), I can’t think of another single person with whom I had those kinds of conversations, and certainly no one with whom I enjoyed a primarily professional relationship. But that was Stewart.
Much has been written about Stewart’s boundless curiosity and intellectual capacity. His humanity and his heart were even bigger.
He is so greatly missed.
Julie Comins Pickrell
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