Steamboat’s Chris Hahn remembered for his humor, benevolence
The man died unexpectedly while attending his son's lacrosse game
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Laughter is the best medicine, and although it cannot cure all, it helps the family and friends of Chris Hahn in his absence.
Hahn died suddenly Tuesday from an aortic aneurism while filming his son Kieran’s lacrosse game in the press box at Gardner Field.
“He was doing exactly what he loves,” Hahn’s wife, Mary Grace, said. “Nothing brought him more pleasure than watching his children participate in everything.”
Mary Grace and Chris met at William & Mary University at a fraternity party.
Chris, a computer science major, started helping Mary Grace with her computer science homework. The two of them found themselves in the same tennis class during Mary Grace’s junior year and Chris’ senior year, and they started dating.
Mary Grace moved to Steamboat Springs after graduation to spend a winter skiing, and Chris followed. The two married six years later and spent their lives traveling the globe together. The two were married for 28 years.
The Hahns planted their roots in Steamboat in 1990 then enjoyed a year in Venezuela from 1996 to 1997, five years in London from 2008 to 2013 and 18 months in Switzerland from 2013 to ’14. Their sons Liam, now a sophomore at Middlebury College in Vermont, and Kieran, now a Steamboat Springs High School senior, shared in the adventures abroad.
Chris loved listening to people’s stories and learned them by learning their languages. He spoke Italian, Spanish and some French.
“When we lived in Switzerland, they had this big building that his work owned and Chris made it a point to each day to take his lunch and sit with a different group of people at a different table in the cafeteria,” Mary Grace said. “It didn’t matter if it was a group of maintenance workers, the administrative people or the executives, he just made it a point to get to know everybody to and to relate to people.”
Chris’ fearlessness to try new things, like languages, is what drew him to be a part of a wide range of activities in Steamboat Springs from mountain biking to yoga to C-league hockey.
“Chris wasn’t afraid to try something new because he wasn’t going to be good at it,” Mary Grace said. “He didn’t mind going out and playing hockey and falling on his face or going out and shooting 100 at golf — none of that bothered him. We played 15 years of adult C-league hockey, neither one of us were good, it was just for fun.”
That same fearlessness to try new things was passed down to his sons. Liam joined an improv comedy group without any stage experience and joined the sailing team in college while Kieran decided to try competitive cross-country skiing at the beginning of high school.
Friends and family said Chris walked into every room and was able to read the people in it and make witty comments to shift a mood.
At times, he was almost too daring with his humor, according to longtime friend Gardner Flanagan.
“I visited him when he lived in England, and we were driving somewhere and we were coming up to a rotary and I asked him, ‘Chris, is it hard to drive in a rotary when you’re learning how to drive on the other side of the road?’” Flanagan said. “And he said, ‘No, it’s no problem at all,’ and then he proceeded to drive right over the rotary.”
Jim Boyd, Chris’ longtime college best friend, recalls Chris was always able to effortlessly charm a waiter into free appetizers, drinks or desserts. But it was never for himself.
“When we went home from Switzerland, he had a bazillion miles and points and stuff and he had the VIP card, and I just got the cheapest ticket I could to get over there,” Boyd said. “He talked me into the VIP lounge, to the front of the early boarding line, through the short line to security and I just had a regular ticket. Chris was flying first class, and I was sitting back in the nose-bleeders and … I’m turning to go back to my seat … He gives me a big hug and thanks me for everything, and he pushes me up to first class.”
Chris’ fun personality was a quality that made him a leader people wanted to follow, whether it was during his 10 years at Smartwool or in his everyday life.
“He could motivate you to do anything,” Liam said. “My friend and I spent an entire summer where he decided to dig up the yard at our house and re-turf it with grass. It was the worst work you’ve ever done because he wanted this grass to look really flat, but somehow, he managed to motivate me and my buddies to sit for hours a day just raking dirt.”
Chris’ benevolence came before his humor. He was the man who gave the kids on the streets of Venezuela money for food and prioritized his time for the benefit of friends and family.
The Hahn family’s home always had the table set for friends of Kieran’s or Liam’s, where Chris entertained them as family.
“As fun as it was and as cute as it was when they were little, the teenage years have just been great, and everybody crosses their eyes when I say that,” Mary Grace said. “It’s just been fun going to all the sports games and having conversations and having debates and discussing what they’re learning in school.”
As a parent of two athletes, Chris volunteered at ski events, filmed lacrosse games or even made friends with the parents of the opponents sitting in the stands.
Chris was working in IT consulting, but dreamed of retiring and becoming a high school teacher in math, Spanish or computer science because he believed he could open kids’ minds.
“Someone who was here the other night said that he was the most alive person they’ve ever known,” Mary Grace said. “He lived every second of every day. It’s sudden and awful but it’s how he lived … and for whatever reason it was done. He didn’t suffer and, truly, he would’ve been OK with that. But I think he would’ve liked another 20 years.”
The long drives to Denver to play competitive club softball and fine-tune her skills during the offseason are paying off for Glenwood Springs High School senior Kiera Larson.