VAIL — If you’re in the Vail Valley and kicking a soccer ball, then you can thank Cindy Eskwith.
Cindy’s 16-year battle with breast and bladder cancer finally ended in May. A celebration of her life is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at e|town in Edwards, and there’s a lot to celebrate.
If you’ve been on the sidelines watching kids play a Vail Valley Soccer Club match, or the Western Slope State League, or La Liga, or most WECMRD matches, then Cindy’s life has touched yours.
Or maybe you’ve learned in an Eagle County Charter Academy classroom. She helped start that, too.
Cindy made a difference to thousands of kids and their parents.
“She was an incredible optimist. It never occurred to her that something wouldn’t turn out right, and she worked until it did,” said Larry Eskwith, her husband of 40 years.
In 1973, Cindy and Larry landed in Vail after a stint in Steamboat Springs. They knew each other while living on the East Coast, and Cindy decided she wanted to ski the West. Larry liked both skiing and Cindy, so he asked if he could ride along. She said yes, and that was that.
Like so many of us, they were going to stay in Colorado one year and then head home. Cindy and Larry fell in love with the mountains and have been here ever since. In 1985, Cindy and Larry purchased one of two liquor stores in Edwards and named it South Forty Liquors. In 2006, they moved the store to its present location in the Edwards Village Center under a new name, “Bottle ’N Cork.”
“She did the work of three people. She was amazing,” Larry said.
Cindy always believed in the power of sport to inspire leadership and teamwork. She was an athlete her entire life and played field hockey and lacrosse in high school. She graduated from Skidmore College in 1971. Cindy got involved with local youth sports because her daughter started playing, the same reason most of us do. But that’s where the similarities ended.
She became president of the Vail Valley Soccer Club’s board and started the enormously successful Vail Cup, the soccer tournament that brings thousands of people and millions of dollars to the valley each autumn. Along with Nick McGrath, of Basalt, she launched the Western Slope State League.
When local leagues ran short of coaches and referees, she trained more. She became a FIFA referee, and then became a referee instructor. She trained almost all the early refs in Eagle and Garfield counties. You probably didn’t know this, but she was chosen to referee the high school state championship in Spokane, Wash.
Lee Jones met Cindy at a 2002 referee clinic and during the next few years they worked more than 100 games together.
Cindy convinced the Vail Valley Soccer Club’s board to hire Jones as the organization’s executive director. The league grew from eight to 18 teams in the first year.
“Cindy had an immense passion for soccer, but more than that she had an appetite to get things done,” Jones said. “She believed in action, hard work and straight talk, and I loved her for that.”
Cindy facilitated the deal for artificial turf fields in Edwards’ Freedom Park. She lobbied the county commissioners, convinced then-commissioner Tom Stone to lead the charge and wrote the grants. In 2012, the Colorado Youth Soccer Hall of Fame inducted Cindy to honor her significant personal achievement and extraordinary representation of the soccer community.
In addition to sports, Cindy was passionate about local education. She was on the first board of directors of the Eagle County Charter Academy and was a primary author of the charter that got it started, along with Patrick Paul and CiCi Nottingham.
No matter what she was doing — and she was always doing something — she was having fun doing it, Jones said.
“When I remember Cindy, I remember laughter all the time,” Jones said. “In all the time I have known her she has been battling this horrible disease, but she was always laughing.”
She was part of almost every benefit and worked for almost every cause.
“When she was told she had less than two years, she cried for half an hour and pulled herself together. She kept moving forward as long as she could,” Larry said.
Cindy is survived by Larry, their daughter Claire, her mother Edna and sister Joyce Thompson.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935, and firstname.lastname@example.org.