Vail Daily column: Clock runs out on friend
June 5, 2014
Our sister paper in Aspen lost their publisher this week to cancer, a scourge that took our own Claudia Nelson too soon.
Too soon for cures we know surely are coming, someday.
Too soon for their children, in Gunilla Asher's case, young ones at 5 and 6, which only manages to make this even more awful. Of course, Claudia's children being adults didn't help any, either.
Too soon for all of us, especially their families.
We're in the ripples of the rock that landed on our colleagues in Aspen, still fresh from our direct hit and knowing that nothing can ease this pain for them any more than it could for us.
Claudia passed in January 2013, a sweet, brilliant soul who took her work on the copy desk very seriously but never herself that way. She had a mom's presence here as at home, and was one of those rare people who make others around them better, and better people, too.
Gunilla never failed to wake you up. She thought out loud, laughed louder, brought everyone into her orbit, all just naturally. No one was more fun to be around, more alive.
I knew it was hope against hope, but even in the end, she had this spark. I'd be so surprised every time, then, to see her get up and walk slowly, sometimes with help, after bantering with her.
I saw her as a compatriot in mischief. She could have fun even in those eternal group executive meetings we'd endure as part of the yoke that comes with our roles at work. A look, a wink. We shared a touch of the same spirit, I thought.
For some reason that I don't truly grasp, I have a reputation in my company as having something of a competitive streak. I don't see it, but such judgments aren't up to me, of course. (You all at work and home can stop nodding right now.)
But compared to Gunilla, I was a bunny rabbit, our mutual boss told me one day. She was fang and tooth when it came to winning. And then the life of the party while celebrating victories, hers and the greater ours.
After all, I think she was the one who coined the slogan at one of our full company meetings, calling out from the audience: "One team, one dream." I think she added "baby" and a smile to the phrase. At least that's the recollection I'm holding. Oh, yeah.
The Aspen Times staff probably is the tightest bunch in our organization, thanks in no small part to her. Under all that gusto, under all that competitive drive, the Gunilla I knew was most astounding to me for how much she showed her care for others. Like everything, that was on her sleeve, too.
I believed she agonized over any bad moment or hard time one of her folks might be having in their personal life and how she might help. These people meant much to her far beyond the workplace.
Most of us wish our colleagues well. Hers were family. I'm sure that didn't spare anyone from any tough love they might have had coming. You don't hold our positions without the, ahem, full coaching toolbox. But I believe she really did love every one of 'em, and they knew it.
Too soon, she leaves a legacy that the Vail Daily staff could only hope their publisher would learn something from in place of the living, breathing Gunilla you couldn't help but love if you spent any time with her at all.
Legacy is a very poor substitute, to say the least. But I'll be chasing her memory this way, trying to live up to her example.
She'd smile at that, and say, "Yep, Rogers, exactly where you belong. Somewhere behind me, buddy."
And laugh her butt off at that one. Then she'd watch, in her Gunilla way, just to make sure I took it right.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.