A life worth celebrating: A celebration of Arlene Montag’s life is set for Saturday, April 7 | VailDaily.com

A life worth celebrating: A celebration of Arlene Montag’s life is set for Saturday, April 7

EAGLE — Arlene Montag loves a party, and that's why the celebration of her life on Saturday, April 7, will be exactly that, a celebration.

Saturday, April 7, would have been her 71st birthday. She died a couple of months ago, but the life of the party lives on to this day.

"My mother was always the life of the party and would expect to have the best celebration possible," her daughter Jennah Lagomarsino said.

Our favorite hippie

Arlene was a tried and true hippie to her very marrow. She was born in New York and raised in New Jersey among East Coast high society. It didn't take.

"She became the exact opposite of everything she was raised to be," Jennah said in an approving way.

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Arlene Montag was born to run.

She raged against the Vietnam War and the war machine, marched on Washington D.C. in the 1960s and attended American University to be involved in more marches. She marched against Kent State and for women's rights.

She went to Woodstock in 1969. Jennah has those Woodstock tickets. Somewhere in the murky depths of the Vail Daily or Vail Trail archives is a story about Arlene's Excellent Woodstock Adventure. On the cover, she's holding up her Woodstock tickets. If you know about when that was, then let us know. We'd love to see it, too.

Mike Montag was a guitarist and performed in nightclubs around New York and New Jersey. He did some studio work with the Four Seasons and others groups.

One night, Mike was at a party, and so was Arlene. They met.

"That was a great party!" Mike said, laughing.

Arlene wandered off to India to study under a guru. When she came back to the United States, all of her friends were moving to Fort Collins to live in Quonset huts in an honest-to-tie-dyed hippie commune. So, she and Mike did, too.

Lots of people from that Fort Collins hippie commune have been sending pictures and stories to Jennah and Mike. If you're at Saturday's celebration, then you'll hear and see some of them.

'Hey, come here!'

When Arlene and Mike decided to put that commune in their rearview mirror, they got in the car and drove around the American West. They stopped in Salt Lake City and other places and had some friends in Vail who said, "Hey, come here!"

So they did. That was 1974.

Like most of us, they figured they'd stick around for a season or two and then move on. That was 45 years ago … and "Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away." Mike didn't write that song, Willie Nelson did, but we all know the sentiment.

Back in those days, Mike had a full beard and afro. Legend has it that for their wedding, he shaved half of it, walked in and asked his prospective bride, "Which half do you like better?"

They lived in every part of the valley: Two different trailers in Edwards, houses from East Vail to Eagle and everywhere in between.

Before long, their daughter showed up. Even with their hippie days so close behind them, they did not name her, "Peace Love Hope World Understanding Montag." They named her Jennah.

Arlene graduated college as a teacher. She quit teaching and then started again in 2007 with Rumplestilskin Preschool. She worked at Land Title from 1977 to 1989. She opened First American Heritage in Eagle, in the old post office building downtown.

She was an advocate for the Women's Resource Center, a member of the Vail Chamber, the Vail Board of Realtors and all kinds of other causes she decided were worth her time.

And that's the thing about time slipping away. Spend it where you enjoy it and where you think it will do the most good for the most people.

Arlene did. Her friends and family will tell some stories on Saturday.

"Please join us and bring your favorite stories," Jennah said. "Our family knows what an amazing woman she is, but now to see how many people she has touched over 45-plus years in the valley is amazing!"

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If You Go …

What: Celebrate Arlene Montag.

When: 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 7.

Where: Eagle County Fairgrounds, Eagle.

More information: Saturday would have been Arlene’s 71st birthday. They’ll have live music, food, slideshows and crafts for the kids.