Arvin Kasparaitis, among Vail’s originals, dies
Kasparaitis had major open heart surgery in 1992, but he kept teaching skiing, the work he loved, until February of this year. He was very thankful to Dr. Larry Gaul, Dr. Jack Eck and the whole staff of the Vail Valley Medical Center, for helping him maintain a fine quality of life since his surgery, friends said.
Kasparaitis’ life is a classic American immigrant success story, friends said. He was born of Lithuanian parents in a displaced persons camp in Munich, Germany, in 1946.
In 1951 Kasparaitis, his mother, and one of his brothers joined the oldest brother in Waukegan, Ill. His father died in Germany, just before the family came to America. He grew up in Waukegan, attended public schools there, and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire in 1967.
He had the chance to become a teacher, but his love of skiing made him one of the original ski bums, friends said. Teachers got draft deferments, but not ski bums, so Kasparaitis spent nearly a year in Vietnam, where he was awarded a Bronze Star for valor.
After returning to the states in 1972 he found that the lure of skiing was still more important than a traditional career. So in 1973, Kasparaitis and his close friend, Brian McCartney came to Vail. During his ski school career, Kasparaitis received numerous awards and spent a number of years as a supervisor, but the thing that he was proudest of was the important part he played in creating and implementing the Vail Ski School’s hiring and training program.
Kasparaitis also played a key role in the early days of the Jerry Ford golf tournament, as the volunteer coordinator and the liaison with the Secret Service. That led to a friendship with President and Mrs. Ford, and several visits to the White House.
Kasparaitis was probably the only Vail resident ever to be the subject of a Wall Street Journal page one story, complete with drawing. His role as a “guerilla marketer” for Vail was described in a humorous feature article.
Kasparaitis and fellow ski instructor Pelle Eklund probably brought the windsurfing craze to Vail in the ’80s. They both became certified master Instructors, and many Vail locals learned the sport from Kasparaitis.
He loved biking, hiking, and cooking mushrooms, asparagus and other things from the wild in what was known to friends as the “West Vail test kitchen,” friends said.
He was also quite a student of history. After his health problems slowed him down, he loved camping with friends in his famous motor home, the “Mother Ship.”
Kasparaitis’s pride in his military service led to his position as the quartermaster of the Minturn chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Kasparaitis is survived by his mother, Marta, of Oaklawn, Ill.; two brothers, Roman of Oaklawn and Walter, of Waukegan; and two nephews, Andrew of Oaklawn, and Linas “L.K.” of Vail.
A wake and funeral services will be held Wednesday in Oaklawn, Ill. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent in Kasparaitis’s memory to CU Foundation, Heart Failure Research Fund, 4200 East 9th Ave. – A065, Denver, CO 80262.
Kasparaitis asked that his friends celebrate his life with a party, so that will happen at the Eagle Vail Pavilion from 1-5 p.m. on July 6, friends said. All his many friends are invited.