Bob Lazier, a Vail pioneer, dies at 81 after battling COVID-19

Lazier, who raced in the Indy 500, landed in Vail two weeks after it opened

Editor’s Note: The Vail Daily will soon publish a more complete tribute to Vail Pioneer Bob Lazier.

Vail pioneer Bob Lazier spent 22 days in the hospital fighting COVID-19 before succumbing to complications from the virus at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Diane, Lazier’s wife of 58 years, kept a journal of all the things his doctors and nurses at Lakewood’s St. Anthony Hospital told her while Lazier fought for his life in isolation.

“He fought a very, very valiant fight. It’s so like him,” Diane Lazier said. “He’s the toughest 81-year-old you’ve ever seen.”

One of Lazier’s nurses cried when she called the family around 1 p.m. to say he was going. Family members all gathered around and got to talk to him. That nurse was holding his hand and had moved the bed so the sun was on his face, Diane Lazier said.

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“He had a big personality and an incredible amount of energy, full of life,” Diane Lazier said.

Lazier is the seventh Eagle County resident to die from the virus, a county official confirmed Saturday night.

“One of the saddest parts is that the coronavirus cheats people of being with their loved ones,” Diane Lazier said.

Life moves fast in Lazier Land

Bob Lazier was a race car driver, entrepreneur, hotelier, builder and lover of life. He became one of Vail’s first major contractors, building 16 commercial properties in 17 years.

His passion and obvious talent for driving fast pushed him into professional racing. He finished 19th and was named Rookie of the Year in the 1981 Indianapolis 500, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” His sons followed him into Indy car racing. If you’re a Lazier, spectacles are for racing in, not for watching.

A couple of years ago, Bob became the oldest person to win a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while racing in a pro-am event.

Vail pioneers

Vail opened Dec. 15, 1962, and Bob and Diane rolled into town two weeks later. They were on their way to Alta, Utah, where Bob was going to teach Diane to ski. They planned to swing through Aspen to track down a friend who owed Bob some money, Diane recalled.

They drove their Morris Minor station wagon into a gas station at what was then the outskirts of town, and what is now the main Vail roundabout. It was brutally cold that week in Vail, the temperature rarely getting above 30 below zero, not too bad for the northern Minnesota natives.

As they stood in the cold with their German Shepard named Animal, a pair of twin girls stormed out of the Vail Village Inn shouting, “I’ll never work for that blankety-blank man again!” Diane Lazier recalled.

She said she and Bob looked at each other and said, “There are two jobs available in Vail.” They both got jobs and stayed.

They worked hard and took a couple of chances as pioneers will. They built the Wedel Inn where Vail’s Austria Haus is now, and later the Tivoli Lodge, which the family still owns and operates.

Some of this material came from Dick Hauserman’s book, “The Inventors of Vail.”

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