Longtime Aspen local Jerome Hatem found dead under snowmobile on backside of Aspen Mountain
Jerome “Jerry” Hatem, a longtime member and organizer of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club, was found dead late Monday underneath a snowmobile on the backside of Aspen Mountain, officials said Tuesday.
Hatem, 59, was discovered late Monday near the top of Little Annie Road by a resident of the area, said Jesse Steindler, patrol captain with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
Hatem’s death appears accidental and likely occurred Sunday night, though he was not found until Monday night, according to Steindler and Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Eric Hansen.
“He would give back to the sport every chance he had,” said longtime Aspen rugby fixture and coach Cameron McIntyre. “He played for a lot of years and still liked to have a run. Even at last year’s Ruggerfest he would take in as many games as he could basically get in. Although he was eligible to play in just the over 55s, he would sneak in a game with the younger guys if anyone needed.”
The resident told sheriff’s deputies he heard a snowmobile go up the road between 7 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday but thought nothing of it because it’s a common mode of transportation in that area when it’s covered in snow. The man said he then saw the snowmobile overturned uphill from his home the next morning about 7 a.m.
“He thought someone rolled it and walked home,” Steindler said.
The resident went about his business all day and again noticed the overturned snowmobile about 7:30 p.m. Monday, when he walked up the road to see who it belonged to, he said. When he got there, he saw Hatem’s body underneath the snowmobile and recognized him, Steindler said.
The surprise discovery upset the man, he said. He then walked back to his home and called authorities.
The official cause of Hatem’s death remains under investigation and is pending an autopsy, Hansen said. It appeared to have been an accidental snowmobile accident, he said.
An avid skier, Hatem currently was the Aspen Rugby Club president, whose season is set to get underway Saturday in Denver. McIntyre moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in 1993, a few years after Hatem, and considered him a close friend.
McIntyre said Hatem had a “very steady influence” on the local rugby community despite being “not an overly flamboyant man by any means.” McIntyre said Hatem came from Columbus, Ohio, and traveled to more than one Rugby World Cup in his time.
From rubbing elbows with the Gentlemen at Ruggerfest or helping teach the newbies during evening touch sessions, he was a common presence around town.
“Jerome was an extremely generous individual toward the club,” former Gents coach Will Herborn wrote in an email to The Aspen Times. “He had been selfless in providing time, money, body and compassion to anyone and everyone that came within arms reach. He helped the high school kids to learn better scrum technique and (win) a state title.”
Herborn, who coached the Gents to a Ruggerfest championship last year, once lived with Hatem and said he always opened his home to players. Herborn said he’s worked in a variety of industries, from being a chef to recently a property manager.
“Aspen and the rugby community lost a genuine and humble player, leader, father, friend and champion of causes,” longtime Aspen Rugby Club board member Bo Buck wrote on Facebook. “I had the distinct pleasure to play rugby with Jerry from 1982 til my retirement and am honored to have been on the Aspen Rugby Club board under his presidency. Jerry was always ready and willing to play, assist, and do absolutely anything in order to help keep the game and the community going. We will miss you my friend.”