Family, friends celebrate life of Adam Palmer in Eagle: ‘Let’s go live’
Saturday’s memorial at Eagle Town Park is just the start of a day full of fun in honor of beloved community leader
Throughout the celebration of life for Adam Palmer on Saturday morning in Eagle Town Park, a small butterfly glided back and forth in front of the stage, occasionally flitting away into the cloudless sky above, only to return again.
Several of Adam’s loved ones noticed the butterfly and smiled at the peace and otherworldliness it seemed to embody. Another thought crossed the mind of Adam’s wife, Kalie Palmer, as she sat on a folding chair listening to her husband’s life be memorialized by the event’s various speakers.
“I was imagining he was flying around like trying to tease them or distract them, you know? Like Adam would do,” she said laughing. “I think that butterfly was there for a reason.”
Every part of Saturday’s ceremony was “all so Adam,” Kalie said, from the colorful Hawaiian shirts that filled the park to the live music played by friends to the many mountain bikes that crowded nearby bike racks and spilled onto the lawn.
Adam was one of three local men killed in an avalanche while backcountry skiing on Feb. 1, at age 49.
But, somehow, the world kept spinning and the hustle and bustle of life pushed on, Kalie said.
Saturday’s celebration, the first public service honoring Adam, felt like a much-needed breather for her and couple’s two daughters, Montana and Savanna, she said.
“My girls have been really busy with school and drama and dance performances and have had a lot to look forward to and haven’t taken a ton of time to just really feel their love for their dad,” Kalie said. “So, they just really got to reflect on how much their dad meant to them.”
A private service was held shortly after Adam’s death, but the family wanted to wait until pandemic gathering restrictions were lifted to invite all who knew and loved him to celebrate together.
Locals and faraway friends filled the park with blankets and chairs, swapping stories about Adam and munching on donuts until the ceremony began just after 10 a.m.
“[Adam’s] death was unexpected and tragic, yet he lived fully with passion, joy, humor, love, a sense of thrill-seeking adventure and a bottomless dedication to community and the entire freaking planet for that matter,” said Eagle County Commissioner Matt Scherr, a friend of Adam’s and host for Saturday’s event.
Adam accomplished more things in his 49 years of life than could be easily summed up in Scherr’s allotted time at the start of the service, he remarked. He described him as a devoted husband and father, passionate community member and, above all else, as someone who lived life ferociously.
This latter sentiment, Adam’s fervor for exploration and adventure, was the common denominator of every speech given. Every person who took the stage stressed his exuberance for the life he was given and shared the lessons he taught them about how to look at their own lives.
“His optimism and enthusiasm often led to a bit more adventure than you expected,” said Kalie’s older brother, Kraig Kerr, who spoke on behalf of the family.
Kerr shared stories he had collected about Adam’s mischievous childhood growing up in Port Orchard, Washington, and recalled the first time he was introduced to the Kerr family.
They knew he was a keeper when he hopped up to do the dishes after dinner, putting the other men in the family to shame, Kerr chuckled.
Scherr recounted Adam’s time with Eagle County government, first as a planner and, later, as the director of sustainable communities. Adam was always seeking to better his community, participating in many boards, including Eco Trails, the town of Eagle, Holy Cross Energy and the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition, Scherr said.
Scot Webster, an old friend, remembered long conversations he had with Adam on his porch and shared a poem with the crowd.
“When I must leave you / For a little while- / Please do not grieve / And shed wild tears / And hug your sorrow to you / Through the years,” the poem reads. “But start out bravely / With a gallant smile; / And for my sake / And for my name / Live on and do / All things the same.”
Jason Torrie, Adam’s fraternity brother and best man, said Adam taught him to push himself, to stray off the beaten path, and to slow down and enjoy the little things.
In between speakers, Alan Echtler and Ray Merry played a song for the crowd — “Hiding in the Past” by New Shoes — while a video slideshow by Josh Stowell played.
The slideshow ended with a video of Adam letting out a “yahoo” and a hearty laugh as he skied through thick powder on a sunny winter’s day. The screen faded to black as he trailed out of sight.
“Adam had a limitless bank of energy, and it didn’t burn out when he left us,” said Ben Zeeb, another friend of Adam’s. “His contagious and everlasting energy that pushed us to dig deeper, do better and excel — that will continue to burn, and it’ll burn bright.”
Adam laughed hard, whistled loud and often yelled joyously so, to wrap up the event, Scherr asked the crowd to let out a joyful noise. And, on the count of three, a chorus of hoots and hollers rang out in a powerful release of energy and emotion.
As he left the stage, Scherr encouraged the crowd to go out and make use of every minute of their Saturday as Adam would have wanted.
Attendees shared their intentions to go mountain biking or to surf the wave at the Eagle River Park in his honor before coming back together at Bonfire Brewing later that night for live music by Hardscrabble, a band Adam played in.
“When I came off stage, I went and got a hug from my wife right away and she just said, ‘Let’s go live,’” Scherr said after the service. “So, we’re going to do that and we’re going to start today.”
Email Kelli Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org