Former Manor Vail GM Dick Elias remembered as a voice for local businesses
Family, friends recount influential lodge manager who helped plant seeds for regional business chamber
The family held a private service for Joseph Richard “Dick” Elias. In his memory, the family is asking for donations to the Alzheimer’s Association. The Colorado Chapter can be found at http://www.alz.org/co.
DENVER — Dick Elias had already accomplished a lot before he and his family came to Vail in 1968. Once here, he and the family accomplished a lot more.
Elias, 89, died March 27 in Denver. He leaves behind Eve, his wife of 64 years, as well as daughters Noella, Christa, Lisa and Josette; five grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; his sister, Mary; nephew, Jamie Elias; nieces and many cousins.
Elias was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He went to St. Michael’s College and Pennsylvania State College. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean
According to an email sent by Josette Elias, following his military service, Elias began work in the hospitality industry in his native New Mexico. While managing the Los Alamos Inn Hotel and Restaurant, he was offered the general manager’s job at Manor Vail Lodge. The family moved to the fledgling resort town. Elias stayed in that post until the early 1980s.
Josette has fond memories of growing up in Vail and recalls attending school in local basements, lodges and the town’s clinic and chapel.
“Our backyard was the mountain, summer and winter,” Josette said. “We’d ride our bikes and ski down Bridge Street.”
Josette and the other kids would spend a lot of time in their dad’s office, often changing between skiing and skating lessons.
“He was constantly talking to someone in his office,” she recalled.
Elias tried to hire local help as often as possible. He hired valley native Mauri Nottingham to create computer systems for reservations and accounting, providing Nottingham with free office space.
Elias also looked outside of Vail for help for the lodge, hiring people from Minturn, Red Cliff, Gilman and Leadville.
Josette recalled that her father looked for “loyal employees,” and would shuttle them to and from work, at the lodge’s expense.
Like just about everyone in Vail, Elias was part of building the community.
‘He was really gentle’
Local artist Randy Milhoan was living in Vail during Elias’ early days at Manor Vail. Milhoan recalled that Elias was “really helpful” in helping him start the Summer Vail Art Workshop, held at Ford Park before it became Ford Park.
“He was really gentle — I liked the way he did things,” Milhoan recalled. “He had a good command of his own presence and management skills.”
Longtime resident Jim Lamont remembers Elias as “extraordinarily passionate” about his family, and Vail.
“There was no more passionate spokesman for the independent business than Dick,” Lamont said. “He would not allow the independent business community to be pushed around.”
Lamont noted that Elias was one of the key leaders behind creating the Vail Resort Association, which over the years has evolved into the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce.
Lamont said that chamber of commerce idea sprung from the notion that business should lobby the government, not be beholden to it.
“He had extraordinary energy and insight, and a passionate temperament,” Lamont said.
And Elias wasn’t just running Manor Vail. Josette recalled that her mother once ran a small convenience store in town. Elias would often pull the night shift at that store.
“You could go in for five minutes and come out 90 minutes later,” Lamont recalled.
Lamont called Elias a “mentor” in his own career evolution from government bureaucrat to consultant to director of the Vail Homeowners Association, a group that monitors and lobbies the town government.
“The tenor with which (the association) approaches its interaction with the community is a direct result of my relationship with Dick,” Lamont said.
Longtime resident Michael Cacioppo said he always enjoyed talking with Elias.
“I enjoyed listening to him try to educate those (Vail Town) councils — it was an unending task,” Cacioppo said.
“He will be missed,” Cacioppo added. “I was fortunate to know him.”
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While Kaemmer loved skiing, he also loved to work, and in Vail he found what he believed would be an idyllic setting to be both an entrepreneur and a skier.