Friends pay tribute to Eagle-Vail bartender |

Friends pay tribute to Eagle-Vail bartender

Lauren Glendenning
Beaver Creek, CO Colorado
NWS Gotch memorial 2 KA 05-19-09

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” It’s easy to see how much Mike Gotch’s friends and family loved him ” more than 100 people hiked, biked and dragged their way up to Red Tail Camp at Beaver Creek Tuesday to say good-bye.

People flew in from all over ” California, Tennessee, Louisiana and Florida ” to remember Gotch, who died unexpectedly May 9.

As people huffed their way up the mountain, some questioned why the drinking celebration for Gotch was held the night before the big hike ” many were feeling the repercussions, but they agreed that Gotch was well worth it.

Gotch, 42, bartended at Paddy’s in Eagle-Vail for almost 10 years. He grew up in Miami, Fla., and traveled the world, meeting many friends along the way. Though he had been to so many places and seen so much, it was the Vail Valley that captured Gotch’s heart for almost 20 years.

John Kerr, Gotch’s uncle, remembered his love for nature and could see how Gotch ended up in Colorado.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

“Something special happened for Mike in nature,” Kerr said.

The crowd at Red Tail Camp reminisced about Gotch’s fun-loving personality. Friends performed songs they wrote for him and many people created a memory wall of photographs of Gotch throughout the years.

Kevi Sirgo met Gotch about 20 years ago while she was hitchhiking to work one summer day in St. Augustine, Fla. Gotch was driving by with a couple of friends and they picked her up. They spent every day together that summer and many summers afterwards.

“Thanks for 20 years of countless memories,” she said. “I’ve been in more countries and more states with Mike Gotch than any other friend that I have.”

Sallie Gotch, Mike Gotch’s mother, was touched by all of the people who came to remember her son. She said they all knew him differently than she probably did, but he was loved by everyone just the same.

He lived a fast-paced life, she said. From the moment he was born until his last day, she said he was always living life at “full speed ahead.”

“This kid never went slow,” she said.

In a poem she wrote, she described his exciting life, drawing tears from the crowd. Everyone could relate to her memories of him.

“Racing against time and trouble ” gone,” she read from her notes. ” But, maybe, now home again.”

Red Tail Camp was a special place for Gotch, said his friend Tommy Anderson. Friends hoped Gotch was looking down on the big party thrown there in his honor and smiling.

“He was the original bartender here,” Anderson said. “This was one of his favorite places.”

His love for Beaver Creek and Red Tail Camp is why his friends and family not only planted a tree there for Gotch, but they also spread and buried some of his ashes there.

The mood at the memorial was upbeat, even though many tears fell down many faces. It was hard not to smile when remembering Gotch ” he was a loving, magnetic person, said Nina Kolbe, a longtime friend.

Gotch’s buddy Jeff Anderson remembered a whirlwind road trip the two went on during one offseason. They started in Montana, and without any plans to go any farther, the two ended up on the Oregon coast on their way to Mexico before ending up in Las Vegas. The entire crowd laughed as Jeff Anderson told the story, and many cried.

“There will never be a road trip like that again,” he said. “Because there was only one Gotch.”

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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