Friends remember life of Dennis Riben
Dennis Riben was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning Dec. 7. Some of Riben’s family is coming into town today, Riben’s friend Paul Malin sent the following tribute to the man he knew, liked and admired:It’s hard to put someone’s life into a few paragraphs but this is how some of his friends remember Dennis.Dennis Riben was not a drifter. He lived in Vail for over 11 years (two winters were spent in Leadville). He only went to two Grateful Dead concerts in his life that anyone can remember. His musical tastes were much broader than the Dead.
He did own and cherish several VW Buses and a Bug. He chose them more for their durability than trendy fashion. It was not uncommon to see him tinkering on one bus or the bug, but not for long, soon he would roar off on his way, having quickly fixed whatever broke. That is why he loved those German relics – with his hands and some baling wire he could do more than 10 mechanics without a computer on one of today’s cars. He was an excellent snowboarder and even better skater. And everyone knew his beloved dog, Riley, a tan and black German shepherd who was the sweetest dog in the world. They were found together.For most of his years here, Dennis did like most of working Vail – he rented apartments. Like many locals he saved money some summers by camping up at Piney Lake if he could time the expiration of his lease properly. Riley loved chasing the animals and that was reason enough for Dennis.
Dennis and Riley had many life-long friends and were loved by everyone else who was lucky enough to meet them. Many helped me write this memorial, and many were angered by misinformation written about our friend. I knew Dennis for eight years. He was strong-willed, generous, and hard working. He held many jobs, some for several years, but he quit them all, and always on his terms, usually feeling as an employee he deserved more. I respected him for this, and sometimes wished I had as much faith in myself as Dennis. He encouraged me to start my own business.Dennis would help his friends and expect nothing. He was the first to pull over to help someone in distress, because he knew what is was like to be there. His humor at first seemed dark, but he was always smiling. He smiled even though he had few of the things that most of us take for granted. His family was Vail.
I don’t want to dwell on his demise, but instead stress the bright light that was Dennis. He wanted all his friends to be happy. As I was making the toast at my wedding my voice cracked as I remembered how he helped my wife and I get together. A group of friends went to the location of the incident , the day had been overcast, cold, and depressing. As we got out of our cars the sun broke through the clouds and as if in a movie shined only on us. We all hugged each other and said good-bye. Crying, we all climbed back into our cars and drove to our homes and jobs. The clouds swallowed the sun and the gloominess resumed. In the car a remake of “We’ll Meet Again” by Johnny Cash played on the stereo. But as the sun disappeared and the song played we knew our friend was at peace and knew that we would all meet again.From your friends Greg, Paul, Derek, Ashley, Mike, Scott, and many more: We will never forget. We love ya, bro.