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Love, love, love

Caramie Schnell

Winter has come into its long, mid-season stride, and that means Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. Saint Valentine’s reds and pinks provide a stark contrast to winter’s blues and grays, but sometimes Feb. 14 can feel a bit overdone, and a bit flimsy in comparison to real love love that lasts forever.The following stories are only a few of the many wonderful love stories that have flowered in this valley and still continue to bloom. It was refreshing to find, when we began looking for candidates for our Love Stories issue, that there are many, many couples out there who fit the bill.The following stories are representative of the kind of love that happens here in the mountains where cold days, wild nights, and a strong passion for life inspire lovers to be as bold as their mountainous surroundings. Each of these tales is also unique; full of all the quirks and idiosyncrasies which make life (and love) so interesting.– TBJim and Daphne SlevinDaphne first came to Vail expecting to find a glamorous, though fledgling, ski resort; instead she found a construction zone. It was 1962 and Vail was just getting started.”There was mud everywhere and maybe one or two telephones in the whole place,” Daphne said.Jim had been living in Manhattan and working as a literary agent when he met some people by the name of Hauserman.”I produced a play on Broadway and then I failed with the play. I was broke and I met some people in Cleveland, they were called Hauserman.”The Hausermans invited Jim to Vail, telling him that he needed some fresh air and that there was no better air than what could be found in Colorado.”They invited me to come in January of ’63 and I came and I looked around,” Jim said. “I had never lived in a ski town, and I went up on the mountain and sat in the snow and meditated.”Jim decided to give Vail a shot. He told his friends in New York that he was going to try his luck out west, and though they told him he was crazy, he went ahead and moved to Vail.Jim and Daphne met because, as they said, they had no other choice.”It was hard not to meet people,” Jim said. “We were desperate. It was so small, you had no choice but to know everybody. And any new person that would come into Vail, you’d go ‘Who is that new person?'”Back in the beginning of Vail, there used to be hitching posts outside the Red Lion and some of the places along Bridge Street. Where Manor Vail is now, there were horse stables. One of the pair’s first dates was spent riding.”We used to gallop up and down the valley,” Jim said, “there was nothing here.”The two began dating in September of 1963 and a few months later, Jim opened a restaurant called Lacave on Bridge Street.”After 10 p.m. we had music; we had made a little stage we were the first disco in Colorado. They didn’t even know how to spell it,” Jim laughed. “We would go dancing most nights. One day jokingly I went up to her and said, ‘Do you come here often?’ and she said, ‘Only in the mating season.'”After that first winter they spent together, Daphne returned to her home country, England, to visit her family. Jim realized how much he missed her and wrote to tell her that him and Blaze (their dog) missed her terribly and wanted her to come back.Daphne decided to return and see what might become of their fledgling romance. Things must have went well because after having known each other a little over a year, Jim and Daphne were married in the Hauserman’s apartment at the top of Bridge Street. They were the first local couple to be married in Vail and so the pair decided it would be fitting to invite everyone in Vail to the reception. And everyone, in turn, came out to wish the couple well.Eight years after Jim and Daphne were married, their first and only child, Christopher arrived. Today Christopher lives in Los Angeles, but visits regularly and has many friends in town. Jim’s son, John, and grandson Michael still live in the valley. Matthew currently lives outside of Chicago. And Jim’s eldest son, Jimmy, is an attorney living in LA.”We often talk about what on earth kept us here all these years,” Daphne said, “and it wasn’t because we were skiers absolutely not. There was just something about that early Vail crowd and friendship and vision. People worked together, there was cooperation; there was no greed.”For the Slevins, a good sense of humor has been a key ingredient when it comes to making their marriage work.”Why has our marriage lasted? Because Jim makes me laugh,” Daphne said. “You have got to have a sense of humor.”Jim agreed that humor has been key to their great romance, but said there’s one more thing as well, friendship.”We’ve laughed together a lot, yes, but there’s something else. We started from scratch, from zero, so we had one desire and one goal, to improve our situation. Through working together through umpteen years we developed a wonderful friendship.”We had, like any family, a lot of ups and downs,” Jim said. “But we made it through it all together.”And after 43 years here, the Slevins can’t picture living anywhere else.”It’s not only home, it’s all of our friends everything is here,” Jim said.Vi and Byron BrownThe Browns have spent the majority of their married life in Vail. They moved here in 1964, three years after being married in Denver. With two small children and one on the way, the two decided that they had to at least try living in the mountains.”I turned to her some 40 years ago and said, ‘There’s 52 weekends in the year and we’re spending 54 in the mountains; why don’t we move up?'” Byron said.The couple first met while Vi was working in the credit department at Sears and Roebuck in Denver. Byron came in with his mother to order some furniture for his bachelor pad. He took Vi’s phone number and called her soon after to invite her to the mountains.”I was a pretty nave Minnesota girl, and when he called me he said, ‘Do you have a sleeping bag?’ I said ‘no.’ He said, ‘Well I want to take you to the mountains, but you have to have a sleeping bag, we’re going to go to the Schussbaumer Ski Club.’ Well I thought he was a little to forward so I said, ‘No, I’m not interested.'”The next time Byron and Vi met, they were both on skis. Byron was on the ski patrol at Arapahoe Basin and Vi was just learning how to ski.”They had the pommel lifts that you put between your legs,” Vi remembers. “When I got up to the top, I got off too soon and kind of rolled down the lift line and pretty much knocked everyone off. I got to the bottom, dusted myself off and tried to go up again. (Byron) was up at the top and he yelled, ‘Don’t let go till you get up over the ridge.’ So I hung onto it. I’d never been on skis in my life. I got to the top and got off, and Byron asked me if I was just learning how to ski. I said, ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘Well, follow me, I’ll give you a few lessons.’ He went about 200 yards and fell flat on his face. So I always said, Byron fell for me.”It wasn’t until later on, when the two were back at the Schussbaumer Ski Club in Georgetown that they realized they had met before. Each of their respective dates for the occasion ended up in bed early that night (in a strange coincidence, each of their dates also had the same last name).Vi and Byron stayed up all night.”Our dates were both tired and went to bed and we stayed up with another couple talking all night and we’ve been going together ever since,” Vi said. “We went together for three weeks and then got engaged and then got married two months later. We have spent ourlifetimes getting to know each other.”That night at the ski club, Vi and Byron realized that they had similar goals and morals and family lives. They were both from the mid-west, and both came from stable families where their parents had stayed together. Byron also made spaghetti for Vi that first night, which might just have been the clincher.”He made spaghetti that night and I was so hungry,” Vi remembered. “He made the most wonderful spaghetti, so the way to a woman’s heart is really through her stomach.””We realized we had a lot in common that night,” Byron said. “Both of us have the philosophy that it’s no fun going through life and not having experiences that you can share with somebody. When you can talk about it and share everything with another person, it’s so much better.”Before moving his family to Vail, Byron spent a month in the mountain towns, trying to decide where to move. When he came back down to Denver, he still hadn’t made up his mind.”On Littleton Street there was a real estate agent that had some property for sale in Vail. The guy was Frank Randall. I was standing outside and he stuck his head out the door and asked if I wanted to buy something up there,” Byron said.Within a 15-minute time span, Byron and Randall were negotiating how soon Byron could move up to Vail. It was a Tuesday, and the two decided that Byron would be up there by Friday.For Vi and Byron, not many things in those first years were planned. According to Vi, everything they did, they did fast. They had a baby their first year, Mike; a baby their second year, Todd; then waited six months and had their third and last child, Cindy.Like most great loves, Vi and Byron had to face difficult times together. Their son Todd was killed in a snowmobiling accident in 1993.”Instead of spending a lot of time asking why, we decided that we would spend the rest of our lives celebrating his life because he was such a character,” Vi said.”I sometimes wonder why I didn’t know that he was leaving early. Afterwards I thought, I should’ve guessed, because he lived his life so fast,” she said. “He’s the one, when he was going to kindergarten, he went out the back door and he put one foot out the door and said, ‘Look out world, here I come.'”For Vi and Byron, their love story is just as much a love story with Vail as it is with each other. They both speak lovingly about the comradery and friendships that were so pervasive in the early days of Vail.”I think we’re very lucky that we got to pioneer Vail,” Vi said. “There was a closeness among all the people here then. The friendships, the relationships, you just needed each other very much.”In the ’60s, when the Browns first moved to Vail, no one had television. They put an antenna on the roof in order to even get a radio signal. If it snowed, sometimes Vi could get Alaska stations. The family had a record player and by the time spring rolled around, Vi had completely worn out the four records she had.”In those days, you went to a party and if there was a 100 people in Vail, there was 101 people at the party,” Byron said.And Vi agreed with Daphne that the ability to laugh is very important in a good marriage.”The secret ingredient for a good marriage is a sense of humor. If you take your marriage way to seriously, each other too seriously, it doesn’t work,” Vi said. “You have to have a giggle now and then,” Byron said.The Browns admit that their marriage isn’t perfect and that they do indeed get mad and frustrated with each other like any normal couple.”Do we ever get mad at each other? Absolutely,” Vi said.”She lets you know when she’s mad, but she’s an amazing forgiver,” Byron said. “Once it’s over, it’s over. She forgives and forgets and away we go.”Likewise for Vi, Byron taught her the two most important words for any relationship.”He’s the one that taught me how to say that I’m sorry. In the first part of our marriage, I thought that I was always right, I’ve learned though.”As Vail grows, your children grow, I think one thing that Byron and I discover is that love grows, too,” Vi said. “You go through all these changes that are a progression of life, coming up on 44 years of marriage, but we marvel at how love grows, too.”Sandy and Barbara TreatThe Treat’s fate was decided over a tennis match in Canada some 24 years ago. Barbara was a stockbroker-in-training in Toronto at the time and one of her recent classes had taught that one way to develop relationships with people was to invite them to sporting events. Barbara learned of a single man who enjoyed playing tennis from a friend. His name was Sandy.”So I called him and challenged him to a sporting event,” Barbara said. “I couldn’t get a court time at my club but he could get one at his club. I got there and looked up and saw that he was rated number five out of 300. I knew when I met him that we’d be married and I wasn’t ready to be married.”The tennis club the two were playing at was very strict as far as their dress code was concerned. Every tennis outfit had to be white, similar to the rules at Wimbledon.”When I saw him, his tennis outfit was off-gray, like he’d gotten a navy sock in with his white laundry,” Barbara said. “So I told him on our first date, ‘You need me, I’m the best thing that will ever happen to you.'”We often talk about me saying that because he said that it really created an awareness of me as a person, rather than just a hot date.”Sandy had lost his first wife to cancer less than a year before he met Barbara. The two were married a year later.”He had a great marriage before,” Barbara said. “And that really helped, if you meet someone that had a great relationship.”Though Sandy is 82-years-old, and 22 years older than Barbara, she often tells him he should’ve married a younger woman, someone that could keep up with him.”I have to tell him to slow down, that I can’t keep up,” Barbara said. “He makes me laugh every day that’s the secret,” Barbara said.”Sandy agrees that humor is absolutely essential for a good marriage.”If you don’t have humor, you don’t have much” Sandy said. “After a couple of years of being married, you’re probably not going to stay that way. Because if the two of you can’t have some fun together, well, forget it.”The two also agree that having a good family really helps their relationship. Sandy’s only son, Sandy, lives in the valley with his wife Cathy and their two sons Sandy, 15, and Andrew, 13. The eldest Sandy makes it a point to talk to the boys every day.The Treat’s decided to move from Canada to Vail in 1986. Sandy was familiar with the valley from the time he spent training with the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale. The couple also used to vacation in Vail, often staying at the Christiana Lodge.”We were thinking about going to Cape Cod,” Sandy remembers. “But when I thought about the blue sky and the wonderful skiing and the mountains herewell, it was perfect. And I also felt like this place was really going to grow. I had seen my father go down to Florida and retire and I had gone down to visit him and everybody was old, old, old in wheelchairs and talking about their health and their doctors. I come here and my son comes here and he thrives. There are young people here and everybody is so active, Vail keeps you young, unquestionably.”For Sandy and Barbara Treat, the other secret to their happy relationship is found in the little things the two do for each other on a consistent basis.”Ever since we’ve been married, Sandy has served me breakfast in bed every day. He wakes up with a smile,” Barbara said.Sandy agreed, “The little things in a marriage over time can really mount up to a wonderful marriage. This week, I’ve been sick in bed. And when she leaves for work she leaves me a wonderful note. I go downstairs, struggle around and look at the note, and I feel good. Little things like that are so precious in a relationship. It’s not the big splashy things, it’s those small things with a cumulative effect.” VTIf you have a couple you’d like to recognize as being among the valley’s great lovers, send a letter to Caramie Schnell at cschnell@vailtrail.com.


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