Martha Head to receive Spirit of Betty Ford Award in Vail |

Martha Head to receive Spirit of Betty Ford Award in Vail

Daily Staff ReportVail CO, Colorado

VAIL Americas highest botanical garden bestows its highest honor next month to a longtime Vail resident, advocate and friend.The board of trustees of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens announces Martha Marty Head as recipient of the third annual Spirit of Betty Ford Award, which will be presented at the organizations annual fundraising gala tonight at Vails Donovan Pavilion.Betty Ford Alpine Gardens created this award to annually recognize an individual in the community whose spirit and character exemplifies that of former first lady Betty Ford, said Ann Kurronen, the gardens executive director. As the first lady of Vail, Betty Ford will always be known for her courage, kindness and refreshing honesty. These are traits that perfectly describe this years recipient, Marty Head. We are so pleased to recognize Marty with this award.Head has been a vital part of the Vail community for many years. Born and raised in Kansas City, she is a graduate of St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. She first visited Vail in 1964 with her first husband, the late Jack Fritzlen, founder of CMI, Inc., an electronic law enforcement company. In 1968, the Fritzlens bought a condominium at Riva Ridge South, in Vail Village; and in 1970, they became full-time Vail residents, moving to a penthouse condominium on Gore Creek Drive.It was at that Vail Village home Martha Fritzlen put her love of nurturing things having grown everything from plum, cherry, pear and apple trees to white and purple Concord grapes to a high-altitude test, concentrating on flowers, including roses and orchids.In the greenhouse, I could grow anything from anywhere in the world. I thought that was fascinating, she said.When I first married, at 21 years old, I asked the priest for something to take me through the rest of my life. He told me to plant a garden, she added. Her private garden in Vail Village near the Vista Bahn Express won Betty Ford Alpine Gardens Garden of the Year Award in 2002.That has lived with me ever since, and Ive had gardens my whole life, Head said.In 1984, after being widowed, Martha Fritzlen married Howard Head, the innovative ski and tennis racket mogul and namesake for what is now the Howard Head Sports Medicine clinic at the Vail Valley Medical Center. Howard Head died in 1991; Marty Head, a mother of three daughters Lynn Fritzlen, Guerin Fritzlen Olsen and Marla Croke and seven grandchildren, married Dr. John Feagin, a retired orthopedic surgeon, in 2005.Besides her continued involvement with the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens since it was founded in 1988, Marty Head remains an active supporter of many organizations and causes in the Vail Valley and elsewhere, including: Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival; Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame; Family Learning Center; the Vail Valley Foundation; Vilar Center of Performing Arts at Beaver Creek; St. Mary-of-the-Woods College; Notre Dame Business Advisory Council; Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute; and US Ski & Snowboard Team.Im proud to be connected with Betty Fords image, to know her personally and to be connected with and honored by the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Head said. The Gardens, to me, is the most important organization in Vail, as it promotes beauty, tranquility, color and joy. There is so much honor that goes with that, and I accept this award with deep appreciation.Martha Head to receive Spirit of Betty Ford AwardThe Spirit of Betty Ford Award, A Tribute to Martha Head, will be held today at Vail Donovan Pavilion. A reception begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by the tribute and dinner at 7 p.m., then a live auction and a birthday to celebrate Mrs. Fords 90th birthday this year, as well as the gardens 20th anniversary.

Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, at 8,250 feet above sea level, is the highest botanical garden in the United States, and perhaps the world, providing free access to an estimated 100,000 visitors annually. The Betty Ford Alpine Gardens is a nonprofit organization for which operations and programs are funded entirely through donors. For more information, visit

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