Obituary: Harley Green Higbie Jr., Oct. 23, 1924, to Mar 18, 2018
In both sadness and celebration, we announce that Harley Green Higbie Jr. passed away, at 93, in his home on Sunday, March 18, surrounded by his family and, outdoors, by freshly falling snow.
Harley was born at home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Oct. 23, 1924, to Dorothy Scherer and Harley G. Higbie Sr. He had one younger brother, Hugo, now deceased. His early years he spent in California, where he later attended The Webb Schools and loved playing quarterback for the football team and sailing.
He trained in the Air Force as a weatherman at the University of Iowa. After the war, he graduated from Yale University, Class of ’49. While pursuing his passion for skiing on the slopes of Zermatt, he met the love of his life, Lorraine Nichols. They married soon thereafter in Woodstock, Vermont, and settled in Denver in 1959, via Oklahoma City.
An earnest and wise businessman, Harley’s work took him from the natural gas business with his long-term partners George Caulkins and Keith Brown, to the citrus groves in Florida, to the stock market and his own investment business, where he helped many gain economic stability.
His deepest career passion was creating a ski resort and town out of Pete Seibert’s amazing find of a mountain with fabulous snow and “Back Bowls.” Along with the original Inventors of Vail, he held the vision and dedicated the hard work of manifesting what is now Vail. As he said, “It was about the spirit of the place, building something new.” For 18 years, Harley sat on the board. And he was the last living of the Vail founders.
Harley’s other passions included politics, education and music. Despite his friends’ hawkish leanings, Harley was an adamant dove. He marched in the streets of Denver against the Vietnam War in the ’60s. To him, war was never, ever the answer to conflict. His commitments to education led him to serve on the boards of Graland School and the Colorado School of Mines for many years. For the sake of Beethoven and Mozart, whose music fueled his soul, he also sat on the board of The Denver Symphony and Colorado Public Radio.
What a successful, dedicated and unassuming man. Mostly, he loved the company of his family and friends. We remember him for his ever-jubilant, warmhearted greetings; his consistent, nonjudgmental acceptance; and his generosity. His intelligence came accompanied with a keenness for the well-spoken word and grammatical correctness.
Carrying on his love of the mountains are his wife, Lorraine Higbie, four children, Lorraine Fairmont, Madeleine Wolfe, Lolita Higbie and Harley Higbie; eight grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews whom he has also grandfathered.
Donations are gratefully received by the Colorado Symphony or the Colorado Snowsports Museum. If you want to do Harley a favor, then remember to turn off any lights when not needed, as he religiously reminded us.
There will be a memorial on Thursday, April 5, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Denver Country Club. In June, we will spread his ashes on Vail Mountain.