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Remembering an original

New New Wallace

When I arrived in Vail 21 years ago, I thought I could ski. Then I met Dan Westover. The beauty of his athleticism, skill and grace on a pair of 203s in the bumps, the powder or the crud was a sight to behold.My sudden realization of just how “city” I skied was a crushing ego blow. But Dan never made me feel inadequate. Instead he patiently and lovingly taught me to ski, Colorado style. Dan style.He waited when other expert skiers said, “See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya!” on a powder day. Dan smiled and encouraged me and told me how great I was. Dan was my mentor on the mountain and in the end, in life.On Thursday, April 13 Dan passed away in his sleep after seven long, painful years living in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic.On May 20, 1999, Dan awoke with an extremely sore neck and experiencing some alarming numbness in his limbs. By the time he got to the Vail Valley Medical Center, Dan had lost all feeling in the left side of his body. Within the hour, he was transported to Swedish Hospital in Denver, where he remained for several weeks in intensive care. A tiny cavernova, or bundle of capillaries, had burst in his neck, creating pressure on his spine and crippling him for the rest of his life.We thought we were going to lose Dan then, but miraculously he survived. He gradually weaned himself off the respirator that breathed for him and eventually, after months of rehabilitation at Craig hospital, Dan came home to Eagle. He taught me what determination was.We all clung desperately to the hope that he would get better, that a cure would come. It did not. Dan lived with almost constant nerve pain. He endured seven long years unable to move any part of his body except his right arm. Dan was a lefty in his prior life. He taught me what tenacity was.Although Dan struggled with his fate and there were many frustrations and tears, he continued on with such amazing grace and strength. He taught me what bravery was.Because his body was so compromised, Dan was admitted to the hospital – sometimes intensive care – countless times during his confinement. He wouldn’t call his friends because he didn’t want to trouble us. He was thoughtful sometimes to a fault. Dan taught me what not being selfish was. Dan worked in the best ski shops in the valley: Colorado Insight and Gorsuch Ltd. He was an expert ski mechanic and boot fitter and the best manager anyone would ever want to work for. Dan taught me to manage.He always made sure his employees got ski time. He gently taught them the ropes and always forgave them their youthful indiscretions, like not showing up on a powder day or arriving to an afternoon shift a little too, well, let’s just say happy. Dan didn’t get mad. He never judged. Dan taught me and everyone who worked with him the art of patience, acceptance and love.Dan was a giver. Ask anyone who knew him. If you needed a hand with anything, Dan would offer to help. He never asked for anything in return, never expected it. He was always there for you if you needed him. I never once heard him say no. Dan taught me to give. Even in that damn wheelchair he gave us perspective: Our knee surgeries, our car or job troubles our lives were just not that bad. Dan even started a support group in the valley for others confined to wheelchairs. I never went to one of those meetings, but I’ll bet he was awesome. Dan taught others in his shoes how to live.His death came as a shock to those of us who knew him and his amazing spirit. We thought, somehow, he’d live forever. But Dan has most definitely been transported to a better place. One in which he is free of that amazing and horrendous wheelchair. A place where he can walk, ski and once again be the beautiful Dan we all admired and loved. Dan ultimately taught me to let go.Undoubtedly, for once in the seven years of his incapacity and pain, Dan has finally gotten a break. But if you were fortunate enough to be counted among his many friends, you are already missing him.Dan is survived by his son, Ian Westover of Ohio; his daughter, Lyndsey Hafner of Nevada; his mother, Anne Westover; brother, David Westover; and sister, Amy Chisler, all of Ohio; and more friends than most of us can hope for in a lifetime.May he rest in peace.Vail, Colorado


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