Vail Valley celebrates 10th Mountain Division veteran Sandy Treat, ‘our favorite hero’
Family members, community celebrate 96-year life of a local icon
WOLCOTT — Sanford Morris Treat Jr. fought wars, trained others to do the same, spoke multiple languages, helped build countries, communities, industries, friendships and families.
“We call them the Greatest Generation for a reason. Sandy earned that,” said Reverend Stuart Brooks Keith during Tuesday’s celebration of life, which really was a celebration of someone incredible.
Hundreds gathered at 4 Eagle Ranch to remember Treat and his amazing 96-year life. John Dakin with the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of fame has seen all kinds of greats.
“Of all the things you can say about the man, you cannot say he shortchanged his life,” Dakin said, basking in the sun of Tuesday’s glorious autumn afternoon.
Our stories are our history
Treat was born into an old New England family. His father, Sandy Treat Sr., fought in World War I, the Great War. The younger Treat answered the call to serve under America’s flag in World War II, recalled the Vail icon’s oldest child, Cindy Treat Hollister. The influenza epidemic killed most of Treat Sr.’s family after he returned from World War I. The patriarch buried his family and left the “Farm of Gloom,” Hollister said.
Treat Sr. and his remaining family moved to New York City and the younger Treat attended Andover Academy, where he struck up a friendly rivalry with George Herbert Walker Bush, both first basemen and baseball prospects. Treat graduated in 1941 and headed for Dartmouth, but baseball and college could wait. That December the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Treat thought about waiting to become an officer, Hollister said, but the 10th Mountain Division launched and her father was on one of the first trains west to Camp Hale.
Treat became fluent in Spanish, married Hollister’s mother after the war and went to work with Alcan Aluminum in Canada, rising to president of the company.
He bought a ramshackle farm at the foot of Mount Snow in Vermont so he could get the family hooked on skiing. The family also attended Pepi Gramshammer’s Red Lodge, Montana, ski camp.
“He had the energy of a young boy,” Hollister said. “He was a ‘you’ person. He always asked how you were doing.”
Here’s something you might not know. Treat helped launch the Edwards Rotary Club and insisted on being a membership director. In a few months, the club’s membership included 50 of the Vail Valley’s business leaders.
Jen Mason heads the Colorado Snowsports Museum and spent lots of time with Treat.
“We are blessed,” Mason said. “The more years behind him, the brighter his light became.”
Treat spoke often at the museum’s Friday afternoon Tales of the 10th Mountain Division presentations. He entered the room to standing ovations and hugs, Mason said. He loved to tell about his train ride west and the war.
“Were you scared?” asked a small boy during a Q-&-A session.
“Hell yes I was scared!” Treat answered.
“He was a superhero. A living breathing real-life superhero living in Vail,” Mason said.
Mason and the rest of us learned lots from Treat — kindness, dignity and good humor for starters. But, Mason said, three of the most important things he imparted:
- Always say yes to ice cream.
- When you can’t remember where your story is going, just switch back to baseball.
- Always give your best to your community.
Kathy Treat, the wife of Sandy Treat III, recalled that Treat was on a constant quest to learn. When she had a problem, she turned to him for answers. He didn’t always give her the answer she wanted, but it was always the right answer, she said.
“His optimism fueled every single thing he did. He died the same way he lived … looking way into the future,” Kathy said.
He was “our favorite hero,” Pat Hammon with the local VFW Post said.
Treat skied until he was 86, played golf almost daily until he was 96, posed for the Vail Valley Charitable Fund’s Undressed Calendar and shared his love of country and family with schoolchildren and anyone else who would stand still, Hammon said.
Alessandro Cantele read a poem he wrote for Treat on his 94th birthday, and he read it again at Tuesday’s celebration.
“A fighter, a friend and an inspiration he is.
Thanks to him and other brave beings
Life as we know it is here for us people.”
Reverend Keith was 31 years old when he met Treat, who at 70-plus years old showed Keith how to lift weights properly.
“Can you do that?” Treat asked Keith.
“I don’t know,” Keith answered.
“Well, keep working at it. You’ll catch up,” Treat answered smiling.
Treat died with grace, dignity and gratitude … and in peace, his family said. He played golf on a beautiful morning, and “damned near lived forever,” said Dagmar Huber, another speaker at Tuesday’s memorial.
Treat outlived three wives and one of his children. He lived to see Sandy Treat V born 14 months ago.
And then there it was. As the service ended and the celebration continued, Sandy Treat V, rocking a crisp white shirt and black bow tie, toddled onto the stage and placed a tiny hand near his namesake’s urn. The boy laughed and smiled. Somewhere from above, so did Treat.
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