August 6, 2010
VAIL, Colorado – They had to bring in more chairs. You knew they would.
Dick Hauserman was the original Vail local.
“I was the first permanent resident of Vail, Colorado. I designed the Vail logo. It’s on everything. It’s on the cover of my book,” Hauserman said in a video opening Thursday’s memorial service.
“But I’m very upset,” Hauserman laughed. “They put that logo on every sewer cover in town and now people step on it all day long.”
All the remembrances and all the conversations at the Donovan Pavilion memorial service rolled back around to that fact of Hauserman’s life. Hauserman laughed.
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Dick Hauserman looked you in the eye, smiled that smile that poured out through his shining eyes because his heart couldn’t contain it all. He shook your hand and made a friend for life.
“Dick was a handshaker from the old school,” said Billy Paul.
Astronaut Scott Carpenter landed in Vail not long after he returned to Earth in the 1960s. He’d ripped his ski pants and came to their shop to get them fixed. Hauserman took the astronaut to the Back Bowls, before there were lifts, and they became friends for life.
Another friend for life helped Hauserman start the Vail Golf Academy in 1968. Arnold Palmer attracted more than 500 kids to Vail that summer.
“We were at least five years ahead of our time. Arnold said that, too,” Hauserman said in the video. “Vail was only a nine-hole course. We didn’t have the facilities to feed and house all those kids.”
Hauserman and Palmer remained close friends until Hauserman died late last year.
Dick Hauserman was one of nine children and has 50 nieces and nephews. He kept up with them all. Then he had the very good sense to marry Bobba Paul and embraced a bunch more.
Their phones would ring and Dick would be on the other end. He’d ask about the family, remember names and details. They’d talk about five minutes and he’d be gone. It’d keep you going for days. He worked at friendships. He was good at his work.
Of those nine Hauserman kids was Lee Howley’s mom, Dick’s nephew. He remembered Dick’s powder blue Cadillac convertible and that Dick made everyone feel like his best friend.
They were on a sailboat on Lake Erie when he told Howley about Vail.
“I’m going to sell the boat and everything else, and build the biggest and best ski resort the world has ever seen,” Dick told the young Howley.
“When you consider the odds against him and the naysayers of that time, Vail would not have been successful without Dick,” Howley said.
Howley was young. Hauserman was not. He was in his 40s when he got involved with Vail.
Hauserman sold everything and gave himself to Vail. Vail gave itself to him. The love affair lasted a lifetime.
Before Vail, Peter Seibert asked 20 people to put up $5,000 each to help get things started. Harley Higbie was one. Cleveland native Dick Hauserman was another. That was December 1959, Higbie recalled. By the next winter they had a hut at the top of the mountain, an Army surplus snowcat and a dream.
“It was a life that deserves celebration,” said Carpenter. “He not only loved Vail, but he loved Vail people and Vail people loved him back.”
Carpenter is a Coloradan by birth and his roots run deep in these mountains.
Carpenter brought an investment expert to Vail to check it out. During his visit, Carpenter was asked if he’d like to invest $5,000 in a little piece of property by a stream, just east of what would be the Vista Bahn. His Houston, Texas-based investment adviser took Carpenter aside and advised him that Vail would never make it.
Hauserman and Carpenter remained life-long friends. As for that investment adviser?
“We speak occasionally, but not for very long,” Carpenter joked.
Dick recruited Pepi Gramshammer from Sun Valley, Idaho. Pepi, a young hot shot Austrian pro ski racer, saw the Vail sales pitch film and decided to look at the place when he raced in nearby Loveland. It was April 17 when Pete Seibert, Morrie Sheppard, Dick and some others showed Pepi the Back Bowls.
“I wanted to ski it all,” Pepi told Thursday’s crowd, giggling at the memory.
So he did, then he had to walk back up. It took forever, which is why that run is now named Forever. But Pepi was young and didn’t mind.
“High mountain, good snow, it’s in the middle of the country. “I thought, ‘People will come from everywhere to ski here,'” Pepi said. “Then Dick hired me. I’m the luckiest guy alive.”
Billy Kidd met Dick in December 1962 when the U.S. Ski Team trained in Vail, the month Vail opened. Bob Beattie and Pete Seibert put it together with Hauserman.
“Vail had apparently spent all its money on lifts and trails, because we had to groom our own trails. We all grabbed shovels and started in. It was the most fun training camp we ever had,” Kidd said
He introduced himself to Kidd and other ski team members by saying, “Hi, I’m Dick Hauserman. Welcome to Vail.”
He set up his table in the Vail Farmers Market to sell “The Inventors of Vail,” his book about Vail’s history. When visitors stopped by, he introduced himself to them the same way he had to Kidd, Bill Marolt, Jimmie Heuga and other members of that1962 U.S. Ski Team – “Hi, I’m Dick Hauserman. Welcome to Vail.”
“He said that to me, he said that to all of us,” Kidd said.
Billy Paul, from Bobba’s side of the family, said what everyone felt, that Dick made everyone around him feel like the most important person in the world.
“He was the most inclusive man I ever met,” Paul said. “His love was boundless and today we can all feel his embrace.”
In Dick’s waning days, he and Paul found themselves alone in Dick’s hospital room for a few moments. Paul felt uncomfortable as he searched for something light to say. He’s one of New York’s top advertising executives and creativity is his business, but he was drawing a blank.
Dick turned to Paul and through his oxygen mask said, “Did I ever tell you about how we started Vail?” and started to tell the story the same way he always did … like it was the first time.
It’s a great story.
It’s Dick’s story.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.