Celebration of life set for Bill Tatro, 56 | SummitDaily.com
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Celebration of life set for Bill Tatro, 56

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – Ray McGinnis’s book, “My Breckenridge,” sat on the corner of Bill and Cheryl Tatro’s living room coffee table, the last thing Bill’s mother, Eleanor, read to him before she went home last week.

“He sat there, just chuckling,” Cheryl said of the stories of Breckenridge in the wild 1970s. Bill got the last laugh.

The 56-year-old Breckenridge man died Saturday afternoon after a 15-year battle with multiple sclerosis.

The family spent most of the ensuing days reminiscing about a man who lived life to the fullest, from starting his own business in Breckenridge to insisting on going bungee jumping in New Zealand – at a point in his illness where he was paralyzed from the neck down.

“I thought they probably wouldn’t let him,” Cheryl said. “But they said, “Oh, no; we just had the handicapped basketball team here last week.’ They put him on this wooden board, and once they set him up there, he just fell over. They don’t have any liability issues over there.”

Tatro was born Nov. 4, 1946, in Providence, R.I., and attended Pilgrim High School in Warwick, R.I. There, he earned his Eagle Scout Award, the highest honor paid to Boy Scouts, and was a vigil member of the Order of the Arrow in the organization.

During high school, he also worked as the nature director at a summer scout camp at the Yawgood Scout Reservation in Rhode Island.

He spent a weekend skiing at Arapahoe Basin – and immediately landed a job scrubbing chili pots.

There he met Cheryl, then an 18-year-old attending Colorado Women’s College. They might not have met if it hadn’t been for Fat Sue, she said.

“At the end of every day, Fat Sue would get on the intercom and announce that the bar was open,” she said. But one day, it was Cheryl’s turn. Bill said she sounded like Marilyn Monroe, and he peeked around the corner and said, “That’s not Fat Sue.”

The two dated for several years, but Bill returned to and graduated from college, then joined the Navy as a helicopter pilot. When he was discharged in 1970, he returned to Summit County for a winter.

In the meantime, Cheryl had graduated and was employed as a teacher. She came to visit, but arrived on the day Bill was to be wed to his first wife, Connie, with whom they had a son, Bill III. Cheryl left.

From 1970-75, Bill managed the Bergenhof restaurant on Peak 8, where he became friends with ski patrollers and others who passed through on their way to work. In 1975, he looked Cheryl up in Aurora and the two were soon getting together on weekends.

They were married Oct. 30, 1976, by “Marrying Sam” in the poker-playing room in the Main Street building that now houses Executive Resorts. She invited the 17 people Bill said she could; he walked up and down Main Street and invited the town.

“That was such a bizarre collection of people,” Cheryl said. “We had my strait-laced teacher friends, all these hippies and the rednecks making punch with white lightning.”

The two have two sons, Chris and Ty.

In 1976, Bill decided to start a business. To do so, he made a list of the types of businesses Summit County might need and a list of criteria he wanted in a job. He narrowed the list to septic pumping or a junkyard.

“That was the only thing the lists had in common,” Cheryl said. “And even then, we didn’t think Summit County would put up with a junkyard.”

Bill enjoyed hunting, Cheryl said, although she didn’t share his enthusiasm after he invited her up to his hunting camp where she was designated the camp slave. She decided to decline future invitations when he wouldn’t let her read a paperback book while perched in a tree waiting for deer to pass.

He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1988 while trying to track deer. Later, it became difficult for him to see the ski terrain.

Until four years ago, Bill was an avid sit-skier with the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center.

“He always did everything he wanted to do,” Cheryl said. “He said, “When I wanted to do something, I did it.’ Nothing ever got him down.”

Bill was preceded in death by his father, Bill. He is survived by his mother Eleanor; wife Cheryl; sister Meredith Sackett of Warwick, R.I.; brother Jeff of Sharon, Mass.; sons; Chris, Ty and Bill III and his wife Valaurie; nephews Max Sackett, Jamie and Mark Michener; and Evan Tatro, nieces Kristy and Lori Freeman and Leah Tatro; and granddaughter Jacque Tatro.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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