Chris Ethridge memorial dedication set for Sunday | SummitDaily.com
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Chris Ethridge memorial dedication set for Sunday

Jane Stebbins
Summit Daily/Reid WilliamsNo one has seen all of Chaz della Porta's sculpture that memorializes the life of Chris Ethridge, who died Oct. 23, 2001. The sculpture, erected at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena, will be unveiled at a dedication ceremony Sunday.
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BRECKENRIDGE – Thousands of hours of labor have culminated in a towering, ornate sculpture crafted in memory of Chris Ethridge, a Breckenridge man who died two years ago today in a hit-and-run accident.

A dedication of the sculpture is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena on Boreas Pass Road.

“It’s been sort of a healing experience for me,” said Maureen Hyland, a friend of Ethridge’s. “It’s been a labor of love. I’ve adored working with (artist) Chaz della Porta. He’s an incredible person. I feel like he’s connected with Chris’s soul to be able to dream up this piece, which I feel is really a spiritual piece of art.”

Hyland is one of four Ethridge friends who worked with Breckenridge public arts commissioners Ben Gordon, Marsha Cooper and Julie Long, town planner Jenn Cram and the town council to commission the piece.

The others are Ethridge’s girlfriend Monique Merrill, Great Adventure Sports co-worker Mark Taylor and fellow Red, White and Blue firefighter Kim O’Brien.

Ethridge was riding his bicycle in north Boulder County when he was struck and killed by an 81-year-old woman driving a Cadillac. Ethridge was 31.

He was best known for his constant smile, willingness to lend a helping hand, athletic prowess and generosity toward others. He was an avid bicyclist, snowshoer, skier and hockey player.

After his death, friends and town officials worked on fundraisers and held brainstorming sessions to determine what they’d like built to memorialize Ethridge.

“The process has been somewhat healing because it’s been a collaboration of family, friends and people in the community who want to see his spirit carried on, to forever memorialize his spirit,” O’Brien said. “Personally, it still feels like it happened yesterday. This is not a closure thing, but it helps the healing process.”

The abstract piece della Porta created features two sweeping metal blade-like pieces, rocks to represent the area’s mining history and a scarf-like metal band della Porta said depicts Ethridge’s spirit floating into the heavens.

“I want to create a monument to Chris,” he said last December. “My overriding impression of him was that he was a kind person, that he was inspired to be his fullest. This embodies the power of movement in sweeping curves; the tail shape is a last look at his spirit before he transcends to the heavens.”

Della Porta solicited ideas from the community and encouraged friends to gather rocks for the memorial. Community members brought about 100 rocks for inclusion in the sculpture. Not all are visible, but all were included in the piece.

“I didn’t know Chris very well, but I feel like I grew to know him by working with everyone,” Cram said. “You come to learn different pieces of his life. It’s been a growing experience. This is a piece that has been generated from community input and involvement.”

A plaque beneath the sculpture reads, “This sculpture is inspired by Chris Ethridge. His kind and gentle nature, his athleticism, his humility and his smile touched our community. This memorial was commissioned by the community as a reflection of Chris’s generosity and caring spirit.”

Although all those involved are intimately familiar with the sculpture, della Porta has kept it hidden under tarps and has been spraying it with water so the shiny metal will rust. It’s anyone’s guess how the rust will look when the sculpture is unveiled, but friends believe Ethridge will have had a hand in its patterns.

Ethridge’s family – his 90-year-old grandmother from Texas, his parents, aunts, uncles, his two sisters, families from Fort Collins, childhood friends – plan to join Summit County friends and others Sunday.

– Jane Stebbins

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


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