Packed house at the Hotel Jerome celebrates the life of Aspen Times publisher |

Packed house at the Hotel Jerome celebrates the life of Aspen Times publisher

Linda Israel, center, leads a toast for her sister, Gunilla Asher, during the celebration of Asher's life at the Hotel Jerome Friday evening.
Michael McLaughlin/The Aspen Times |

The ballroom at the Hotel Jerome was a flood of laughter and tears as the life of Gunilla Asher was celebrated Friday night. Asher, 42, the publisher of the Aspen Times, died Monday after a battle with cancer.

Asher was known for her charismatic personality, million-dollar smile and determination to make good things happen for her friends and family.

She was the wife of Mark Asher, and the couple had two sons, Charlie and David.

The celebration of Asher’s life was filled with fun stories and pictures of a woman who embraced life and lived it to the fullest.

During the standing-room-only celebration, Jim Morgan, the general manager of Colorado Mountain News Media, and two personal friends, Sarah Prell and Pete Ferrara, spoke about Asher. There was a similar theme that rang from all three speakers: Asher lived life to the fullest and always put a smile on the faces of those around her. She was loud, confident and a little crazy with a lot of love and compassion for those around her.

“Gunilla was never boring,” Morgan said. “She lifted people beyond their everyday selves.”

At one point, Morgan related Asher’s tomato preserves to the woman herself.

“Her preserves were the perfect mix of tart, spice, sweetness and savory,” he said. “When you think about it, that’s a pretty good description of Gunilla.”

Prell related how she met Asher in Oregon many years ago and how the two became the best of friends. Every story Prell told about Asher spoke about a woman who embraced life in every aspect and lived to laugh — not just chuckle but laugh until tears of joy were flowing.

“It’s the memory of her love and laughter that I’ll always remember,” Prell said. “She brought that laughter and love wherever she went.”

Ferrara met Asher at Fort Lewis College in Durango and became close friends with Asher and her family. He spoke about his admiration and love of the Asher family.

“Mark, if there ever was a model of loyalty, strength and compassion, it’s you,” Ferrara said. “Gunilla was a loving mother and wife, loyal sister, fun-loving aunt and cousin and genuine friend. She was a one-woman stimulus package. No one ever fought anything with as much courage and grace. And by the way, who the hell gets more beautiful as they get sicker?”

After the three speakers finished, a 15-minute video montage of Asher was presented with the song “Life Is Better With You,” by Michael Franti. The pictures encompassed her life, from growing up in Snowmass to her final days at Aspen Valley Hospital.

The one common thread for all the pictures was Asher’s ever-present smile and piercing brown eyes, the type of features that have made people smile with her all her life.

“Tonight has been overwhelming,” said Mark Asher, who married Gunilla in 2005. “A great light has gone out, but Gunilla’s burning brightly somewhere else now.”

Ferrara summed up the celebration best when he spoke of how Asher would want her friends to celebrate her passing rather than wallow in the loss of someone who lived life to the fullest.

“C.S. Lewis once said, ‘Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing the monkey bars,’” Ferrara said. “You have to let go at some point to move forward. As Gunilla did, so must we. We’re the stewards of her memory, her legacy.”

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