Summit High School students make a lift chair in memory of a local’s late father
Three classrooms came together to memorialize Carl Richard’s father who died in 2019
Students in high school are on the precipice of the real world. Whether they choose to join the workforce straightaway or attend higher education institutions, each class is preparing them to be active and engaged citizens in their communities.
Last fall, that’s just what Summit High School students in three different classes wanted to do as they fabricated a ski lift chair and created a plaque to go with it.
Dillon resident Carl Richard has lived in Summit County for over 15 years, but his love for the community extends far greater than that. Richard and his siblings, along with their parents, would venture from their home in St. Louis, Missouri to visit the county’s beloved mountains for annual and sometimes biannual ski trips. Eventually, Richard and his sibling moved to Colorado to attend the University of Colorado, and their parents followed suit.
Both of Richard’s parents have now died, but before his father died, Richard asked him a question.
“I asked him what he wished to have as his epitaph, and he told me at one point that he would like it to say ‘I’d rather be skiing,’” Richard recalled. “That is not something that he ended up doing on his gravestone. … That had stuck in my mind.”
Though the saying wasn’t engraved on his headstone, Richard wanted to purchase a ski lift chair in his dad’s memory. He tried to place bids on retired chairs at various resorts but wasn’t successful. That’s when he stumbled on a Summit Daily article about Summit High School teacher Oakley Van Oss, who teaches welding and construction technology. Richard asked Van Oss if his welding class would be interested in fabricating a custom ski lift chair, but because of the virus, the project wasn’t feasible.
Fast forward a year later, and 14 of Van Oss’ students agreed to take the project on. The students had to plan out the project, do the bidding, identify the materials needed, what they needed to learn to fabricate the chairlift, cut the steel, weld it out and paint it. On the back of the lift, the students torched “I’d rather be skiing” into the lift.
This wasn’t the first time Van Oss’ class had taken on a project for a community member. He said that the school’s administration is supportive of outreach projects like these since taking them on gives students the chance to see a concept through completion.
“We actually have done quite a lot of more artistic welding-type projects for school board members that are retiring and people that are part of the Summit Foundation who have reached out to us and said, ‘Hey, can I have something for my deck, could you do something for my yard?’” Van Oss said. “… We’ve done some really cool projects that the kids have seen through from start to finish.”
In fact, Van Oss’ class wasn’t the only one to create and complete an item for Richard. Summit High School teacher Sharon Speedy had her graphic design class draw up various renderings for a plaque that was 3D printed by Summit High School teacher Rick Karden’s class. The plaque was welded to the chairlift by Van Oss’ class.
“It was kind of cool to be collaborating (where) Sharon and I were mostly going back and forth and talking about things and the project and stuff,” Van Oss said. “It was a great demonstration of how Carl brought together these programs and wanted us to coordinate and talk and communicate.”
The entire project was funded by Richard. The chairlift was completed just before the end of the fall 2021 semester, and on Thursday, May 12, the students, teachers and Richard gathered so it could be installed in the school’s memorial garden.
Richard said the whole scope of the project was a special way to honor his father’s legacy. Van Oss said it gave students a glimpse into the real world.
“(They learned) that whole cycle from start to finish, which that’s what tradespeople do. There’s a problem, an issue, a need and then they see it through all the way from the installation to the talking to the customer about the final product,” Van Oss said. “It’s really preparing them for being out in the world and using their hands to solve problems and create things.”
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