Silverthorne town councilman Jon Bird was a pilot, angler and selfless father
Jon Bird memorial service
What: A public memorial for Jon Bird, a Silverthorne town councilman and resident of 21 years who passed away on April 15.
When: Monday, May 4 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Silverthorne Pavilion, 400 Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne
Friends and family of Jon Bird are invited to the memorial. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made through http://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/csh8/the-bird-family-fund.
Jon Bird was the sort to show his friendship by throwing you behind the controls of a single-prop airplane.
Well, not quite, at least in Andy Spinner’s case. Bird took care of the hard part — takeoff, navigation, a tricky high-alpine landing outside of Leadville — and simply wanted to share aviation’s more technical aspects with a trusted buddy.
So halfway over Lake Dillon on a clear, still day a few years back, Bird briefly passed the reigns to Spinner. The veteran pilot let his surprised co-pilot steady the controls for a half-minute or so while he sent a quick text, then he took them back with a grin, almost as if nothing had happened.
“He was a good man, just a genuinely good man,” Spinner says of Bird, his industry peer and close friend for nearly a decade. “I miss him.”
Bird, a Silverthorne councilman and longtime Summit County local, died in Lake County on April 15. He was 49 years old. The Tennessee native had called Silverthorne home since 1991 and was endlessly active in his adopted hometown, raising a son, 13-year-old Charles William, with his wife of 21 years, Martha.
The Lake County Coroner’s Office has not yet released the cause of death, pending the results of an autopsy in several weeks. Coroner Shannon Kent does not suspect foul play and is working closely with Martha during the investigation.
Spinner first met Bird through the Summit construction community. In 1998, shortly after leaving Copper Mountain Resort, he opened up shop as an electrical contractor under the name Falcon Electric. Spinner had also spent a stint at Copper, but they had only known each other in passing before they were introduced by mutual friend John Reller.
“He just always answered the phone when I called,” Spinner remembers about Bird. “It was one of those things where I gave him free storage at my house, storage for whatever, and in return he would walk me through anything I needed with writing or electrical work. Anytime I was in a pinch he was there.”
A true outdoorsman
Like many soon-to-be locals, Bird came to Colorado to be a ski bum for a season or two after a few years in Dallas. He was an avid outdoorsman and the Rocky Mountains were his dream playground: fly-fishing along the Blue River, skiing through the glades at Copper and, of course, flitting just about anywhere he wanted from the cockpit of his Mooney M20E, hangered at Lake County Airport near Leadville.
“I think Jon would hope that folks would embrace all that Summit has to offer, to work hard and to play hard,” Martha says. “He wanted people to be aware of civic responsibilities, to be ‘stand-up guys,’ to follow their passions while still just being good people.”
Bird and Martha met at Copper in 1991 and were married in 1993. Yet even before then, he was already planting roots in Summit the way he knew how, by playing softball with the Copper B-Lift crew, or by joining a football team for the annual Pumpkin Bowl, a long-gone Halloween tradition. He loved just about any sport, Martha says, from early years as a gymnast and windsurfer to later years trekking across northern Silverthorne, always with a trademark mane of long hair he occasionally tied back into a ponytail.
“We both loved hiking — he would fish along streams and I would take my camera or a sketchbook,” Martha says. “He also loved fishing and duck hunting with his son and took great pride in the fact that Will shot a turkey on his first hunt.”
Soon after Will was born in 2001, Bird joined the local Rotary Club and met Bob Lau, a fellow Rotarian. The two coached baseball together when their sons were old enough, and in typical fashion, Bird invited Lau on a spur-of-the-moment flight to Mount Rushmore, where they skirted past the noses of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The trip started early in the morning and ended right around dusk, one of several long jaunts Bird knew well: Alabama, Texas, South Padre, the Gulf Shore, Tennessee.
“Things like that, just very spontaneous and fun, he loved it all,” said Lau, who will give a toast at Bird’s memorial service on May 4. “He always just always wanted to enjoy life. If I was having a bad day, I could call him up and he’d say, ‘Let’s go fly-fishing.’ He always had time for a friend.”
Father, pilot, public servant
With time, Bird became drawn to public service opportunities across Summit. Reller first met Bird nearly 20 years ago — like Spinner they knew each other through the construction community — and saw Bird’s devotion to others long before he joined the council in 2014. He was far from the image of a stodgy public figure.
“Being with him was fun,” Reller says. “He was just a likeable, kind, caring individual. You didn’t have to do something special or different to have a good time with him — everything was worthwhile.”
And like many of Bird’s friends, Reller learned this first-hand during an aviation crash course over Summit County.
“He was so alive when he was out flying,” Reller says. “He would explain everything — he’d even let you take the controls. I’m guessing that’s not a huge deal, but it kind of is when you’ve never done that before, and I’d never flown an airplane.”
Bird brought a quiet and thoughtful presence to the council chambers — a natural extension of who he was with Will, or when fly-fishing solo on the Blue, or while flying a friend from Leadville to just about anywhere.
“Because of his Southern upbringing, he was also a true gentleman, never had anything bad to say about anyone,” Lau says. “So many of us come to Summit County to live the dream, and he really did. He came out a ski bum and ended up a successful electric contractor, a pilot, a dad, and he did it all himself.”
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