Summit County loses a friend in Jay Bauer |

Summit County loses a friend in Jay Bauer

summit daily news
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc

SUMMIT COUNTY – Jay Bauer was a witty, upbeat attorney of impeccable character who left a powerful impression on Summit County.

“It’s one of those personages that no one will ever quite duplicate,” said John Farr, a friend and former resident.

Bauer, 65, died Monday night after battling cancer for more than two years. He left quite a legacy behind. The road signs welcoming motorists to “Colorado’s Playground” were one of his marks, as are events surrounding the annual Rotary Ice Melt Contest and the language of a successful open-space ballot initiative in Breckenridge.

“He was a real person that you could trust and that you could count on,” said Rick Bly, a Breckenridge resident who met Bauer in 1974. “I can’t think of a person I’d have an easier time being friends with for that long than Jay.”

Bauer’s community involvement ranged from volunteering with the Rotary Club and helping foster economic development to emceeing events and auctions, and more.

Bauer, Farr and former Sheriff Delbert Ewoldt could be seen selling Rocky Mountain oysters during the summer’s Dillon Barbecue as recently as last year.

Friends and family said Bauer was always trying something new.

“One year he participated in a ‘Music Man’ production in Breckenridge,” said his son, Jeff Bauer. “That was just astonishing to me. What I knew of this dad I grew up with, that was just something like, ‘Wow, where did he come up with that?”

Born in Chicago and raised on the Front Range, Jay Bauer moved to Summit County in 1973 after graduating law school from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He was drafted during the Vietnam conflict and reached the rank of first lieutenant, Bly said.

Farr said Bauer wasn’t sure where to go after law school, but that he convinced Bauer of the opportunities in Summit.

“He wasn’t a mountain man or skier or outdoorsman. He was a people person,” Farr said.

But it wasn’t long before Bauer was heavily involved in the county.

“He loved the people, loved the lifestyle, loved the sense of community,” Jeff Bauer said. “I always wondered how he found time with all the things he did, because it sure seemed he was living on about 30 to 40 hours a day.”

Jay Bauer tried running for county commissioner and lost. Bly said he wasn’t elusive enough and would tell people exactly what he thought.

“He was too honest to be elected,” he said. “You can’t be that candid with people.”

Law partner Jeffrey Burns said Bauer’s expertise was in real estate law, and he was a faculty member of the Colorado Association of Realtors.

“He helped hundreds if not thousands of people,” he said. “He had very high ethical standards. People came back over and over – many repeat clients as far back as 30 years.”

Breckenridge Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said he was surprised when Bauer turned down money for helping drafting a successful ballot initiative for open space.

“He would later say, ‘It’s not often when a couple of tree-hugger, environmental hippies get pro-bono work out of a Republican attorney,'” Bergeron said. “He was really I think one of the unsung heroes on that whole open space deal.”

Former Frisco Mayor Bernie Zurbriggen said Bauer’s involvement with Rotary led to the Ice Princess and Ice Ball as part of the Ice Melt Contest – an event now being copied by other Rotary clubs in the state.

“It was just a whole lot of fun and it was just a part of his creativity that that came about,” he said.

Local resident Peggy Long said Bauer was passionate when it came to emceeing local events.

“He was a bulldog attorney but when you got him out of his necktie and put some cowboy boots on him, he usually had a pretty good time,” she said. “What I always learned from Jay is that you never take yourself seriously,” Long added. “He did a lot of stuff, but he could always see a little light and a little humor in anything he did.”

Chief District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle said Bauer ran a “very efficient” practice and strived to save his clients money.

“He was very proud of his profession as an attorney, and for those of us who’ve known him for a long time, he just always brought a smile to your face,” he said. “He was somebody who practiced the old way and certainly embraced the new way of doing things, too.”

Ruckriegle said he recalls Bauer telling him he was glad when the court began using an electronic filing system, even though many attorneys had objected to the transition.

Former Summit County Commissioner Tom Long said Bauer “pioneered” an early electronic bulletin board system used locally before e-mail.

“He was progressive as they come,” Long said of the fellow Republican.

County Commissioner Bob French said Bauer had a “great sense of humor.”

“He was a pleasure to deal with, always had good ideas and represented his clients zealously but well within the bounds of any kind of ethical and good business practices,” he said. “He was an ornament of the profession, as they say, and we’ll miss him.”

Friends said Bauer didn’t readily volunteer the state of his health, even in the last few months.

He was diagnosed with cancer – and doctors said he had four months to live – more than two years ago.

In an interview with the Summit Daily in February 2009, he said he was keeping himself busy checking off his “bucket list”: trekking through Bhutan, bicycling 700 miles of the Pacific Northwest and sightseeing in Washington, D.C.

He would later take another bicycle trip, and in October he took a trip to the coast of Maine with his wife, Joni.

Bly said other hobbies of Jay Bauer included collecting old maps, surveying land, framing pictures and listening to jazz music.

“He was just a multifaceted person,” he said.

Bauer also could sing and play guitar.

But more than anything people mention when they mention Jay Bauer is his solicitude.

“He had a gift of compassion,” Bly said. “We used to talk about how the most precious gift you can give somebody is not some shirt or fine chocolate, but it’s a gift of your time.”

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or

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