Farewell, Summit County
“Round here, we always stand up straight
Round here, something
– Counting Crows
I’ll confess right off the bat that I stole that line not only from the Counting Crows, but also from a column fellow journalist and Summit Independent reporter John Fayhee wrote several years ago when he was working for the Summit Daily News. John’s column was about the frequency with which death – typically untimely and too often newsworthy – visits the risk-taking residents of Summit County.
I clipped that column because it spoke volumes to me about the people of Summit County – most of whom lead sometimes risky, but typically exhilarating lives heavily tied to the Great Outdoors.
I have not since, and never will again, hear that song again without thinking about this place. This place that after today, I no longer call home.
Thirteen years is a long time to live anywhere, particularly in a resort community like ours where the cost of living is high, the chances for career advancement are low and the winters are often mercilessly long. It’s a particularly long time for someone like me, who rarely skis (and never does so well), prefers heat over cold and is drawn relentlessly by the pulse of city life.
Unlike the many locals who moved here to ski, I came to this county for the love of a man. I have stayed for the love of a child.
Aside from my son, there are other things that have kept me here – at last count, about 23,000 of them.
Some of them have been treasured friends, some elected officials and some convicted criminals. Many have long since left this county. But they have all contributed to what has been an endlessly fascinating 13 years here – personalities that have inspired laughter, crimes that have revealed the darkest corners of the human mind and issues that have divided communities and sparked months of high-volume debate.
The personalities that stand out in my memory include people like former Silverthorne town manager Dallas Everhart, chased out of town when the Super Wal-Mart proposal dissolved into ruin; Silverthorne Mayor Lou DelPiccolo, the first person to question the contract that triggered the Wal-Mart debate; Sandy Greenhut, who has in all the years I’ve lived here defended and fought for public arts in Summit County; County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom, who has added to his already long list of controversial undertakings by recently – and loudly – questioning the Colorado Department of Transportation’s approach to coming up with a solution for the future of I-70; and County Commissioner Tom Long, who (in addition to being a quote machine) brought to light – and took plenty of heat for – the potential conflict St. Anthony’s theology could have with a future county hospital. (Commissioner Bill Wallace is no shrinking violet, either.)
Regardless of which controversy made its way into the spotlight over the years, both supporters and detractors have never failed to be passionate, often hotheaded and never shy – the stuff of which reporters’ fantasies are made.
The Summit County family that leaves the most indelible impression on me – and I hope on some others who live here – is the Jungcks, whose 2-year-old son, Zion, died last fall in a tragic accident in their home. The Jungcks, deeply religious people, embalmed their child’s body, brought him home and prayed for his resurrection for two weeks. A fallen-away Catholic who has often questioned the existence of God, I approached this interview with a more-than-healthy dose of skepticism and almost insurmountable fear. I was under orders to invade the privacy of a grieving family, a family that was well aware its beliefs would likely be ridiculed by people who do not share them.
The Jungcks did not convert me to their beliefs. They did change my way of thinking.
Paul Jungck welcomed my call, answered my questions without hesitation and spoke in poetic terms of his family’s belief in God’s power. They dealt with their unspeakable loss, and the public’s curiosity about it, with uncommon grace and strength of character.
While the Jungcks may not be typical of Summit County’s residents, their spirit – indomitable, honest, passionate – is. They share the traits I admire in the circle of friends I’ve been fortunate enough to acquire here – people about whom I cannot write in this column without mucking up my keyboard with tears. Suffice to say, I leave a big chunk of my heart in these mountains.
In Colorado Springs, I can only hope to find such fascinating stories, intriguing and inspiring subjects and such kindred spirits.
Shine on, Summit County.
Jane Reuter can no longer be reached at the Summit Daily News.
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