Reflections about the Life of a Dead Friend | Picture Book Professor

Reflections about the Life of a Dead Friend

Greg Mace (August 12, 1943-July 26, 1986) was the eldest of five children of Isabel and Stuart Mace who graduated from Grinnell College in 1941.
Isabel and Stuart Mace, Spring 1941

Stuart was a conscientious objector who joined the 10th Mountain Division during World War II and trained sled dogs at Camp Hale outside Leadville, Colorado. In 1949, he and Isabel moved to the abandoned mining town of Ashcroft in Castle Creek Valley outside Aspen, Colorado. There they built their home, which also served as a lodge, restaurant, and base for Stuart’s sled dog operations. When they were old enough to lend a hand, Greg and his siblings helped their parents run the family’s Toklat Wilderness Lodge. They made jams and jellies and sold rustic sweaters knitted from Toklat sled dog fur. In 1959, the Maces opened a restaurant in Aspen also called Toklat. Greg worked there, too.
The Mace Family (Greg is wearing a sweater made of sled dog fur), Summer 1955

Stuart told Bill Moyers in 1974, “I wanted to give my kids a place to build their mind, body, imagination, and artistic sense.” He said he wanted to give them an ethic of hard work, self-reliance, and inner strength.

I met Greg in 1963 when we lived in South Younker Hall at Grinnell. I worked for him at the Quad Dining Hall, where he was the student manager and I briefly was a waiter (which I hated) earning 25 cents an hour. Greg got me a job in the kitchen as a cook’s helper (which I loved) earning 35 cents an hour. Greg was mature beyond his years, frequently smiling and also driven, an extrovert who was very private, in demeanor more Swiss than American.

Greg was keenly interested in the hospitality industry. After he graduated from Grinnell in 1966, he went to Switzerland, got a graduate degree in hotel and restaurant management, and worked for a while at a Swiss hotel.

After Grinnell, I saw Greg next in Utah in 1974 where he was to be the food and beverage manager of a new ski resort hotel called the Cliff Lodge in Little Cottonwood Canyon. He took me up in the construction elevator on the side of the not-yet-completed hotel to show me the restaurant he would manage. He was so excited.

After Utah, I saw him again in Denver where he was the food and beverage manager of the stately old Brown Palace Hotel.

I admired Greg as a fair, ethical, and extremely competent manager, who ultimately wanted to own and run his own restaurant and lodge. The last time I saw Greg was at his Ashcroft Ski Touring and Pine Creek Cookhouse, which he co-owned and ran with his wife, Julie.

In July 1986, during a mountain rescue training exercise on South Maroon peak in the Maroon Bells, Greg died of internal injuries after sliding down a steep snowfield into boulders at the bottom, crushing his chest. In 1987, to honor Greg who was the leader of the Aspen Mountain Rescue Association, a 12,528-foot mountain in the Elk Range near Aspen was named Greg Mace Peak.

When I learned of Greg’s death, I wept uncontrollably. I was not consoled knowing Greg died young doing something he loved.

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