Memorial Day is the holiday for the Crested Butte old-timers.
This weekend many members of the original Crested Butte mining or ranching families will return to gather, reminisce, polka and share a potluck.
It is a weekend that the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the families that weathered the closing of the mines and stayed in Crested Butte during the busts come back home. They hear the stories of the dirt streets, open meadows where houses now stand and tiny classes held in what is now the Old Rock Library or Town Hall.
The “parade” that will take place on Monday is one of the most poignant anywhere. A small group of men in uniform will gather at the Old Town Hall starting about 9 a.m. They will joke and laugh and tease one another. At 9:30 they will fall into formation and begin their march to the Crested Butte cemetery. There is rarely a crowd along Elk Avenue for this march but those who happen to be there applaud the old soldiers with their Crested Butte ties with deference and admiration.
At the cemetery there will be a mass and respects are paid to those lying in the ground beneath the Butte. Taps and a gun salute will echo off the mountains. And then the veterans march back to town to eat and dance and tell more stories.
It is a sincere Crested Butte holiday. It is a day for the historical families instead of the tourist families. It is a time still set aside for the foundation of Crested Butte.
This year there will be some heartache and sadness when the old-timers gather. One of their own tragically died in a car accident last week. Richard Rozman still lived in Crested Butte. He raised his kids here and stayed active in the community. He was one of the bridges between the old Crested Butte and a rapidly evolving community.
A gentle man, Richard to me epitomized calm. Whether it was a brief conversation on Elk Avenue, chatting by the river near our subdivision or just seeing him on the other side of the street, I never saw him rushed or flustered or too busy to wave and say hello.
It is not always easy for some of us who have been here years or decades to accept all of the changes that have come to Crested Butte. Some of the new “locals” or mid-timers get angry or frustrated at times. A man like Richard, who had seen tenfold the change most of us have, was always accepting and welcoming with grace and elegance. I appreciated that and I know others did as well.
Richard would have been 72 years old this Sunday.
A mass will be held Tuesday, May 26, at 10 a.m. at the Queen of All Saints Catholic Church, followed by burial at the Crested Butte Cemetery.
There will be some heartache this Memorial Day weekend.