Profile: Laura Hegeman Brodie

[  by Dawne Belloise ]

We used to have dirt roads,” Laura remembers what so many recall fondly, or not so fondly, who lived here in Crested Butte’s wilder days. However, Laura was born and raised here so the muddy, dusty days were the norm during her childhood. Laura and her two older sisters, Lisa and Vicki, and younger brother Butch, lived at the top of the hill at the west end of Maroon Avenue with their parents Allan and Marcia Hegeman. There were holidays she’d get rather muddy herself, sliding down that steep street from her house in fancy dresses and moon boots, heading out for lunch with the family. 

One of the best things to do with all the snow from those deep winters, besides skiing, was to build snow caves and Laura recalls the pile of snow that would slide off the old school roof. The kids would transform the heap into a magical cavern where they’d drink hot chocolate. “One night in fifth grade, we even spent the night in the cave,” which she figures would never be allowed to happen these days.

Like most kids here, skiing was as much a part of life as breathing and Laura had BC Vandervoort and “Freckles” as ski instructors. “They’d take us to the North Face. Back then, we had to hike up but we learned how to ski The Extremes. Skiing was a big part of our life,” she says, but adds she doesn’t ski downhill anymore since tearing her ACL… three times. “I miss it and when I have more time I’ll get back into it.” She spends her winters on Nordic skis now.

And then there were the carefree summers where she’d be outdoors most of the time, exploring, hiking and camping with her friends in her backyard, the once undeveloped wooded hills of what is now the gated Trappers Crossing. “We also spent a lot of time up at RMBL,” she tells about the kids’ camp activities at Gothic. “I loved going through all the paths that led to the different cabins.” 

Laura attended Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale for her high school years. She spent her freshman year in the dorms until her parents bought a condo and alternated weeks living there with her and her brother Butch. Laura says she feels fortunate to have been able to experience learning there. “It’s a very outdoorsy school. The first two weeks of when you start there, whether you’re a freshman or a senior, they take you on a two-week backpacking camping trip over passes.” She graduated in 1991.

Not surprisingly, Laura was very much into photography, as her parents owned the popular photography shop in town, called Heg’s Place. Influenced by her father’s creative camera work, she had studied the art at her high school, which had an advanced program, its own photo lab and an apprentice program. In her senior year, Laura did her apprenticeship in New York City. “I was 17 and I had never been to a big city by myself, but I had a mentor. I worked at Magnum Photography, took the subway to work and lived in an all-women boarding house in Gramercy Park. It was hard, but looking back I was so fortunate to have had that experience. I got to do really cool city stuff too.” 

After graduation, she enrolled at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs for photography but left a year later to attend Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, where she earned a degree in Environmental Studies. “Cornell didn’t have a strong photography program,” she explains, “And perhaps I lost interest. I chose environmental studies because the program there was very well rounded,” she says, “with diverse subjects like French, biology, environmental politics and animal behavior.” She returned home to do an internship with High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) and graduated in 1996. 

Immediately after graduation, Laura came right back to Crested Butte, “And I haven’t left,” she laughs. “It felt good to come home.” She worked briefly at Rijks Gallery, helping with framing and sales but she confesses, “I really wanted to work at the Crested Butte State Bank. It was my goal, but there wasn’t an opening at the time. My dad had started that bank with a couple other people in 1977 and I grew up going to that bank. I helped them out on my spring break, right after the explosion,” she recalls of the tragic blast that took the lives of three locals in 1990. She had also worked there in the summers during high school and college. One day, the bank finally called her with a full-time teller opening. That was 26 years ago, and Laura is still there at the job she always wanted. Now, she’s the branch manager.

Laura says that what she loves about her job at the bank is the social aspect of it. “Seeing our customers, helping people, whether it’s helping them with problems or finding the best financial solutions for them. I’ve probably worked with 200 different employees in my career here.” Much has changed since she first started, she says. “There are so many regulations that we have to follow ever since 9/11. The customer ID program we had back in the day was that we could cash a check with a ski pass, or open an account without an ID because on CBMR paydays nobody had their ID but everyone had their ski pass. I worked at the branch on the mountain back then and we’d rotate working there. The bank was there most of my career until two years ago when it closed.”

Laura met Robert Brodie when he came into the bank to cash his paychecks. One night while out with the girls at one of the local watering holes, Brodie walked in and Roanne Rouse called to the waitress, Jill Barr, to bring Brodie a beer from Laura. Flushed and embarrassed, the two nevertheless exchanged phone numbers. A couple of days later they got together for dinner at her house. “The rest is history,” she smiles, “We moved in together in 1997 since we both needed a place to live.” They married in 2000 and had their daughter Lillian in 2004. 

In early 2000, they moved to CB South, bought a condo, later buying a duplex and finally buying a single-family home there. “My brother and parents are still here in CB and we wanted our Lillian to go through our school for her whole school career. We wanted her to grow up here.” Lillian graduated from CBCS in 2022. 

Laura and her hubby do a lot of rafting at Ruby Horse Thief on the Colorado River out of Grand Junction and the Dolores River in the San Juans. “I’d love to go to some national parks and see other parts of the country. I’m not a huge ocean girl but I wouldn’t mind being in the tropics for a little while, like maybe winters,” she thinks.

“I’ve never been to southern Europe and that’s definitely on my bucket list. We have a lot of ideas of what we want to do once we aren’t working full-time.” This year, Laura’s hitting the big FIVE-OH and is thrilled that, “I’m not feeble,” she says jokingly with a grin, “I can still mountain bike and hike.”

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