New fund established to benefit LIFT-UP

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Barb Shipley still gets tears in her eyes when she thinks about Hazie Werner.

When Shipley moved to town in 1974, it was Hazie who invited her over for dinner, checked on her, gave her advice and made her feel at home in the Yampa Valley. Werner, a true local who was born and raised in Steamboat Springs, did that for everyone, Shipley said.

Since meeting Werner, Shipley has tried to emulate her.

"I have such admiration for her, but I can't even begin to fill her shadow," she said. "I can't begin to fill the void left by her person, but I can fill her sense of community and sense of compassion."

"She was a simple woman," Shipley said. "She knew the important things in life were family, friends and community.

"She wasn't born to a life of affluence. But she never met a stranger, and you were always welcome for dinner -- you and the friends you brought along."

When Shipley moved to Steamboat, she was part of a wave of people her age who were curious about the fledgling ski town.

"These young kids moved to town, and they didn't have family here," Shipley said. "We couldn't just go over to mom's house for a hot meal on Sunday, so Hazie created a family atmosphere for everyone."

During the holidays, Werner always provided a big meal for her family, her extended family, her friends and her friends' friends, Shipley said. "You weren't allowed to bring anything. Making that meal was what she had to give."

Today, decades later, the growth of the town and the changing speed of people's lives doesn't lend to a lot of Hazie Werners, Shipley said. But Shipley wants to honor Werner's spirit with the creation of a new endowment called the Hazie Werner Hospitality Fund. The money raised by the fund will benefit the LIFT-UP Food Bank.

"In a way, LIFT-UP is the Hazie Werner of Steamboat now," Shipley said.

Now in her early 50s, Shipley is at a point in her life and career when she can give back to the community, she said. "This seemed to be the time. Lately, I've heard more of a need.

"The price of things, the cost of living, the cost of buying a house -- all those things make life hard for people, and we need to take care each other even as this town continues to grow."

Shipley's vision is to begin the Hazie Werner Hospitality Fund with a fund-raising event.

"I always say there are two things I do well: swear and bring people together," Shipley said. On Dec. 21, Brent Rowan and Tanya Tucker will play a concert at the Steamboat Grand Ballroom to kick off the creation of the fund.

Rowan is a part-time resident of Steamboat and Nashville musician. He lends his musical skills to fund-raisers anytime he is asked. Tucker has been coming to Steamboat since the 1970s, Shipley said. She knew Werner well and played for a benefit in the 1980s that helped to purchase the first CAT Scan at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

"She hasn't been to Steamboat for 12 years," Shipley said. "Now, she has three kids, and she's bringing her family to town for the holidays."

Shipley affectionately calls the event the Not About Party. It's not about where you sit or what you wear, she said. "It's Steamboat informal.

"I was thinking of the gatherings that Hazie used to have in her living room when I created this," she said. "If I could have fit 500 people in my living room, I would have had it there."

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