Steamboat Springs Everyone knew Steve “Zog” Herzog by his laugh.
It was infectious, and when he got it going, no one could avoid it. It was the type of laugh that when Herzog bellowed, people — whether they wanted to — soon found themselves taking part.
That laugh will be missed by a lot of Steamboat Springs residents.
Herzog, 49, died Wednesday evening in Fort Collins from complications from a sinus infection that made its way to his brain.
Herzog, who had lived in Steamboat for three years, had become a staple in the local rugby community and was a fixture at many social events in town.
“There was not one person in this world who disliked him,” friend Robbie Shine said. “He may have been a little rough on the outside and a little scary, but he’d talk to anyone. If you didn’t have money, he’d buy you a beer. Truly, he’s probably the nicest person I’ve ever met.
“He didn’t have a wife or a mortgage, but what he gave to everyone was he brought a lot of people together with his passing. Maybe that’s a sign.”
Herzog was born in Texas and grew up in Massachusetts. He moved to Hawaii where he was a competitive canoe paddler and played rugby.
After Hawaii, he played rugby in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Austin, Texas. In Austin, Herzog played in three Division I national championships with the Austin Rugby Club. In 2006, after several guys he played rugby with in Austin had moved to Steamboat, Herzog followed.
“We’re all going to miss him a lot,” friend Chris Cole said. “He was always there. He was somebody, if you were out doing something fun, Zog was there with you. It’s going to be tough not having him there.”
Wherever Herzog went, people instantly grew fond of him. After being rushed from Steamboat to Fort Collins on Dec. 16 because of his medical condition, more than 30 people from Steamboat made the trip to visit him.
On Sunday, Sunpie’s Bistro raised more than $2,500 to help pay off Herzog’s living expenses and debts. In addition to the fundraiser, a toast took place at 8:20 p.m. Friends of Herzog in Colorado, California, Washington, Texas, New Zealand, Australia and England all took part in the simultaneous toast.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a couple hundred places across the globe,” Shine said.
Herzog worked small jobs and construction around town. He was an accomplished carpenter and enjoyed painting. But maybe more so than anything, Herzog enjoyed rugby and the lasting relationships it gave him.
“He had very eclectic tastes,” said Mark Brewerton, who met Herzog in 1996 while playing with the Austin Rugby Club. “It was always fun to sit him down and talk to him. He was always an interesting guy.”
And, of course, anyone who knew him always knew that laugh.
“His laugh was fun,” Shine said. “It might have been the weirdest, scariest laugh anyone heard at the beginning. But that’s what everyone is going to miss.”
A fund in Herzog’s name has been set up at Wells Fargo. Anyone interested in donating can also contact Shine at 846-5335.
A memorial service is being planned but a date hasn’t been set. Shine thinks it will be around the third week in January and said it will be open to the public.
“He did literally live life to the fullest,” said Brewerton, noting Herzog’s death has touched rugby clubs across the world. “No doubt. Zog got everything out of his 49 years.”