The rafters and floorboards of the old church let out a great groan each time the hundreds in attendance stood up or sat down in accordance with Thursday’s Catholic funeral mass for Helen Kalin Klanderud, who was remembered for her tireless energy serving the community and her devotion to her four children. She was 76 when she died on Oct. 3, following a stroke the day before.
Father John Hilton of St. Mary Church in Aspen, in his homily for Klanderud, a longtime parishioner, asked anyone in the standing-room-only crowd of nearly 400 to raise their hand if they had served with her on a board or worked with her on a community-benefiting initiative. Nearly every hand in the place went up. Hilton asked Klanderud’s family, seated in the front, to look at the impact she had on the town.
“There are so many activities she’s been involved with, so many good works she has done, so many foundings she has been a part of, and so many initiatives she was the driving force behind,” Hilton said, mentioning the Aspen Counseling Center, the Aspen Homeless Shelter, Alpine Legal Services and The Right Door drug and alcohol counseling service, to name a few.
Klanderud also was mayor of Aspen from 2001-07, and was the first female Pitkin County commissioner from 1981-87. She was a social worker and attorney by trade.
But Klanderud’s “greatest honor and privilege in life” was her four children, Hilton said: Erik Klanderud, the director of member services at the Aspen Chamber Resort Association; Kurt Klanderud of Castle Rock; Kaela Moontree of Port Orchard, Wash.; and Soren Klanderud of Aspen, who died in March.
At a reception after the mass in the ballroom at the Hotel Jerome, her children made brief remarks.
Kurt Klanderud noted his mother’s strong, independent nature, and how she passed that on to her kids.
“She taught us not to be afraid, not to let anything hold us back, and the worst thing you could ever tell any one of us is that you can’t do it, because if you ever wanted her to do something, that’s all you had to say,” he said.
Klanderud’s passing was all the more sudden since she was out on the town, partaking in community functions and attending mass — where she took a final communion, according to Father Hilton — four days before her death.
Erik Klanderud said that his mother’s passion was on display the morning before she had the stroke, as she was watching news coverage of the government shutdown.
“She was angry about the government shutdown and she talked to that TV and let ‘em have it,” Erik Klanderud said. “ ... She was so intense but she had that fight in her.”
In the packed Hotel Jerome ballroom, where the crowd makeup included community leaders from across the business and political spectrums, more than one person commented on the surreal nature of attending such a gathering without Klanderud being there too.
“I’ve probably been in this room 100 times — not one of those times without Helen being here,” said former Aspen City Councilman Derek Johnson.
Added Aspen native Yasmine dePagter, “I keep looking around for Helen. I had a question I wanted to ask her.”