Gilbert’s friends, family share tears, laughter |

Gilbert’s friends, family share tears, laughter

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO, Colorado

A Schwinn Blue Cruiser bicycle was parked on the stage of Smokin’ Moe’s in Winter Park during the memorial for Kevin Gilbert, the 44-year-old man who lost his life unexpectedly in the early morning hours of Nov. 25.

Kevin’s twin sister, Kathryn Hay of Fort Collins, said she remembered the very day they shopped for their bikes and rode them home together.

“He loved books; he loved bikes; he loved the outdoors,” she said to a barroom-full of friends and acquaintances of the late Gilbert.

Ever protective of her “baby” brother, Hay said she appreciated the camaraderie he’d come to find in the small town of Winter Park – evident by the turnout at the memorial.

The outdoorsy lifestyle of the mountain town had appealed to him.

“He would run my dog and my mom’s dog,” Hay said. “And I know many of you used him for a pet-sitter as well, and he’d be out at night, with the dogs, out experiencing nature, animals and the joy that it is from being in a small town like this. I know he felt safe here. I know he felt protected. And he loved it here.”

While she and others spoke, slides of beach times, mountain-bike excursions and other captured moments played on a screen opposite the stage.

Some were of a grinning Gilbert wearing a woven grass hat that now rested on the seat of the Cruiser.

“Anytime I see somebody on a bike, like after Halloween, I think of Kevin,” said Ryan Wesolowski. “He was always on his bike, come hell or high water, he was always on his bike.”

Wesolowski recounted a time a couple of weeks ago when he and a friend were out walking from the Pub to Ullr’s. They noticed a single tire track in snow.

“And it’s almost like when Seinfeld says ‘Newman!'” Wesolowski said. “It was like, ‘It’s Kevin!'”

Friends told stories about Gilbert’s love of science fiction novels, his willingness to help anyone who needed it, his love of children.

“I know how much Kevin loved children,” said friend John Catt. “I think that was his favorite thing because adults really annoyed him. I found that out a few times myself.”

Catt suggested that as a tribute to Gilbert, all who knew him should purchase a gift in his name, requested on the lighted Angel Tree that stood outside Smokin’ Moe’s. Each year, the tree features gifts for Grand County children in need.

“I hope all these kids in this county who didn’t know him really well will wonder, ‘Who is this guy? We all got presents from Kevin this year,'” Catt said. “And I think in a lot of ways, he was a Santa Claus to a lot of people.”

On behalf of the Grand County Blues Society, which often produces shows at Smokin’ Moe’s where Gilbert was a co-manager for more than a year, Catt said a benefit collection would be made at the Saturday, Dec. 5, Blues show in honor of Gilbert. The money would be forwarded to projects in local schools.

Gilbert – described by one individual as having “incredible energy,” and by another as “a true pillar in the community” – was a dedicated volunteer at the Winter Park Resort competition center.

“He was always up there for events, in his funny helmet, helping out wherever he could,” said Jesse Howe.

He also “loved to support independent businesses in town,” Gilbert’s sister said.

Well-known in the hospitality circle of the resort town, he worked at many local restaurants. He easily could be found making after-work rounds, socializing with friends.

“Whether it was less pay or more pay, he would say, ‘hey, what do you need,’ and he always did it,” said past employer and friend Mike Ayre. “I can’t say enough. There are a lot of people in this world who mean well and are trying to do well, but there are not a lot of unconditional givers. And Kevin would give you the last dollar in his wallet. He would give you the shirt off his back, and he would do anything for you. I’m going to truly miss him.”

As one of the last to take the stage, Gilbert’s aunt, Pat Moore of Kansas, addressed the crowd, saying, “God gives us families, but we get to choose our friends. And Kevin chose you all.”

Gilbert’s friend Law Thyne considered the night of the memorial and the week after Gilbert’s death as something transformative.

“Sometimes in tragedy we get some clarity,” he said.

For him, Gilbert’s tragedy had shown him how “a whole town can come together.”

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