Aspen arts and culture advocate
One of the strongest links to the Paepcke era in Aspen ended this week with the death of Merrill Ford on October 24.
A close friend of Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke, Merrill was involved in all of the institutions they started here. She participated on committees for the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Skiing Company.
Merrill first came to Aspen in 1951, attending the initial gathering of what would later come to be known as the International Design Conference in Aspen. She would go on to serve as its first executive director and remained involved with the conference in various capacities for some 20 years. She was installed as a lifetime trustee of the Aspen Institute in summer 2009.
As a confidante of the Institute’s resident philosopher and Great Books seminar creator Mortimer Adler, Merrill conferred with him on several of his works. In later years she was instrumental in establishing the Institute’s high school and community seminars.
She served as a board member, advisor, a council member and chaired many events for many Aspen arts organizations, including the Aspen Institute Fellows, the Aspen Music Festival (she was made an honorary trustee in 2010), the Aspen Art Museum (was president and council member), the International Design Conference, Theater in the Park, the International Skiing History Association, the Aspen Hall of Fame (president, vice-president and secretary), and the Aspen Historical Society.
She was involved in healing services and as a reader at Christ Episcopal Church and she also provided housing in her home to Filmfest directors, Aspen Institute special guests, actors from Theater in the Park, and for music students.
Merrill Lewis McClintock was born October 30, 1925 in Detroit, the daughter of James and Ruth McClintock. She attended school in Lausanne, Switzerland, and graduate schools at Cranbrook Art Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and the General Theological Seminary in New York City.
Married in 1949 to Frederick Ford Jr., they had two children, Frederick Ford III and Virginia Ford. After a divorce in 1956, she and the children moved in 1957 to Aspen, where she married Stein Eriksen. She became involved in her children’s school activities as well as with the Aspen Ski Club, as both her children were ski racers.
In later years, she was married to William Waller and then to her longtime companion, Maj. Gen. Robert Taylor, whom she married on June 22, 2001.
In 1973, Merrill was impaired in an automobile accident that ended her skiing career, and for years she was seen on her cane (encrusted with rhinestones for parties) and later in her motorized wheelchair. At her home, she gave many receptions for people in the Aspen arts organizations so they could meet and get to know each other.
She was a staunch supporter of artist Herbert Bayer and owned many of his works as well as books about him. In the 1990s she discovered, stored in a garage, a sculpture he had done, and she had it restored and placed at the Aspen Meadows.
Traveling extensively through the years, she introduced her children to museums and to the arts. She is survived by her daughter, Virginia Ford of Aspen, and son, Frederick Ford III of Florida and Maine.
She was buried in late November in the Aspen Grove Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made in her name to Christ Episcopal Church, the Aspen Music Festival and School, or the Aspen Institute.
—Mary Eshbaugh Hayes (reprinted with permission from the Aspen Times)