Word to Durango

“Sarah, David died.” My husband, Rafael, lurched into the kitchen and blurted out the impossible about his brother. We went to Durango. David Diaz’s friends gave immense hugs where love flowed from heart to heart, and the embrace lasted long enough for the download to complete. Diaz’s best friends, Shelley Mauch and Aaron Schenk, already had gears in motion for the GoFundMe and celebration. 

On Main Ave., everything evoked a memory: The Strater Hotel, Brown’s Shoe, the cougar.

Many businesses had Diaz’s GoFundMe flier prominently displayed. Jon Roberts, of Crossroads Coffee, created latté art of Diaz’s likeness. Family members reported receiving free meals from restaurants Diaz frequented. 

On Wed., Feb. 22, Diaz’s friends met at Purgatory for first run. The mountain was eerily empty. Low visibility closed Highway 550 for a time. While wicked, whipping winds that felt like Diaz’s feisty energy and daredevil shenanigans were stinging their faces and caking their beards, Diaz’s gentle arms led them down the perfect chute. It was an epic powder day. 

Then norovirus hit, and we had to call the ambo. Jordan, the EMT, knew Diaz from their kids’ hockey.  Melissa, the wife of Diaz’s very best childhood climbing buddy, Dan, was the nurse; she and Dan were also a big help packing up Diaz’s house.

Packing supplies were donated and delivered. Diaz’s friends all helped with the enormous task of shutting down his home.

David’s sweet neighbor kept Diaz’s sidewalk clear, and Springer kept the driveway plowed.

“Saint Schenk,” who was with Diaz when he passed, and “Saint Shelley,” shuttled Tucker and Milo, his sons, back and forth to our Airbnb for sleepovers.  

Friends sweetly and humbly asked for Diaz’s ashes. Coons in Alaska; Evan across Europe; Viv, Priscilla and Vivian in Puerto Rico; and so many more that will spread Diaz’s magic dust.

Missy Votel beautifully showed Diaz’s true colors in a column in The Durango Telegraph. Dennis Rypkema and Ian Stewart, of Durango Autoworks, donated lube and oil for Diaz’s Subaru. At Pop Sushi, we were given a private booth and served Diaz’s faves. JBo’s, where Milo and Tucker reign, gave plans for artwork to memorialize Diaz.

Matt Rousseau with Your Flesh Tattoo duplicated Diaz’s amazing stick figure tattoo for the bargain price of $2.99. Rafi and some other of Diaz’s buddies got stick-Diaz tattoos on their thigh. Schenk told me Diaz’s next tattoo would have been of three aspen trees that represented himself, Tucker and Milo.

The root system of quaking aspens is the world’s largest living organism, symbolizing Diaz’s enormous love for nature and family. Diaz understood the power of family, by blood or bond. My tattoo will be of an aspen leaf to honor Diaz’s commitment to family, and mine to his.

Amy Sovocool and Chris Hughes organized the silent auction, featuring donations from almost every local business. Lew Sovocool, Kris & Paul O’Neil, Corey Zirkelbach, Megan Palmer and others helped. Artist friends donated pieces: Dustin Cook, Stacy Falk, Brittany Cupp, Schenk and Jamie Zogg. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we have raised more than $100,000 for Tucker and Milo. 

Andy, aka Muff, secured the Elks Lodge. Billy French captured Diaz’s soul through photography; Tucker and Milo giggled watching the slideshow of their daddy. Gillian Arnwine facilitated videography (High Ability). All the food and beverages were donated, not a small feat considering the hundreds who showed up.

Thank you to Zack Williams, who led food set up with Colin Bunson, of 2nd Deli, Bo Maloney and Matt Spanjers, of JBo’s, Eric Frost, of Rice Monkey, and Kelsy and Peter Westwater, of Mill Street Bistro.

On Feb. 26, more than 150 people skied together in honor of Diaz, following Schenk down “Dave’s run.” The group included Purgatory Ski Patrol, whom we cannot thank enough for bringing Diaz down one final time. Schenk later said, “Dave has given me the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, and the most beautiful thing I’ve ever been a part of (aside from the birth of my children). It was magical and beautiful.”

Uber drivers, baristas, waiters and shop owners all shared their condolences. I have never seen or felt anything like this. My heart wants to break, and I see this same pain in everyone that Diaz loved. It’s an acute, beautiful, pure love.

The love Durango has given back feels like a tsunami that washes through your heart. This is Diaz’s effect; he saw the joy and adventure in everyone. 

Thank you, Durango. 


– Sarah and Rafael Diaz, and family, Denver