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Mary Martin Ryerson

When you mention Mary Martin Ryerson to those who know her, the first thing that happens is a big smile crosses their faces and they say, “Mary is my go to person, no matter what I need.” In her 45 years in community banking in Aspen she has secured loans for everyone from the 13-year-old buying his first bicycle to the young couple buying their first house. She has also supported friends and neighbors in times of need, a skill she developed while navigating family tragedy and adversity of her own.

Mary was born in Omaha, Nebraska until she was 13 when she moved to Winnetka, Illinois for her high school years. The opportunity to attend New Trier High School was one of the foundations for her lifelong involvement in volunteering. During her four years at New Trier she volunteered every Friday evening at the Great Lakes Veterans Hospital and every Saturday Morning at Hull House in downtown Chicago. Social Service and activism were a part of the early 1970’s culture that she fully embraced.

Mary attended the University of Iowa where at age 19 she met her future husband Loren Ryerson who was studying Theatre and Lighting Design. Her roommate had accepted a ride with Loren back to the Chicago area for a weekend trip, when she returned, she announced “Mary, I have met your future husband”. Her prophecy proved true when after graduating with a degree in education, Mary moved to Aspen during the 1977-1978 ski season to be with Loren. Loren’s mother Phoebe Ryerson had purchased her home on Pitkin Green in the early ‘70’s after the death of her husband. She wanted to move to a place that all 6 of her children would visit, 4 of them permanently live in Aspen. Mary was impressed by Phoebe’s passion for the Arts and was lucky to have Phoebe encourage Mary and Loren to attend concerts at the music tent, a tradition that they still follow on Friday nights and Sunday mornings sitting outside the tent reading and sharing a picnic with friends.

After her arrival Mary quickly became involved with St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Aspen where many well-known Aspen families welcomed her with open arms, including Hall of Famers the Stapletons, Callahans, Kelehers and Oakes. The opportunity to meet solid local families and be asked to join their events as a participant and volunteer made Mary feel an instant part of the community. She was accepted by those who were the fabric of the community and allowed her to have intergenerational relationships that made her Aspen experience so much richer.

Having moved to Aspen and knowing only Loren and his family, Loren encouraged her to join the Aspen Women’s soccer team. She played competitively for almost a decade and forged special friendships that have endured over 40 years of joys and sadness. From the days when the men and women would close down the Rockin’ Horse, still in their cleats to helping each other navigate the loss of children. Tragically, six members of the coed soccer team have lost children which has created an unbreakable bond that is unique only to those who have suffered a similar tragedy.

Mary’s first job in Aspen, hired literally 2 days after she moved here full time, was working for Bert Bidwell at The Mountain Shop. Bert had an “interesting” outlook on everything Aspen, from hosing down hippies sitting on his wall to telling women who were larger than a size 12 that “fat people should not wear tennis dresses’. His brusque manner was an eye-opening experience for a naive 23-year-old midwest girl. Mary learned that it was best to take his commentary with a grain of salt. Surprisingly, Mary was one of the few employees Bert actually liked. He paid her more than the going rate, allowed 4 day work weeks, gave her Bogner ski clothes and tasked her with more responsibility than her 3 months on the job warranted. During her time at the Mountain Shop she also figured out how to run to the Red Onion during her 20 minute evening break and drink 3 beers before going back to close for the evening, a skill that has served her well.

In October of 1978 Mary knew she needed to have health insurance and serendipitously answered an ad for a Teller at The Bank of Aspen. She was hired on the spot by Eddie Irwin who said “you will either quit after 6 months or end up running this place”. Forty-five years later she is the President of Alpine Bank, Aspen.

Like most people in Aspen her exorbitant salary of $600 per month, of which $400 went to rent, forced her to have 2 other jobs. She sold ski equipment at L’Equipe for Jean-Paul and Diana Jallifier and pop popcorn on the weekends at the Playhouse Theater for Susi and Don Swales.

Mary attributes her 11 years at the Bank of Aspen for her meeting and banking with some of the most interesting and influential people in Aspen. It allowed her to really get to know and appreciate her adopted community. People like Tom Sardy who would come into the bank literally yelling that she was not paying him enough on his CD’s. Mary had an opportunity to get to know Aspen legends including Francis Herron, Bert Dahlander, the dePagters, Gretl Uhl, Ralph Jackson, Ellie Islen, Hildur Anderson, Gerta Wall, Dick Tuck and Hunter Thompson, who provided Mary with hours of tall tales!

Not long after joining the Bank of Aspen Mary became involved with the Aspen Ski Swap. Her first meeting was with Pam Beck and Trudy Barr, the co-founders of the Swap. Pam Beck made a comment that has stuck with Mary all these years later. Pam said that it was time for the “old guard” to pass the reins over to the next generation and that it was imperative for the youth to become and remain engaged in helping the community and valley they lived in. As a 40-year volunteer Mary is proud of the thousands and thousands of dollars the one day annual event has raised to benefit the Aspen School District, especially the Ex-Ed program.

The School District became Mary’s main focus for volunteering after the birth of their 5 sons, Loren Martin 1982, John Casey 1988, Michael Massey 1991, Daniel George 1993 and Christopher Casey 1995. Mary spent countless hours volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips, running bake sales at plays and raising money for every school cause imaginable. She and Loren spent countless hours at the hockey rink, lacrosse field and football field traveling all over the state and country to support and watch their sons play sports. Mary’s was a familiar face at the Red Wagon on Friday nights as head of the High School Booster Club. For years, Mary was the go-to person as a team manager for many Aspen Junior Hockey and Aspen lacrosse teams, luckily she was immune to the smell of 6 High School players and their rarely washed equipment as she chauffeured them around.

Mary found her permanent niche in Community Banking when she joined Alpine Bank in Aspen in 1992. She found a home with an organization that believes the bank is only as healthy as the communities they serve. She has been allowed to donate her time and talent generously to organizations like the Aspen Ducky Derby, St. Mary’s, Kid’s First, helping with the ballot issue for a sales tax that supports employee housing and early childhood education and the bond issue to establish the Aspen Recreation Center. Mary served on numerous childcare boards and was recruited to serve at the state level with Governor Romer’s Committee for Early Childhood Care and Education. Her passion for quality childcare stemmed from a lack of any infant care available after the birth of her son Loren. Mary, along with her mother-in-law Phoebe, founded the Aspen Child Care Center, the first licensed infant care center in Aspen at the old hospital site. The program moved to the yellow brick and is still active under the name of the Early Learning Center. Mary has taught financial literacy to hundreds of students and adults in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Mary along with Gail Schwartz co-founded the Aspen Grief and Loss group in the early ‘90’s and ran it for numerous years. Mary felt the need to establish the group after the death of their 16-month-old son Johnny who died in a tragic accident in 1989. Johnny’s death proved to be an impetus for Mary to try to give back even more to the community. A major reason was because of the outpouring of love and support she and Loren received after Johnny’s death. Mary knew that she had found her community and would never leave the valley. Mary and Loren both felt and continue to feel that helping others and volunteering helps ease the pain of their loss. In 1999 Mary and Loren won the Linza Award in recognition of 20 years of service to the community.

Mary has been called on countless times to help organize memorials and speak with families who have lost children. She will always make time to reach out to provide whatever comfort she can to those in pain.

In 2021 tragedy struck again with the death of the Ryerson’s son Loren Martin. His death and the overwhelming community support brought home the need to get involved with volunteer projects that would honor Loren’s memory, which led her to the Chis Klug Foundation that promotes organ and tissue donation. Loren was a tissue and cornea donor. Mary hopes everyone in the room is a donor or will consider being a donor.

It hasn’t been all work and no play for Mary Ryerson. She is proud to have been a fan of the Grateful Dead – a Deadhead – since high school and she has been known to enjoy a glass of wine or two with her soccer teammates. And if you’re lucky, Mary will send you a postcard. She collects them from all over the world, a passion that started when the late Nicholas Devore the third sent her her first postcard from his travels as a National Geographic photographer. Since then, she has sent literally thousands of postcards to people for fun and to lift them up when they need it.

If you get a postcard or twenty from Mary Ryerson you’ll know you are loved.