Hartzell Retires: Will the Second Time Stick?
“I feel blessed that I’ve had so many different experiences in this community,” stated Bob Hartzell, reflecting on his (latest ) retirement. “Even though there were times when I felt like this community didn’t want me here,” he added honestly.
Perhaps that’s how many feel, if you live in Leadville long enough. And perhaps it’s particularly true when it comes to people who give their all, becoming involved in many different faucets of the community, like Hartzell has done for the past 43 years.
Tomorrow will mark Hartzell’s last day as President and Executive Director of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum. Oh, and they’re having a little gathering for Bob today, but more on that later.
Hartzell moved to Leadville in 1970 to ski, and ended up teaching at Lake County High School, “to support that habit.” He taught business and also found himself the unlikely LCHS Assistant Wrestling Coach, considering he had never participated in the sport himself.
“The first year I broke my leg and the second year I tore my rib apart from the cartilage,” chuckled Hartzell. Needless to say the teaching and wrestling were interfering with the skiing, so Hartzell changed direction.
After taking a 75-day road trip through 30 states, Hartzell returned to Leadville and soon found himself as the Assistant Manager at Ski Cooper (1973-74). During the “off-season,” Hartzell picked up a job delivering dynamite up at the Climax Mine, which he did for about a year.
In what would become an ebb and flow, cast among skiing, mining and teaching, Copper Mountain eventually called looking for a lift mechanic. Hartzell took this next gig on for a couple of years, but again found the work was interfering with the skiing:
“I was either riding around on snowmobiles all day, or riding the lifts down the mountain, instead of skiing down the mountain,” he recalled.
Hartzell went on to become Director of Lift Operations at Copper Mountain, a position he held for three years. For the record, Bob has skied every “last day” at Cooper Mountain for the past 39 years (every year it’s been open!)
Eventually it was education that drew Bob back up to Leadville. In 1979 he began what would become a 25 year journey with Leadville’s Colorado Mountain College (CMC).
“I never thought I’d hold a job longer than three to five years,” explained Hartzell. “And I really didn’t, because I had eight different jobs at CMC, everything from training secretaries to Ski Area Operations to Assistant Dean.”
So ski bum, turned high school teacher, turned ski instructor, turned dynamite hauler, turned mechanic, turned business teacher, turned CMC Dean, thought he had done most of his work by 2004. This was the year of Bob’s first retirement.
“There have been some places where I have fallen flat on my face and other places where I have been successful,” reflected Hartzell.
Hartzell was immersed in the initial “distance education” model, a precursor to CMC’s expansive commitment to today’s “online learning.” He also saw the physical transformation of the Timberline Campus, as old modulars came down, and modern brick buildings with hi-tech capacities went up.
It was during this time that Hartzell founded and directed two leadership development programs. One of those is fondly known, and continues to be offered to the community, as Leadership Leadville.
Of course, it goes without saying to those who know him, Hartzell had a whole other life going on at the same time. This one was about family.
Bob has been married to Kay for 35 years. And while he may have started a bit later than most – married at 35 years old – the Hartzells have had a full family life, raising three sons: Jeremy, Jeffrey, and Andrew; all married now, with one granddaughter, Cameron who is 5 years old.
After the first retirement, Hartzell went back to his skiing roots and signed on as a powder guide at Ski Cooper and busied himself with a real estate investment up in Greeley, where his son was attending college.
In December of 2007, the Mining Museum called and asked him to be President and Executive Director of the National Mining Museum.
“I started on Jan 2, 2008. The main reason I said yes is because I felt as though it was going to give me an opportunity to really re-connect with my community of Leadville,” explained Hartzell. “And it really has.”
During his four and a half years at the NMHF, Hartzell notes the “Moly” Exhibit, and the internship and Critical Eye Tour (CET) programs he established during his tenure as highlights.
“Connecting with the mining community and developing friendships through the mining community has been great,” concludes Hartzell.
So what’s next? Can Leadville anticipate a third retirement party? Hartzell laughs.
“I hope to finish out my years doing the things I really love doing,” reflected Hartzell. Spend more time with friends, more timing skiing.
And then there’s the Porsche. It’s not EXACTLY like the photo hanging on Hartzell’s office wall, but he did seal the deal on one pretty close to his dream car just last week. So honk if you see that sleek black Porsche cruzin’ down Harrison Avenue.
Best of Luck to you, Bob (and Kay!) on the next stage!
The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum is having a celebration for Bob Hartzell’s second retirement. The event is tonight, May 30 from 6 – 8 p.m. is at the NMHF (front entrance). All who know Bob are invited to attend.
Leadville Safari Tours Highlight History
New this summer will be the “Leadville Safari Tours,” highlighting local history. Take a trek through Leadville history with a guided 30 to 90 minute walking tour on a variety of topics. Narrated tours will be conducted Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season, starting Saturday, June 1 at 2 p.m.
Topics include: Cemetery Stroll through Pauper’s Field, Mining District, Delaware Hotel, Mainstreet Mayhem, Leadville’s Spirited Past, Saloons & Brothels, Firefighting, Women of Leadville, among others. A narrated stagecoach tour will also be offered later in the summer.
Tours will start and end at The Delaware Hotel, located at 7th and Harrison Ave. Tickets range $5 – $65, depending upon the tour, and are available at Delaware Hotel. Not all tours will be offered every day. Please contact The Delaware Hotel for a complete schedule or for information on becoming a tour guide. 719-486-1418.
Museums OPEN & Offering “Passport” Again This Year!
Leadville’s seven museums are open for the summer season and, once again partnering to offer the Leadville Museum Passport. The deal not only offers a discounted admission to ALL the museums, but 10 percent savings on the Leadville Train. If you’re coming for a visit or have relatives or friends headed for a visit, this is the way to go! Contact the Leadville/Lake County Chamber of Commerce for details: 719-486-3900