- Portraits of History in the Vail Valley
Photos: Brent Bingham c2011
- The longer I live in the Vail Valley the more I am impressed by the people I meet. We talk to them, work with them, even live next door to them and yet we know so little about their past lives. In our daily activities we make contact with not only people that live a rich day to day life but have a remarkable history.
It is that history that is the inspiration behind these lives I have begun to document. Photographing these living legends by bringing a piece of their history to a portrait of the people we all have come to know and admire.
Brent Bingham has lived in the Vail Valley since 1993.
His business, Photo Effects began in 1982 in the Washington,
D.C. area and specializes in high quality photography and
print reproduction. Brent is well recognized throughout the industry
for his outstanding work and knowledge in the field.
- Tom Kirk
Many of us know Tom Kirk as the sax player in the Vail Jazz Band, the financial advisor or the ski instructor. Colonel Tom Kirk has lived in the Vail Valley for 16 years but few people know that Tom was a fighter pilot in the U.S,Airforce. Tom attended the Virginia Military Institute, then the University of Southern California and graduated with an MBA in Engineering Management.
Tom was commisioned in the U.S. Airforce and after completing his pilot training, flew 55 combat missions in Korea. Then stationed in Vietnam, Colonel Tom Kirk was assigned commander of the 357th fighter squadron. While leading the largest mission over North Vietnam to date, Tom was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, parachuted out of a burning F105 and was captured by the enemy. Tom spent 5 1/2 years in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison and was finally released in 1973.
A true hero, Colonel Tom Kirk was awarded the Air Force Cross, three Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Legion of Merit, nine Air Medals and the Purple Heart.
- Jacques Parker
Jacques Parker first moved to the Vail Valley in 1942 at the age of 18. Born in France to a French mother and an American father attached to the U.S. Consulate, he moved to the United States in the late 1920’s. He originally wanted to join the Royal Air Force prior to the U.S. being involved in WWII but after Pearl Harbor he learned of a special unit of soldiers being trained in skiing & mountaineering. Acceptance into the 10th Mountain Division was not easy, but being an accomplished cross country skier and having letters of recommendation earned him a place. He was stationed at Camp Hale, Colorado and later became a ski and mountain climbing instructor with the division. A gifted artist as well, Jacques drew everything that his eye captured, depicting scenes of training & barrack life. He was deployed to the craggy, snowy peaks of the Northern Apennines in Italy where his division was determined to overtake the German occupied “Riva Ridge”. They were successful and since they had no photographers to capture the scene, Jacques documented it all in his drawings. After his service, he continued a career in art & illustration in New York City but continues to visit the Vail Valley often to relive his memories of Colorado. Jacques’ drawings are in a traveling show and will end up in a permanent collection in Denver.
- Kitty Banner Seemann
Kitty’s love of aviation started early in her childhood and carried through into her college years. Training with aerobatic and tail dragger instructors, she landed a job as an expediter, transporting supplies by air to Alaska & Canada. Breaking the barrier of becoming a woman pilot in an industry dominated by men, she realized her love for Alaska and with a partner formed K2 Aviation; a successful air service in Talkeetna. She gained unsurpassed flying experience transporting mountain climbers and their equipment into challenging weather and flying conditions. Landing in snow and on glaciers was a different experience every time and threatening conditions such as avalanches were common. “You never knew what you were going to get”.
In 1982, Kitty was asked to teach singer John Denver how to fly a float plane and also assisted Sir Edmund Hillary with a documentary on float flying for the Discovery Channel. Kitty met her husband Bob while riding a chairlift on a ski vacation in Vail and the two of them became representatives for Descente, a ski wear company.
Kitty also represents Neve Designs which provides clothing for the U.S. Ski Team. Kitty lives in Edwards with Bob and their two sons, Mick & Corey who are following her footsteps in their love for flying.
- Jack Eck
Longtime Vail Valley resident, Jack Eck is widely known as a caring physician by many locals. What many people don’t know is that Jack was a Flight Surgeon & Captain serving in the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” in Phu Bai, Quang Tri, & Dong Ha, Viet Nam. Jack spent over 1000 hours in the Chinook
helicopters, accompanying the troops on combat missions from January 26, 1970 to January 26, 1971.
After Viet Nam, Jack moved to the Vail Valley in October 1971 practicing general and emergency medicine and started his internal medicine practice in 1980. Over the years he has been a key player in pioneering many health care programs. He has helped the Vail Valley Medical Center grow and become a respected hospital bringing professional care to our residents and visitors. Jack was also the medical adviser to the Vail Ski Patrol, lending his expert care to skiers on the mountain.
- Bob Parker
Bob Parker has been one of the great pioneers and builders of the US skiing industry. Born in the midwest, Bob’s first experience with skiing was as a member of his college ski team. He enlisted in the US Army and was stationed at Camp Hale in the 10th Mountain Division. He was assigned to monitor the Austrian and German skiers to see if there was any war related activity and there he developed a great respect for their ability. He fought in Europe in WWII and from his training became the slalom champion of the US Forces. Upon his return to the US, he joined SKIING magazine & served as editor from 1956-1962. He then joined the fledgling ski area “Vail” to become their first marketing director. His first major move was to sign on the US Ski Team to hold an Olympic training camp at Vail, eight days prior to their opening. He also formed a historic bridge with the Ute Indians by organizing the first “Snow Dance” to bring snow for the Christmas Season. He is credited with bringing the Olympic Austrian skier, Pepi Gramshammer to Vail and after skiing the mountain, stuck him with the ski run name “Forever”. Bob was influential in streamlining the final approval and groundbreaking of the Beaver Creek ski area. Some of his other accomplishments include helping to create Colorado Ski Country, the Vail Valley Foundation and the Colorado Ski Museum. Although Bob continues to visit Vail, he currently resides in Grand Junction, Co.
- John & Anne Rainey
John and Anne Rainey, life-long residents of South Carolina, and a home in Cordillera since 1998, have an abiding interest in the arts, the environment, preservation and the betterment of the condition of man and animals. John and Anne founded Cordillera Preservation Foundation which restored the Bearden and Bearcat cabins on Squaw Creek and are major supporters for the Canine Companions for Independence in our valley.
Anne was instrumental in establishing the Palmetto Trail, a hiking trail of over 360 miles from the mountains to the sea in South Carolina. She chaired and led the efforts to preserve three South Carolina Revolutionary War battlefields and received the 2008 BMW Conservation Award. She has been recognized for many conservation and preservation successes in South Carolina.
John served for many years as a director of the National Wildlife Federation and chairman of the board of trustees of its Endowment. The South Carolina Wildlife Federation named him its 1994 Conservationist of the Year, and the National Wildlife Federation in 2002 honored him with its Virginia Ball Founders Award as one who epitomizes the “Founders Spirit” of volunteerism and philanthropy. He is chairman of South Carolina’s Brookgreen Gardens, America’s first outdoor sculpture garden which exhibits the world’s largest collection of American figurative sculpture. He is a director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, Saratoga Springs, New York, which provides a safe haven for retired racehorses, including within it “Second Chances” program bringing together these horses and prison inmates for their mutual rehabilitation. John was executive producer of “Homestretch”, an award-winning documentary shown this year nationwide on PBS which reveals how those prison-based programs give inmates and former racehorses a new lease on life. John noted during the production the deep connection he witnessed between men and animals. “Where there had been a loss of humanity, humanity was restored. And where indeed there may have been no humanity, humanity was in fact kindled by this relationship between horse and man”.
- Ann-Margreth Frei
Anyone who knows Ann-Margreth, is invigorated by her sense of adventure and love of life. Born in Sweden, Ann Margreth and her family moved to Switzerland when she was 6. Having a dancer as a mother, she studied ballet early in her childhood which made her transition to figure skating easy and natural. After professional training in London, Ann-Margreth moved back to Sweden when she was 18 to compete for her native country. She went on to win 3 National Championships and represented Sweden in the Olympics in 1964 (same year as U.S. skater Peggy Flemming). Being recognized as a real performer, she was hired by the Ice Capades and continued to skate internationally for the next 16 years. Traveling 10 months out of the year inthe U.S., Canada, Far East, and Africa, with over 5000 solo performances, she finally settled in Vail, Colorado and became the Director of the Skating School at Dobson Ice Arena. Her mission was to coach the students in the beauty of skating and with stage presence. She expanded her business of coaching internationally, conducting style and choreography seminars on ice, touching the lives of hundreds of skaters and their coaches. This motivated her to produce her training videos and DVDs“Magic of Style” in Vail, now being used in 44 countries. She resides in Edwards, a proud U.S. citizen with husband Chris Hall and their son Alexander.