Hayden, Thomas Scott, Jr.

Written by Anne and Elaine Hayden on .


Tom Hayden obituary

(1956 - 2016)

Tom Hayden left this world unexpectedly on leap day, February 29, 2016.  He was born in January 1956, to parents Thomas Scott and Margaret Davis Hayden. A fifth generation Coloradoan, he attended Central Lakewood Elementary, the Graland School, and Denver Country Day School.  He honored his deep family roots in Clear Creek County and lived on the family land in the Upper Bear Creek Valley for 42 years.  One of Tom’s greatest loves was his home land, as is evident in his devotion to the people and natural lands of the Colorado mountains, past, present, and future.  

Tom was an accomplished jack-of-all-trades, master of many, who gained most of his vast knowledge through his own experience and from the old timers in the county. As a boy, he spent every summer on the family Ranch, exploring the Bear Creek Basin on foot and horseback. Tom looked to his grandmother (Margaret E. Davis) as a teacher of family traditions and gained his appreciation of the written word and music as Gran took him under her wings. By six years old, whenever possible, he could be found riding with Buster Anderson on his legendary road grader. Tom never lost his love of large machinery. 

Throughout his life, Tom was endlessly curious about everything.  If he was intrigued by something, he made it his task to find out everything he could about it, from history to politics to how to repair an antique tractor. He carried on his mother’s legacy of interest in local history, and gathered stories of the people and the natural history of the Front Range.As a budding entrepreneur during his teenage years, Tom owned a snowplowing and fence-building business, and even ventured into a rabbit-raising endeavor for a short time.  

By the time Tom turned 18 years old, he had moved to the family land on Upper Bear Creek and was apprenticing to the old-timers, learning everything from how to harvest hay from Jack Brasel, to the vagaries of caring for old plumbing from Brian Schwartz, to how to choose the best burning wood and stacking method, from Clarence Whitbeck. There was a mutual respect that grew between Tom and the generation of these wise men. The unique stories of the homesteaders and early residents of the County intrigued Tom endlessly, and he honed his life-long interest in history and his skill of telling a good story from the best.Animals and music were important early influences on Tom that have followed him all his days.  

As a young stockman, Tom enjoyed the 4-H organization while raising small livestock to show and sell at the National Western Stock Show.  Tom learned to ride and care for horses from his grandmother, and helped care for family animals, especially the goats and numerous dogs. In the summers on the Ranch, when other forms of entertainment were scarce, Tom relished in the spontaneous performances that included readings, recitations and music with other family members.  Tom taught himself to play the guitar, and in his late teens, he was president of the Denver Friends of Folk Music.  Harry Tuft of Denver was Tom’s early musical mentor and a lifelong friendship and mutual admiration grew between these men.

Tom became caretaker for the family land in his early 20’s, carrying on Whitbeck and Schwartz’s legacies. He cultivated and harvested hay on the family meadows, and soon began haying for neighboring ranches as well. Caring for the meadows and the equipment taught him the value of hard work, and his mechanical skills blossomed. Tom intuitively knew the process of how things worked, and could fix or repair anything that had wheels and mechanics.

His love of the forests, building, and large machinery came together naturally in his nascent sawmill operation where he was mentored by Bob Hammond and Hank Alderfer. This enterprise grew into a 27-year business known first as Bear Creek Milling, and followed by Hayden Forest Products. Tom logged beetle-killed pine in the valley and milled some of the most beautiful specialty lumber that graces numerous houses and outbuildings in the county and beyond. A placard posted at the sawmill office emphatically instructed ‘Do not paint our wood!’ A robust firewood business emerged from the lumber production. During this time, Tom continued his life-long public service by serving as president of the Colorado Timber Industries Association.

He loved the county and served in many capacities throughout his life. He served on the Clear Creek County Planning Commission for ten years, and from 2012 to the present, he was elected as County Commissioner from the 2nd District. He also served the Clear Creek Schools by being an active member of three Building Accountability Committees and the District Accountability Committee.

He was an active volunteer firefighter with Evergreen Fire and Rescue and was elected President of the Fire Department Board for three years until he became the District Manager of the Evergreen Fire Protection District. He was the arson investigator with Clear Creek County, Evergreen Fire Rescue and the Combined Arson Response Team. Tom fulfilled his passion for wild-land firefighting by serving with the Clear Creek Marmots Wildland Team. Tom held several positions on the Clear Creek Sheriff’s Department, including Animal Control Officer and special deputy for the east end of Clear Creek County.

Tom loved making music with friends, and performed as Sawyer Tom at many music festivals and other venues in the area. He accompanied Ramblin’ Jack Elliot on a concert tour throughout the West and performed in his inimitable style with many folk musicians in numerous venues including the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Tom’s distinctive style of music and storytelling drew him to the Cowboy Poetry Festival in Elko Nevada, where he served as the musical director.

Though his many accomplishments and ways of serving his community could fill a book, his greatest love was his family. He met Elaine in Evergreen and in several years they married spontaneously on their way to the Cowboy Poetry Festival in 1989. Her sons, Christian and Angelo, joined the family and daughter Laurel was born in 1991. Tom’s love of children inspired him to tease, guide, and encourage them to follow their passions as he did. He made time in his busy life to play dollies with Laurel and search for the best, secret raspberry patches. Tom encouraged her love of horses, by helping haul beloved horse Bob to area horse shows and the National Western Stock Show.

Gregarious and friendly, humorous and deeply serious about life, tough-skinned and sensitive at once, Tom made friends wherever he went, and each of them held a special place in his heart. He carried on the legacy of mentoring others, simply by his manner, in the same spirit as the old timers guided him.

Tom’s hobbies were many. The arrival of a few cows eventually grew into a large herd of cattle that he and his daughter cared for. He loved all outdoor pursuits, and was an avid hunter and accomplished fly fisherman. He camped, hiked, and climbed mountains and marveled at nature with his family. Later in his life, he developed a keen interest in photography and captured as many sunrises and sunsets as he could.

In 2012, he was elected Clear Creek County Commissioner, running as a Republican. During his tenure, he became an Independent, which better reflected his independent spirit, which was hard to put in a box. He was honored by both Democrats and Republicans, and on his death, a proclamation was issued to fly flags at half-mast throughout the county. His co-workers respected him deeply, and he worked tirelessly to make decisions that were a win-win for everyone. As Chairman of the Commissioners, he recommended that people step into the shoes of those with opposing views.

He leaves behind his beloved wife, Elaine Hayden, his daughter Laurel Rosalie Hayden, step sons Christian and Angelo Rolla, grand-daughter Chloe Mae Rolla, sisters Anne Hayden (Sheila) and Margaret Hayden (Andy), supportive nephew Evan Jeffries (Monica), and numerous other nieces and nephews. He also leaves behind innumerable friends and colleagues. We will miss his presence deeply, and know that his legacy will live on for generations.

A Celebration of Tom Hayden’s Life will be held on Saturday, March 12, at 1:00, on Upper Bear Creek, at the site of the old Hayden Forest Products mill. For directions and a map, see the website:

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations can be made to one of the following organizations: Charlie’s Place, Clear Creek-Gilpin Animal Shelter; Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT); or Remember Sand Creek Memorial Fundraiser.

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