Happy 60th birthday to John. I wish I could give him a present as wonderful
as the one he has given me over the years.
Without John's leadership, I never would have experienced many exhilarating
climbs in the mountains as John was the mentor of our Group Health Alpine
For many years GHAS had at least a yearly climb of some mountain on or near
a peak on John's "to-do" list, one that he hadn't previously "bagged" for
his life list of first ascents. These were trips of six varied Group Health
docs. Our packs were always heavier the John's as he had less food and
clothing than the rest of us. John seemed to survive on berries and nuts
on these trips, a diet which undoubtedly accounted for his marked annual
weight variation. He would gain 30 pounds in the winter only to lose it
all by the end of summer. Despite the weight loss he was always a strong
After a few miles down a well traveled trail John would cut off into the
brush almost by scent. This bearded guy would then have us cross a roaring
river suspended by a rope, in what I think he called a Tyrolean traverse.
The we would sweat up some steep incline through the brush, sometimes tripping
over a "burn" of fallen logs to end up on our backs turtled up looking
at the sky. Eventually we would breathlessly reach the summit where we
were on top of the world able to see forever. From this vantage point we
were ringed by mountain ranges that John knew like the back of his hand.
He would name peak after peak scanning the horizon for 360 degrees to my
amazement as I confess most of the peaks looked pretty much the same to
me. I knew if I was there alone I would be seriously lost. With John, however,
I knew we could always get home because he knew exactly where we were.
John always seemed to push me to my limit but was sensitive to what that
limit was and when to stop. When I got in trouble he was there to take
care of me, even reducing my dislocated shoulder (twice).
Those trips were great times for male bonding where men would stink, fart
and tell dirty stories, those things we would not do at home or at the
workplace. Such sharing, however, made Group Health a better place to work.
Again, John, happy birthday and thanks,
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.