Happy Birthday Clint Viebrock!

Happy Birthday Clint Viebrock!

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?,” Satchel Paige

Birthday Boy Clint Viebrock: The Marlboro Man meets The Right Stuff.

Optimism is defined as follows:

Buying a brand new pup (Henry the Stabyhoun) just shy of your 80th birthday.

Also a bright red Tesla.

And thinking it might be a great idea to get yourself another airplane and teach flying. (He is just waiting to find out if he is insurable.)

Welcome to the world of Top Gun Clint Viebrock, who turns 80 on December 30.

Clint, Henry & the Tesla

Then again, not so fast.

Science is now saying chronological age is not really and truly how old we are. That our “real age” is just a superficial number because we all grow older biologically at different rates based on our genes, what we eat, how much we exercise and what environmental toxins we were (and are) exposed to.

Biological age or “fitness age” then, is what determines our health – and ultimately our lifespan. Biological age is the number of candles we really should be blowing out. In future, with advances in our ability to control biological age, there may well be fewer candles this year than on the cake of the year before. According to the growing body of research, the difference can be plus (or minus if you don’t move it) 15 to 20 years.

Whether he is 80 or really 60, my husband, best friend and the love of my life, jumps up out of bed every morning, (at least since I’ve known him, which is 30 years now), hair on fire. Clint is always happy to be awake and alive, thinking the best moment of his life is right now, and then he proceeds to suck joy out of every minute of every day (including doing the dishes after a meal). So in no way has the high cost of living affected its popularity in our house. For Clint, older age is no biggie – especially when he – and we all – considers the alternative.

Mark Twain said it best, summing up in a chestnut: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

All hail the hero of my story for his abiding (and contagious) feelings of total contentment.

Also for his cojones.

No bull.

Clint rode his first (okay, and only) bull at age 45.

Lasted two seconds.

The legacy: a short video (obviously very short); a torn pair of Levis; and a song he penned: “Lady I Ain’t No Bull Rider.”

Clint also had a Shannon 28 built for himself in 1981 and headed off sailing – solo (of course) – though he had never commanded a boat of any kind. Airplanes, yes, and those silver birds are a major part of his story (coming up). Sailing the seas alone was the kind of challenge Clint embraces – in spite of the hurricane that dumped him overboard in 1987 on his way to Georgetown in the Exuma Islands. Shades of Robert Redford in “All Is Lost.”

And because he was days late arriving at his destination, a friend called daughter #2, Kjerstin, to tell her that her father was dead. However, and with apologies to Monty Python, he was not dead yet.

Clint with our former dog, Gina, & our once-upon-a- time-ago Maule.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said: “Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing.”

One centenarian routinely breaks records at track meets around the country. True, the World War II veteran may not have much competition in his age bracket, but so what? The point is that, in his fourth decade of retirement, he is still running in all the ways you want to be when you hit the Really Big Numbers.

That man, Orville Rogers, trained pilots in World War II, then went on to a successful career as a commercial pilot himself. Clint, also a former commercial pilot, continues to live life as he always has. The operating idea is that you never know what banana peel you are to slip on, so keep on keeping on. And when you do slip, which is inevitable, grab for the brass ring. Don’t lie back and get older; get newer.


“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” (Mae West)

Clint Viebrock grew up on a wheat and cattle ranch in Eastern Washington during the WWII years and earned his Naval Aviator’s wings in July, 1962, flew fighters for the Marine Corps, then flew Boeings for Northwest Airlines (now Delta) for 33 years.

“As a young boy, I spent lots of time on my back in the wheat fields watching training flights over head. At nine, I took the money my parents had given me for carnival rides at the fair and begged a $5 ride from a pilot parked at the small Waterville air strip. I can still see and smell that brand-new Stinson Voyager. My sophomore year of college I signed up for a Marine Corps program that would allow me to get commissioned and go into the Corps as an officer and attend flight school after graduation.”

Orville and Clint, both models of physical, emotional, and financial health, could help train us all for the future. Because retirement today is more like a marathon than a sprint and those two men are crushing it.

In one interview, Orville put it this way: “Some people think I run because I can, but that’s backward. I can because I do.”

About 30 years ago, (February 25,1989 to be exact) our dear friend Tom described the last guest to arrive at his dinner party as a guy so cool he was white hot, a fly boy on his way back to Tokyo the next morning. His friend, he said, grew up in a rearview mirror town in Eastern Washington. For fun, he solo sailed (check); rode bulls (check) and motorcycles; ran marathons (New York once; Imogene five times); played guitar, sang and wrote music. Like all cowboys, Tom continued, his friend was handy: Clint knew the business end of a swaging tool, as well as a branding iron. He was also devilishly handsome.

The Marlboro Man meets Right Stuff?


The tall blond dude who walked into the party late exuded charisma. Sporting cowboy boots and a slight drawl, the guy seemed approachable enough, standard-issue crags and dimples framing a perfect breakfast cereal smile and Bahama-blue eyes. While he projected a Marine-cool exterior, I sensed a swift-moving emotional current underneath.

Clint appeared larger than life, almost mythic.

Then as now.

Back in my New York days, my inner urban princess was partial to pallid, tweedy East Coast intellectuals and Wall Street super rats in pinstripes, men with perfect teeth who wore horn-rimmed glasses.

In other words, my heroes had never been cowboys.

Not until I met Clint Viebrock.

In October 1985, the professional wanderer put down roots in Telluride where, over the years, he performed on local stages in a number of plays, taking the lead as sheriff in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” (Central casting.) He also opened for a number of major acts on the stage of the historic Sheridan Opera House, including Arlo Guthrie and the Carradine brothers. And, for the past 20 years, Clint has volunteered for the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program, a calling. In the program he developed a reputation for for his teaching skills – and patience. (Both his daughters, Kimm and Kjerstin, are laughing. Apparently Clint was anything but a patient dad.)

Clint with friends Erik Fallenius Will Thompson, & Bill Masters, regular spotters at Ah Haa’s auction. Gray hairs,, well, yes. But still studly for sure.

Many nonindustrial societies forsake their “olders.”

Or worse: The Marind Anim of New Guinea bury senescent elders alive; the Chukchee of Siberia get rid of gray nuisances by stabbing them through the heart.

In Telluride, we celebrate men like like my husband, in equal parts, a man’s man and, it has to be said, a lady’s man – though, for the past three decades, happily this lady’s man exclusively.

Now if only we could bottle Clint’s can-do, must-do spirit – and great genes.

Happy birthday to my pilot husband, who still soars high everyday, carrying in his back pocket the hopefulness of a thousand unwritten possibilities.

At 80, Clint is not growing old. In fact, with him, time seems to be moonwalking backward.

Clint Viebrock is simply ripening.

  • Karen Redden
    Posted at 06:59h, 27 December

    Susan, What a lovely, well-penned tribute to your man. It made me laugh and it made me cry. It became evident to me very quickly during wellness week that the tall, quiet man was somebody special. Your article filled in the gaps. Clearly, the two of you were meant to be together. We are sorry to miss the celebration, but you will be in our hearts. See you soon! K.

  • Duncan Burke
    Posted at 16:08h, 27 December

    Many happy returns !!!!! Let’s celebrate in person soon. Love to you and and Susan. Nancy and Duncan

  • Bunny Freidus
    Posted at 21:32h, 27 December

    What a warm and loving tribute to Clint. So sorry we aren’t there to celebrate with you all. Give him a big congratulatory kiss from us

    Loved having my first glance atHenry who looks adorable.

    Happy New Year and much love, John &

  • John Steel
    Posted at 21:44h, 27 December

    Happy birthday, Clint. Sorry to miss it. And wonderful tribute, Susan. But really there must be one or two things not so great about him? Does he snore? Hog too much of the bed? Does he do laundry? Floors? Love and many more. John

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 23:02h, 27 December

      Snores on occasion. Yes on laundry. Yes on floors. So I guess just snoring. But rarely.

  • Suzanne Cheavens
    Posted at 13:52h, 28 December

    Oh, Sus! SO well-written. A lovely paean to your fella, straight from the heart.

  • Elisabeth Gick
    Posted at 17:49h, 28 December

    What a beautiful love letter!
    Happy Birthday, Clint!

  • Art Daniel
    Posted at 22:22h, 28 December

    You always leave a smooth contrail and you’re more bull rider than me.

  • John Hunt
    Posted at 09:02h, 30 December

    Wow, that is one fine tribute to one fine man!
    Happy Birthday!!
    Looking forward to celebrating this momentous milestone!

  • John Hunt
    Posted at 09:04h, 30 December

    Wow, that is one fine tribute to one fine man!
    Happy Birthday!!
    Looking forward to celebrating this momentous milestone!

  • Dinah Evan
    Posted at 15:47h, 30 December

    Since our birthdays are within 3 days of each others, Uri and I were unable to be in Telluride. Susan -a wonderful tribute to the man who had the good sense to whisk you away to Telluride. Truly beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. With love, Dinah

  • Erika Lapsys
    Posted at 13:10h, 08 January

    I love this! I learned so much about our much-loved and fabulous neighbor. What a life and so much for me to aspire to! Happy Birthday, Clint!!! Cheers to you and your patience in training Henry…I would have given up ages ago.

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 15:43h, 13 January

      Clint will love reading this. Like Clint, Henry the Pup is super head strong.