A Tribute to Clint Viebrock For His Birthday!

A Tribute to Clint Viebrock For His Birthday!

“Deep grief sometimes is almost like a specific location, a coordinate on a map of time. When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope,” Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”).

And, since the love of my life, Clint Viebrock, died on August 31, I have been assured by more than one someone that there is a light at the end of what appears to be an endless tunnel – in particular by my friend and fellow traveler on this journey from grief to feeling whole again, Word Woman Rosemerry Trommer. Her words, a blanket from the cold.

For example:

In the Waves

There will be more
swells of grief that tug
me into their gray embrace,
and swirls of lament,
and great rollers of loss,
and rising waves of ache.
But for now,
the morning sun
slips low through the window
in a major key
and the cat finds a home
in my lap and purrs
and the tea in my cup
is warm and full of bright notes
and I’m here, in this
peace, in this sunlit
octave, I’m here.

The following is the tribute I wrote for my husband when he turned 80. Three short years ago, a joyous time.

A celebration of Clint’s life is planned for early June. Stay tuned…

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

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.

  • Alan V Safdi
    Posted at 11:15h, 30 December

    What a great tribute to a fantastic man, father, and husband. It was my great honor to have known Clint.

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 14:16h, 30 December

      And it was a great honor to have you by our side during Clint’s epic challenge.

  • Valerie
    Posted at 13:03h, 30 December

    Beautiful tribute, Susan, and wonderful memories of that festive 80th Birthday party! I think of you often and wish for your peace and continued zest for life after Clint’s passing. He is greatly missed in this tiny community.

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 14:16h, 30 December

      Thanks Valerie.

  • Jessica
    Posted at 14:13h, 30 December

    What a beautiful and thoughtful tribute! Clint is still an inspiration to all!

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 14:15h, 30 December

      Thank you Jessica.

  • Ellen Geldbaugh
    Posted at 14:21h, 30 December

    Susan, What is so sweet is that Clint was as smitten with you as you with him….for good reason. He is missed.

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 14:22h, 30 December

      Thank you Ellen. Hope to see you soon.

  • Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
    Posted at 15:37h, 30 December

    Clint made such a difference in the world by simply being so Clint. He brought his best and encouraged the rest of us to do that, too–and always with a smile. Thank you for sharing this, Sus. Your love for him shines through–then and now. Holding you in my heart.

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 15:39h, 30 December

      And me you Rosemerry.

  • Susannah Smith
    Posted at 18:43h, 30 December

    I have been thinking of you and Clint all day; pulled out my guitar…. Much love to you on this birthday of your life’s love. Arms wrapped around you.

  • Betsy Farrar
    Posted at 19:42h, 30 December

    Susan, I will always remember the ode Clint wrote to his first Tesla. It was a true tale of a man’s love for his newest mechanical toy. I will also be grateful for how much he taught me to when we were paired together at TASP. We are lucky to have known him

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 22:40h, 30 December

      I am sure Clint felt the same about you.

  • Beth McLaughlin
    Posted at 22:43h, 30 December

    What a life, what a man! I remember vividly Clint’s 80th birthday celebration. I was honored to be the guest of a guest, it was the first time I had met you and Clint in person. I was wowed by the energy, love and joie de vivre of the Viebrocks. A life fully lived and a life cut short. Thank you for sharing the tribute Sus, a moment of honoring Clint, for the preciousness of life and love and support to you. xoxo-B

  • Susan Dalton
    Posted at 07:04h, 31 December

    Important stand-out: Mae West’s quote: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” That SO describes Clint and your life together! A beautiful tribute, Sus. We ALL miss Clint….XX00

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 12:02h, 31 December

      Perfect Susan. Thank you.

  • Bouvier Degrese
    Posted at 09:56h, 31 December

    Suzan, I remember how you were in love Clint and you when you visited Paris after your wedding.
    I have noticed how this love was strong through 30 years.
    A mervellous tribute you juste write.
    Thank you.

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 12:01h, 31 December

      Yes, we were in love then and remained so throughout the years. It was a fairytale marriage.

  • Kendra A. Wilcox
    Posted at 13:29h, 31 December

    What a beautiful tribute! So sorry for your loss! One could tell you all loved each other so much. Client was such a cool man, always smiling and loving life!

  • Petra
    Posted at 17:37h, 01 January

    Thank you for that Susan. I love you.

  • Petra Buchanan
    Posted at 17:53h, 01 January

    Thank you for being the first example of lasting true love. I’ve always held into what you two have and I hopefully have finally found it.
    Thank you again and love you Susan.

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 18:23h, 01 January

      Do tell Petra. Miss you.

  • Elaine Demas
    Posted at 19:56h, 02 January

    Beautiful tribute to a beautiful man..

    • Susan Viebrock
      Posted at 21:41h, 02 January

      Thank you Lanie. And thanks for all you did for me. I wouldn’t be here – I mean literally – without your help.