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Making lasting memories after life 

click to enlarge Sign at the Section 16 Trailhead, built with donations to the Scott Lauther memorial fund. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Sign at the Section 16 Trailhead, built with donations to the Scott Lauther memorial fund.
Growing up in the Springs' Rockrimmon neighborhood in the 70's, Wendy Kinney and her younger brother Scott Lauther spent the days hiking, exploring and camping in the then undeveloped area south of the US Air Force Academy. At night, the two looked out their bedroom window to gaze at the stars, enthralled by the vast night sky. Only three years apart and being raised by a single mother, Wendy and Scott were very close, spending a lot of time together until his death in January of 2016 at the age of 43 from kidney failure. Their close relationship, and his love of the outdoors inspired Wendy to work to memorialize him in some way, in the place he loved the most, Section 16.

After graduating from Air Academy high school, Scott attended Colorado State University before returning to the Springs, a move that rekindled his love for the outdoors. The area near Colorado Springs' Bear Creek known as Section 16 became his favorite place to hike and run, often with his golden retrievers Hank and Steve. "He took a lot of people up here to introduce them to hiking," says Wendy. He also climbed 20 of the state's "14ers" and ventured out to many places in the western United States to explore the outdoors and to hike.

click to enlarge Scott Lauther and his golden retriever, Hank. - WENDY KINNEY
  • Wendy Kinney
  • Scott Lauther and his golden retriever, Hank.

Wendy's memories of Scott demonstrate what kind of personality he had. When she went to her first prom, it was Scott who made sure she had a boutonniere for her prom dress. When Wendy got married it was Scott who served as her "best man," and later, as Wendy and her husband were trying to have their first child, Scott wore a 50 pound backpack when he hiked with her so he could feel what she was feeling as she gained weight. But his love and kindness extended beyond his family.

On a road trip, traveling from Tucson to Phoenix in Arizona, Scott and Wendy witnessed a serious car accident. "Something happened with the car and it started rolling end over end," she says. Scott sprang to action with others running to the scene to help. "He kept running towards the car," Wendy says, "and grabbed the [driver], and dragged him out of the car." After making sure the driver was OK, Wendy says her brother got back into the car and left, not wanting to take any credit for helping at the accident.

Friends and family also shared how kind, funny and full of life he was at a memorial service last month. By all accounts, Scott's love for the outdoors was infectious and inspired those close to him to go hiking, running, or just enjoy the outdoors.

But life wasn't always easy for Scott. He developed a condition while in high school that effected his kidneys, enduring many surgeries until an experimental procedure seemingly took care of the problem. Wendy remembers asking Scott "Why you?" during one hospital stay. "He said, 'Why not me, Wen? I can handle it. I'll be OK.'"

Scott fell ill again in late 2015. When he died, Wendy wanted to remember him with a bench on his favorite trail in Section 16, where the Red Rocks/Palmer Trail crests a hill. Unfamiliar with navigating her way through city hall or the parks department to complete the process, Wendy contacted the Trails and Open Space Coalition, which not only helped her get in touch with the right people, but also set up a webpage on their site and helped Wendy collect donations to buy a bench for the trail.

As the money poured in from Scott's friend's and family, what started out as a project to get one commemorative bench grew. While it wasn't in the Parks Department master plan for Red Rocks Canyon and Section 16 to install a bench on the trail, benches, trailhead signs and an information kiosk about the history of Section 16 at the Lower Gold Camp Road trailhead were. With the donations that came in, two benches were erected along with the signs and kiosk. The information kiosk contains a dedication to Scott, and a separate rock slab dedicating the kiosk, sign and benches is due to be installed soon.

click to enlarge Dedication to Scott on the kiosk. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Dedication to Scott on the kiosk.

At Scott's memorial service, Wendy and about 85 friends and family, all wearing "Happy Trails" t-shirts, gathered at the new benches, signs and kiosk to remember Scott in his favorite place. "A lot of people who were at the event were talking about how they started hiking because of Scott" says Wendy. "Scott wanted to share his love of it."
click to enlarge Friends and family at Scott Lauther's memorial. - WENDY KINNEY
  • Wendy Kinney
  • Friends and family at Scott Lauther's memorial.
Meanwhile, donations are still coming in, and Wendy hopes to use the funds to work with the Parks Department to add benches to trails in Section 16.
click to enlarge Wendy Kinney and her daughter Ramsay Kinney adopted Scott's golden retriever and hiking partner, Steve. - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • Wendy Kinney and her daughter Ramsay Kinney adopted Scott's golden retriever and hiking partner, Steve.

While it's not uncommon to see memorials dotting local trials, the stories behind them are lesser known. Wendy and Scott spent a life together, and though that time was cut short by all accounts, their memories will live on at Section 16 forever.

Happy Trails.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: info@hikingbob.com.

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