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Monk J. Burkmier May 28, 1944 – April 30, 2023

Locations: Obituaries Published

Monk J. Burkmier, “Monk” to his friends, was born in the Bay Area of California on May 28, 1944, the “year of the bad penny” as he liked to say. He grew up primarily in foster homes and an orphanage in Los Angeles called the Lark Ellen School for Boys. He learned early how to be independent and make his own way in life. When he came of age, he joined the United States Army and was deployed to Laos as a paratrooper.

After leaving the Army, he made his way to Cortez and worked as a dealer in a casino. He later moved up to Alaska and worked at the Saint Peter’s Cannery. He moved around and had various jobs, until he finally landed in Aspen in 1968, where he found housing at the Snow Chase Lodge. The proprietor, Pamela MacPherson, aka Mrs. Mac, aka Granny, and her family became the family Monk never had.

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During this time, he worked as a sign maker, breakfast cook, taxi driver, underground ski instructor, thrift store owner, insulation contractor — among many other jobs.

Throughout the 1970s, Monk continued his various pursuits in the Roaring Fork Valley. In 1979, he and his friend Doug Driscoll spent the summer canoeing down the Yukon River in Canada. He found a love for rivers and worked as a guide on the Grand Canyon, running it 26 times over the years. Monk was committed to living a low-rent lifestyle and was often found living in his school bus or camper van. He loved photography and set up a dark room in the basement of the condo he was sharing with friends.

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In 1996, Monk found his way to KDNK, becoming a volunteer DJ until October 2017. Many people knew him as Lark Ellen, a DJ name he adopted to honor his childhood and love for music. He was a treasured member of the KDNK family and made friends at live music events and venues throughout the Valley.

In 2006, he met Marie Kuen, who would volunteer for KDNK events getting beer, ice and cup donations from Mr. C’s Liquor, where she worked. For nearly a decade, Monk was working as an insulation contractor and Persian rug dealer, selling them on consignment at shops in Carbondale. Through their blossoming relationship and mutual love for adventures in thrifting, Monk and Marie opened the Backdoor Consignment Store, which they owned and operated until 2017, when they sold the business and retired to the beautiful North Fork Valley.

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Monk and Marie also shared a deep love of music and made themselves indispensable as volunteers and community members at many festivals. They helped to promote up and coming musicians, some of whom have gone on to national acclaim. Monk enjoyed all the North Fork Valley had to offer until his sudden illness in February 2023. Marie will be forever grateful to the VA, who ensured that Monk’s final weeks were comfortable. Monk passed peacefully on April 30, with Marie by his side. Monk leaves behind a vast community of friends, and he’ll be remembered for many things including his ability to always see the bright side of life and helping his friends do the same.

A celebration of life will be held at Big B’s Delicious Orchards in Paonia in the early fall.

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