Remembering Lily聽DeMuth, a natural leader

As a young girl, Lily DeMuth felt the need to do the right thing, even when it wasn鈥檛 popular. Her sudden death left a void among all those who loved her.

Lily DeMuth was an adventurer who loved traveling the globe, but her heart always remained in the valley where she grew up.
DeMuth family/Courtesy photo

Lily DeMuth was going to change the world. Everyone who knew her was sure of that.   

But first, she had to see as much of it as possible. From an early age, the only child of Evan and Ruth DeMuth felt a constant tug to explore. She inspected every inch of her backyard at her childhood home above Arrowhead when she was little, and as she grew strong and tall, she sought out the trails, slopes and rivers in the surrounding Eagle River Valley. 

More than wanting to see new places, those closest to Lily, 24, said she was engrossed in learning as much as she could from the people she met along the way. Nobody was a stranger after a conversation with her. While she traveled for weeks at a time by herself, she was rarely alone. There were always new friends to be found at a hostel, on a train, or riding up the mountain on a chairlift. 

Lily DeMuth poses in front of Rainbow Mountain in Peru.
DeMuth family/Courtesy photo

That curiosity and determination is how she wound up in Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, at the end of April with two of her best childhood friends.   

She’d just spent 10 magical days with her mother on the southern coast of Spain, exploring castles and trekking the Caminito del Rey, the daunting walkway hemmed to the walls of a narrow gorge that winds its way to the village of El Chorro. Before being rebuilt and reopened to the public, the fabled path once trod by the Spanish king was known as the country’s most dangerous hike.

Support Local Journalism

After saying goodbye to Ruth, Lily headed for Tenerife with Sara Sullivan and Jordan Glendining. The three planned to catch some waves and soak in the sun. It was the big finale to a two-month adventure in which Lily had started out skiing some of the classic European resorts in Germany and Austria before visiting friends in Britain, and then heading off to Spain. She’d planned to return to the valley on May 17.

Ruth and Lily DeMuth and Sara Sullivan live on the edge while hiking the Caminito del Rey on Spain’s southern coast.
Sara Sullivan/Courtesy photo

But Lily never made it home. She suffered a ruptured aneurysm 鈥 later determined to be congenital 鈥  while out to dinner with her two friends.

For someone who spent her entire life giving back to others, Lily’s final act in a Spanish hospital room on April 30 was fitting. An organ donor, she after she was taken off life support.

“She was doing exactly what she loved,” said her mother. “She knew she couldn’t settle down until she’d lived abroad and traveled after college. She was determined to do the trip.”

Ruth and Evan DeMuth with daughter, Lily. Ruth called Lily “the easiest baby ever. And the happiest.”
DeMuth family/Courtesy photo

An old soul

Born in Vail on Nov. 5, 1999, Lily was ahead of the curve from the get-go, walking by 9 months and potty-training herself by 2.

As to where all that energy and determination came from? Genetic dynamite passed down from Evan, a hotshot hockey prospect in his youth, and Ruth, a longtime ski instructor and former U.S. Forest Service ranger. Growing up, Lily’s gaggle of childhood friends knew her mom simply as “Ranger Ruth.”

Evan grew up in Boulder, and his family owned a quaint property dubbed the “hubbin” 鈥 part cabin, part hut 鈥 near Arrowhead. During weekend trips and school breaks, he skied at nearby Meadow Mountain.

After college, he’d moved to the valley and met Ruth at the $5 Friday buffet at the Red Lion in Vail Village, an offseason favorite among locals.  

Ruth, who was working at the Vail Nature Center at the time, told her roommate she was going to date Evan by the end of the summer. When her roommate asked why, Ruth said: “Because I like his smile and his handshake.”

Celebrating Lily
A Celebration of Life for Lily Sage DeMuth will be held on June 15 at the Little Beach Park in Minturn, Colorado, starting at 10 a.m.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist with Celebration of Life expenses and to establish an athletic scholarship program in Lily’s name.
Go to to contribute.

Whether climbing 14ers or racing mountain bikes, the two quickly became inseparable. They were married at Piney River Ranch on Aug. 13, 1995. Lily arrived a little more than four years later, and from the beginning, she was an old soul in a child’s body. 

“The easiest baby ever,” Ruth said. “And the happiest. From an early age, she was teaching everybody else.”

Other parents pressed Ruth for how she’d gotten Lily out of diapers so early, and she quickly set them straight.

Lily DeMuth was constantly plotting her next adventure, often with friends.
Sara Sullivan/Courtesy photo

“I’m like, ‘Me?'” Ruth said. “She did it on her own. We just had one fight. I was like, ‘OK. If you don’t want to wear a diaper, then don’t pee in the bed, and then we’ve got a deal.'”

Cheryl Grimaldi first met Ruth through a group for new moms. Her oldest son, Max, was born six weeks after Lily and the two attended school together from diapers to diplomas. Lily might as well have been Max’s twin sister, and a big sister to Max’s little brother, Luke, who was two years behind.

Lily didn’t just hang with the boys, she was often showing them up. 

“We were camping one time, and my boys were learning to ride bikes,” Cheryl said. “And all of a sudden, Lily shows up in this head-to-toe pink motocross outfit and hopped on her little motocross bike. And she just took off, with her back wheel peeling out. And my boys stood there with their mouths just like, ‘Whoa.’ She was the girl that was always invited to all the boys’ birthday parties.”

From left, Luke Grimaldi, Max Grimaldi, Lily DeMuth, Shane Riddler and Matt Glendining smile after taking a dip in the Devil’s Punch Bowl on Independence Pass near Aspen. Lily rallied the group to trek to the naturally-formed swimming hole.
Courtesy photo

‘Everybody’s got a quarter’

At Edwards Elementary, Berry Creek Middle School and Battle Mountain High School, Lily’s classmates repeatedly picked her to be the class president or team captain. In high school, she played volleyball and basketball and ran track while churning out straight-As. Along with being named captain of the varsity volleyball team, her classmates elected her student body president twice. She turned down the role in her junior year so a senior could have the spotlight.

After graduation, she headed off to her father’s hometown of Boulder for college, graduating from the University of Colorado with a double major in International Affairs and Anthropology. She also minored in Spanish, which she’d spoken since being enrolled in the bilingual program at Edwards Elementary. If a double major and a minor weren’t enough, there was also the certificate awarded to her in Peace and Conflict for her , a prestigious appointment for the top 200 scholars on the Boulder campus.

Ruth, Lily and Evan DeMuth pose at the base of the Flatirons in Boulder on Lily’s graduation day.
DeMuth family/Courtesy photo

Lily’s leadership, however, wasn’t defined by all the accolades. To her teachers, her friends, and her parents, she’d always strived to do the right thing, often when no one was looking or when it wasn’t cool.

“She was like the glue that kept everybody together, that made sure everyone was involved,” said Todd Huck, a former teacher and athletic director at Berry Creek Middle School who, last year, hired Lily to help coach girls volleyball and basketball. “Just a wonderful kid. I got to know her as a student, as a sixth grader, and as a teacher, you’re like, this is why you teach. This is why you come to work every day. It’s students like her.”

Lily DeMuth, at 8, with some of the pink gumballs she used to raise money to combat breast cancer.
Theo Stroomer/Vail Daily archive

When she was 8, Lily took notice of a classmate who had stopped playing at recess after his mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We talked about it, and she just felt that he’s so sad that he might lose his mom that we should create something so that he can remember how to play,” Ruth said.

That something was an unused gumball machine sitting near Ruth’s desk at the Vail Adaptive Ski School. The only thing it needed was a third grader’s imagination 鈥 and hundreds of bright pink gumballs 鈥 to turn it into a fundraising machine to help kids get a pair of new cleats, or some skates, or money to treat their mom to lunch.

“Well, kids like candy, and everybody’s got a quarter,” Ruth remembers Lily telling her. “So let’s have a bubble gum machine and raise money for kids so they can play.”

Lily took the idea to a friend’s parent who served on the board of the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group, which awarded modest grants to local women to help with medical costs or to treat themselves to spa days or some fun.    

Lily DeMuth loved the outdoors and traveled to places around the globe in search of natural beauty.
Sara Sullivan/Courtesy photo

The board created a separate fund for the cash raised by Lily’s gumball machine 鈥 which was planted at a local restaurant in Edwards. The money raised funded small grants to kids whose mothers were undergoing treatment.

Ruth said her daughter never wanted to know where all those quarters wound up, but years later, classmates would approach her and thank her for the gifts they received. 

‘No one should sit by themselves’

When she was in middle school, Lily gravitated to some of the special needs kids who were often apart from their classmates. She would sit with them during reading hour and get to know them.

When she got to Battle Mountain, Lily noticed some of the same kids sitting by themselves at lunch. Just like the elementary school classmate who’d stopped playing at recess, something needed to be done. 

“She said, ‘Mom, these kids sit by themselves. No one should sit by themselves during lunch,'” Ruth said. “So, she would just go and sit with them, and some of her friends would be like, ‘Why are you doing that?'”

“She wasn’t afraid to stand up for things that weren’t necessarily popular to stand up for, and she would stand her ground,” Cheryl Grimaldi said. “When she started that at the high school, where the kids with special needs would always have someone to eat lunch with, it was kind of not a cool thing. And she made it a cool thing.”

Lily DeMuth was always in the middle of something with the friends she grew up with in the Vail Valley.
Sara Sullivan/Courtesy photo

But it was never about her. When she was a senior in high school, Lily honored a promise to Luke Grimaldi, who’d asked her back in middle school if he could be her date to her final high school prom. She’d gone with his older brother the year before. 

In return, as she headed off to college, she made Luke promise he’d carry on the tradition of making sure no one sat by themselves in the lunchroom. 

“She touched more lives in her 24 years than most people touch in a lifetime,” Cheryl Grimaldi said.

Listen first

That tug. It kept pulling Lily further out into the world so she could understand it more completely. She needed to hear the perspectives of others in places she didn’t grow up and have real conversations that inevitably melted away any preconceptions. She was filling in the gaps for how the world worked, unraveling its complexity with every new adventure or encounter. 

“There was a crack in the universe when she passed on.”

Cheryl Grimaldi

The summer after her freshman year of high school, she spent three weeks in Cambodia on a service trip with the Children’s Global Alliance, a Vail-based nonprofit, where she worked at an orphanage and taught English. 

She’d also ventured to Zambia with her parents to raft the Zambezi, the continent’s fourth-largest river, and visit Hwange National Park and Matobo National Park in Zimbabwe and Chobe National Park in Botswana. 

Lily DeMuth lived for traveling.
DeMuth family/Courtesy photo

In college, she’d spent a month studying in the mountains of Bolivia. Socializing with her professor, Carol Conzelman, and the locals at bars and restaurants, robust discussions would break out about the United States and its sphere of influence, and the criminalization of the coca leaf, which punished common farmers, traders and consumers and had sharply stratified the economies of countries like Bolivia and Peru. 

All of it was fascinating for Lily. While interning in college with the Global Livingston Institute, she came to see the wisdom in its core message: Listen. Think. Act. 

Too often, she’d learned, Americans didn’t take the time or make the effort to truly listen before imposing their views.

After COVID-19 wiped out the possibility of a junior year abroad in college, Lily was set on making up for lost time after graduation. She’d work backward 鈥 figuring out just how much money she needed before heading out on her next trip. 

In her first year out of college, she headed off to Croatia and Italy. After she returned home, she saved up again while waiting tables at The Drunken Goat before taking off for Iceland, Norway and Sweden. A coworker joined her on the trip to Iceland while her manager from The Drunken Goat met up with her in Norway. 

“She would travel with a group of people, but then she would always say, ‘I need about a week by myself, and then I’ll join back up with you guys, or I’ll meet up with this other group,'” Ruth said. “She just wanted to get to know the local culture”

Sara Sullivan, a friend since middle school who has been living in Spain for the past year while teaching English, said Lily just had a gift for connecting with anyone on just about anything.

“She always asked the best questions and she would start the most amazing conversations with just the simplest interactions, whether it was a waiter at a restaurant, or she complimented someone’s bag,” Sara said. “The next thing you know, we’re hearing this person’s whole life story. It’s crazy how she was able to take conversations to those places.”

Logen Cassidy and Lily Demuth on one of their many adventures. The two connected over a shared love of the outdoors.
Logan Cassidy/Courtesy photo

Coming full circle

The same force that pulled her far out into the world would inevitably push her back home, though. There was always the recoil.

As much as she craved the rush that came with discovering new places and meeting new people, those she loved most were back in the place she knew best. That included her parents and her friends, and her beloved dog, Otis. Also back home: the handsome, stoic raft guide from Indiana she’d gone on a hike with while home from college during the height of the pandemic.

Just like Ruth and Evan, Logen Cassidy and Lily bonded over a shared love of the outdoors. The relationship was casual at first, especially after Lily returned to Boulder for school.

But as they spent more time together, whether in Boulder 鈥 where Logen quickly learned Lily knew just about everybody 鈥 or out hiking, camping or paddling, they spoke increasingly about building a life together. They were like a pair of mismatched socks: Lily, the fast-talking, extroverted Colorado girl in a perpetual state of motion, and Logen, the quiet, mellow Midwesterner who was always up for tagging along. 

Lily, Logen and Otis out paddleboarding on Nottingham Lake in Avon.
Logen Cassidy/Courtesy photo

“She loved her dog, and she always wanted to go camping,” he said. “She was always trying to plan something. I couldn’t have my schedule free for one day without her trying to fill it with something. It could be as little as going camping up Horse Mountain Road right there in Wolcott or going to Crested Butte for a ski trip.”

The couple had discussed moving in together when Lily got back from her latest trip, Logen said.   

What Lily planned to pursue once she returned to Colorado was still a work in progress. 

She had considered a career in politics while in college, but after spending two weeks in Washington, she’d told her mother that “people are just too closed. They are just so set on their agenda that they can’t listen. They can’t come to the middle ground.”

She’d also considered the Peace Corps, but ultimately decided against it. Then she told her mother about an idea to buy the Minturn Inn and turn it into a retreat center for artists, groups and seminars 鈥 until she did the math. 

But the job at her old middle school coaching the volleyball team and helping with the basketball team? It had sparked something in her. She was a natural.

Coach Lily DeMuth, with the girls volleyball team at Berry Creek Middle School. DeMuth was a natural when it came to coaching and motivating youngsters.
Courtesy photo

Not that anyone, especially the former teacher who’d hired her, expected anything less. 

“It was just a delight to see how much she had grown as a person and to see her interact with our young girls,” Todd Huck said. “It was just great to see how she bonded with them, how she motivated them, how much she enjoyed working with them. I just was beside myself. Just because you kind of knew that’s where it was heading. You just knew she was always going to do something to help others.”

Everyone else who knew Lily and loved her felt the same. 

“There was a crack in the universe when she passed on,” Cheryl Grimaldi said. “I mean, we’re devastated. We’re just trying to kind of just stay in her light and the fun stories because there were so many good times.”

“When she wanted to do something, she did it,” Sara Sullivan said. “She’s like, ‘I’m going to go travel to Europe for two months,’ and she did it. ‘Yeah, I’m going to go do this super cool ski trip,’ and she did it. ‘I’m going to coach a middle school girls volleyball and then basketball team,’ and she did it 鈥 and excelled at all of it. It’s hard not to find that inspiring. She could walk the walk.”

Nate Peterson is the editor of the Vail Daily. Email him at npeterson@vaildaily.com.

Support Local Journalism