Ken Lay's Aspen Funeral

July 10 2006, 8:36 AM

Six Feet Under For years, we've heard how Ken Lay's friends abandoned him due to the Enron criminal case. He sold off his Aspen properties, reportedly to pay legal fees. He had a hard time finding witnesses for his defense. But Aspen was where he wanted to spend his last months before entering jail for a possibly decades-long sentence and the Judge granted that wish. Ken and Linda Lay have been staying in a rental property at Snowmass, trying not to count down the days till his sentencing. Last week he died of heart failure. Yesterday, his friends re-emerged, 100 strong, to fill the Aspen Chapel for his memorial service. Even his co-defendant, Jeff Skilling, and Skilling's lawyer were in attendance. It was a religious service, fitting for the religious and philanthropic man Ken Lay was during his lifetime. There was scant mention of Enron.

Under looming clouds and periodic showers, attendees entered and left the chapel behind a screen of security guards' umbrellas. Lay's family members entered in an entourage of three SUVs led by a Pitkin County deputy. ....Others in attendance included Richard Kinder, chairman and CEO of energy company Kinder Morgan, and Sheldon Erikson, chairman and CEO of the energy-equipment company Cameron. Other guests included Aspen friends like I.V. Pabst, Lay's neighbor who rented the Old Snowmass home where he died.

Some of his mourners spoke to the press. Among the comments were these:

"It was very moving," said Fred Malek, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Thayer Capital Partners and a former advisor to presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and the first President Bush. "It brought back the philanthropic man that he was." ...."I think in many ways it was supposed to be a celebration of Ken Lay's life," said Shelby Hodge, society columnist for the Houston Chronicle. "The Lays loved Aspen. This is where they chose to spend their days before the final sentencing, and it turned out to be their final days." ...."It's the crowd I totally expected to see," Hodge said, glimpsing mourners as they entered. "Friends that didn't desert them and people who have maintained a loyal friendship with the family."

From Lay's close friend, former Enron executive Mark Seid:

Asked about the message of the service, one man said, "Ken's with Jesus," as he stepped into a Hummer with Texas license plates. "If I have a service like that, I'll be a blessed man.

Due to legal precepts, Lay's death prior to his sentencing voids his conviction. As if it never happened. So he died without official stain. Is he better off? Only he knows now. But, I'm sure his family believes he is in a better place than the prison that was in store for him. His last weeks could not have been pleasant, facing the prospect of decades in jail and the separation from his wife, children and life as he knew it. The Enron victims may be angry, as if they were cheated of seeing Lay receive a just punishment, but from my vantage point, he paid the ultimate price for his misdeeds. He certainly didn't get off easy. R.I.P. Ken Lay. The jury said you did some bad things, but according to those who know you, you also did many good things, for your community and your family. According to your religion, you will now meet your maker and savior. I hope your critics and those who feel betrayed by you will be content to let them be your final judge. My sincere condolences to your family.

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