Friends remember Steamboat’s JR Lott and his legacy of love, adventure

Friends say JR Lott's smile was contagious and that was clear in this photo of him during a camping trip. There will be a celebration of life ceremony to honor lott on Saturday, May 7.
Brittany McGuire/Courtesy photo

Friends of Arlo “JR” Lott will gather Saturday, May 7, to remember the Steamboat Springs man who served his country as a Marine, was a dedicated father and was always there when his friends needed him.

“I’m guessing in the world there’s 400 people that think of JR as their best friend,” said Ryan Wattles. “He just had that ability to really make everybody feel good, important and special.”

Lott died April 17 while climbing in Farnsworth Canyon in the San Rafael Swell between Green River and Hanksville, Utah. He was 41 years old.

During his 16 years in Steamboat Springs, Lott left an impression as an active member of the running community and with the Steamboat Springs Rugby Club. He enjoyed the outdoors including hiking, hunting, fishing and rafting.

Lott leaves behind three children, Waylon, Abigail and Emily, from his first marriage.

“One of the greatest things about JR is what an incredible dad he was” said Matt McDaid, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps with Lott. “I mean, he has raised those kids to be so strong and independent and thoughtful and smart.”

JR Lott at Fish Creek Falls with his daughters Abbey, right, and Milly, left.
Brittany McGuire/Courtesy.

Lott is also survived by his parents, Arlo Lott Sr. and Kathi Bybee Lott, and four older siblings — Andy, Michelle, Eric and Spencer.

A tribute will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Strings Music Pavilion followed by a celebration of life at the Howelsen Hill Lodge. Storm Peak Brewery will host a benefit for Lott’s children following the celebration of life.

Wattles first met Lott six years ago through a mutual friend while living in Hayden. The two men, who both served in the military, shared many things in common including a love of running, caring for their children and a passion for agriculture.

The two started a business running a small farm that focused on community-supported agriculture and built a strong friendship that spanned years.

“We were both interested in agriculture, and we were both young veterans with young families,” Wattles recalled. “He would show up at our house all the time to just bring food or to help out. He would never ask what needed to be done, and he never asked if I needed help; he would just start doing whatever he could.”

JR Lott rafts the Upper Colorado River in early June 2021.
Brittany McGuire /Courtesy photo

The two would take training runs together, and they competed the grueling Ouray 100 Mile Endurance Run a few years ago after Wattles registered Lott to run with him.

“I think it was 2017, and I was woke up early for whatever reason and was looking for a race to sign up for — that’s something that he and I did together, ” Wattles said. “I texted JR for his UltraSignUp login credentials, and he texted me back right away with the login and he did not ask why.”

Wattles said he knew Lott would be game for the adventure.

JR Lott camps at Baptist Draw in the San Rafael Swell. In addition to being a veteran and a loving father, Lott was also an avid outdoors enthusiast.
Brittany McGuire/Courtesy photo

Lott’s passion for adventure started at an early age.

After graduating high school early, he traveled to New Zealand, where he spent time hunting, farming and working as a ski patrolman. While there, he discovered a love for the game of rugby — something that he brought back with him when he moved to Steamboat Springs. It’s also where he met his good friends Kit Callahan and Robbie Shine.

“He’d been kind of a fixture in the sport in the town for a while,” Callahan said. “He walked in a lot of circles. He was certainly involved with rugby, but he was heavily involved in the running community in Steamboat and the ranching community. He embraced as much fun as he could have in a cool way. He would wake up, go for runs, then raft and then hike, and then skin the mountain, and ski hard like all of our friends in this town.”

Before arriving in Steamboat, Lott served as a Marine, signing up the day after 9/11 and embarking on two tours of duty as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I joined the Marines in 2003, and after boot camp, when I finally got to my unit, (Lott) was my squad leader,” McDaid said. “So right off the bat, he was my leadership, and that’s how I met him.”

McDaid appreciated what his friend brought to the table, and McDaid said his parents credit Lott for helping get their son home safe. McDaid added that because of their military roles, his friendship with Lott took a while to develop. Despite the fact that Lott trained and worked him to the bone, McDaid never doubted that they would become good friends.

“I think that we both understood our roles,” McDaid said. “We just knew that once we got done, we were going to spend a lot of time together up in the mountains hunting and fishing.”

After his service, Lott took a job working for longtime friend Tony McKendrick’s contracting company putting up fences, which eventually brought him to Steamboat. Lott also started taking classes at Colorado Mountain College and eventually earned his bachelor’s degree. He was also working on getting his master’s.

“There is only a certain amount you can do with fencing, so he went back to school and then got into permaculture and that side of things,” McKendrick said. “I think he was always a farmer at heart and always wanted to be a steward of the land. He wanted to leave a place better than when he arrived, and that was ingrained in him too.”

Lott’s passion took him to Elkstone Farm in Steamboat, where he pursued his desire to garden and farm. It’s also where he met his girlfriend Brittany McGuire in 2018.

“We were friends for a good year and a half to two years before we started dating,” McGuire said. “There was just always this really intense connection with him … He was just this really unique individual. He was incredibly funny. He didn’t take things too seriously. He was an incredibly hard worker and an amazing dad.”

She said in the past two years, they were rarely apart and enjoyed running, traveling, rafting and canyoneering. They also shared a passion for gardening, farming and the environment. They were living in Northern Routt County, where Lott was managing a ranch.

“He was really into the environment and sustainability and incorporating these more intensive alternative grazing methods with cows,” McGuire said. “That was a big part of his interests and just his passion for the land and what he did every day.”

Robbie Shine, supervisor for the Howelsen Hill Ski Area and Steamboat Rodeo, met Lott on the rugby pitch and also hired him to work at Howelsen Hill, where he groomed the Nordic trails three days a week.

Shine said Lott was dependable and always showed up for his early morning shifts. Lott also put his agricultural knowledge to use as he encouraged the downtown ski area to use his compost tea instead of fertilizer when they were working the upper face.

“He was friendly and welcoming, and he exemplified that as a person,” Shine said. “That’s something that people should strive to continue within our community. His smile was contagious, and it came from his love for life, and we’re going to miss that.”

McKendrick traveled to Steamboat from New Zealand to honor his friend, and McKendrick said he is not alone given Lott’s passion for life, his love of his children and all the other people he touched in Steamboat.

“He just loved life and he loved adventure,” McGuire said. “We just created such a wonderful life together … He filled my cup for sure, and I don’t think that there’s anyone else that can, or will ever compared to him.”

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