February 14, 1980 – October 27, 2021
Austin V. Chitwood (41) of Aurora, Colorado, died peacefully in the presence of his family on a beautiful Fall morning. He leaves behind his wife of 17 years, Nichole Smith, and their two children, Cyrus and Khaleesi. Austin is also survived by his father, Andrew Chitwood; mother, Donna Garnett (Khadija Haynes); sister, Alexis Haynes; brother, Max Haynes; two aunts (Claudia and Mitzi); and two cousins (Cody and Briton) and their families. Austin was preceded in death in 2020 by his beloved cousin Brooks.
In October 2020 Austin was diagnosed with a brain tumor that is always terminal. He elected to have brain surgery, radiation, chemo, and experimental treatment in the hopes of extending the time he might have with his wife and children. He fought hard and continued to work as the Director of Children’s Farms in Action in the Montbello neighborhood until the last 2 months of his life.
Austin was born in Ft. Collins, Colorado and moved to Denver at the age of one year. Early on he was fascinated with the natural world and thoughtfully concerned about the ethical way in which animals and humans are treated. He always asked the hard questions and at the age of three upon listening to the news of the world’s first successful heart transplant, queried his mother as to why it was okay for doctors to take the heart from a baby chimpanzee to replace the heart of a baby human? Was the baby chimp’s life not worth as much as the baby human’s life? He never stopped asking the hard questions about the meaning of life.
During his teenage years, Austin began exploring his love of music, drama, and technical theater. Those passions led to his eventually dropping out of high school to pursue life in the underground club world where he and friends created Superstar Productions. In the early days of Denver’s rave scene, he was a mover and a shaker. His love of dj-ing never waned and he loved the occasional opportunity to help stage a party for several thousand participants.
In his 20s, Austin spent time with his dad traveling to many fascinating places across Europe and the United States. Eventually, he came back to Denver where he worked at the Children’s Garden at The Urban Farm at Stapleton. He met Nichole, they married in the garden, drove away to Florida where Austin attended Full Sail University earning an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, and a master’s degree in the span of three years. At the same time, the couple became the parents of a baby boy which prompted them to move back to Denver to be close to family.
Over the years Austin’s love of animals and making things grow helped him build a foundation for farming and horticulture and parenting. With the birth of their children, the decision was made that Austin would be the stay-at-home dad and he could couple that role with the role of being a master gardener. After all, what could be better than raising his children in an environment where they would be outside with him, watching things grow, and learning stewardship of the earth.
Austin flourished in his role as a farmer/teacher. He grew thousands of pounds of fresh produce in the Montbello Urban Farm each year, contributing virtually all of it to food pantries in the neighborhood. He mentored dozens of youth and young adults each year providing good paying jobs and internships for many. He reveled in his experiences of working with early childhood and elementary students as he taught them all about the complex lives of chickens and the cycle of life going on right under their feet. He taught kids and adults about teasing life out of seemingly the most lifeless little traces of earth. Those around him often commented that he didn’t just have a green thumb – all his fingers were green.
In the end, Austin fought the good fight. He was a good man, devoted to his immediate and extended family, and among his last wishes was that he be able to give his essence back to the earth. His family has manifested that wish with the help of Natural Funeral. Through water cremation, Austin’s essential elements will continue making things grow in a healthy, natural way.
A Celebration of Austin’s life will be held on Saturday, November 6 at the Children’s Farm in Montbello. Family members, work associates, and friends are invited to be in attendance.
A GoFundMe account has been established to raise monies to help with the costs associated with end-of-life transition and to help Nichole, Cyrus, and Khaleesi as they re-orient their lives without their husband and dad. Donations may be made at https://gofund.me/3b2ba6c7 .
It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” ~ Gandalf (J. R. R. Tolkein ~ The Hobbit)”