MY WYOMING: Two Funerals Same Day + Golf Tourney,
Only in Small Town in a Very Small State
By Bill Sniffin
It might have been former U. S. Sen. Al Simpson who said all politics in Wyoming is personal. I would expand on that by claiming Wyoming is such a small state that “everything is personal.”
On a recent Monday we experienced events that might only happen in a small town. Two members of our community had died. Their families used different funeral homes. And, unfortunately, both funerals were scheduled the same time, Monday morning at 10.
Luckily, Lander is a city of about 7,500 people with not very long streets. We would try to be two places at once. This could get tricky.
Nancy loaded her famous scalloped potato dish that was required at the Catholic Church for Mickey Simmons Sr.’s funeral luncheon into my little car (easier to maneuver) and off we went to Holy Rosary. I handed the dish to Annette Yates in the kitchen. Then we went to the front of the church. After we signed Mickey’s guest book it was off to funeral #2 at United Methodist Church.
Joyce Nations Hornecker, 65, was a nice gal whose dad had been an editor years ago at our newspaper. She was revered for having operated the senior center for years.
After signing her guest book and greeting old friends like Cody Beers, Jean Mathisen Haugen, Sheriff Skip Hornecker, Pastor Mark Calhoun and City Councilman Dick Hudson, it was time to sit and listen to Ralph Mesa sing a few songs and hear about Joyce. Her brother Jim Nations and her nephew Cody said some wonderful things and a slide show flashed life events about Joyce and her husband Johnny behind them on two big TV screens.
It was a nice funeral full of pioneer Wyoming folks. The Hornecker family has a long history in the Lander area, much of it in ranching.
Since we had sat in the back, we quietly slipped out and got into my little car and headed back to the Catholic Church. Since Mickey’s service was a Mass I knew it would be longer so this was going to work out just fine. Got there in time to sit with Mayor Del McOmie just behind former Mayor Mick Wolfe and his wife Marge. Fr. James Schumacher and Deacon Rich Miller conducted the service.
The elder Simmons, 82, was a long time member of the parish and his son, Mickey Jr., had been public works director for Lander for many years.
After communion, the decedent’s eldest grandson, Lucas Anderson, gave a wonderful eulogy. In his tribute to his grandpa, he said the gentle older man left him with two big life lessons: first was to always be willing to say you are sorry and second, to be quick to offer forgiveness. Pretty neat lessons.
Lucas and Becky Murdock provided the vocals during the service. Becky plays one of the best cellos I have ever heard.
After the service we slipped out and drove back to the Methodist Church. There we joined the Hornecker family and friends having a brunch following and paid our respects to Joyce’s husband Johnny.
Not sure how many miles we put on but then went home and changed clothes and I headed to the golf course.
As a former vice-chairman of the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission, the annual Wyoming airport operators group meeting is always fun. They had invited me to be their banquet speaker. And since someone had cancelled a spot in their golf scramble, they asked if I wanted to play? Sure, I told them, but I might be late since I have TWO funerals to attend that morning.
I managed to play the last nine holes with two guys who help run the Cheyenne airport. Later Bob Hooper, Cody, who is president of the WAOA, called me a sandbagger. I had luckily made four long putts in the nine holes I played and ended with a pretty good score.
That evening, we joined the airport folks. There was a lot of gossip about the future of Wyoming’s home-owned airline Great Lakes. Lately the struggling carrier has seen its market share slip. This has boosted flights out of Casper’s airport according to manager Glen Januska.
His staff counts license plates in their parking lots. He says on a typical day their lots are full of cars with Fremont, Johnson and Sheridan license plates. It appears to be obvious that folks who used to fly out of Sheridan and Riverton on Great Lakes are now flying out of Casper.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books. His newest is Wyoming at 125, which is now on sale at fine bookstores. His books are available at www.wyomingwonders.com.