Obituary - Steven Mackey
September 2, 2011
Local attorney and long-time Pinedale resident Steve Mackey died at his home Saturday, Aug. 27; he was 65.
A gathering honoring Steve will be held today, Tuesday, Aug., 30 at the Sublette County Library from 3 to 5. Friends are invited to share memories and tall tales, especially if the stories involve large fish.
Born in 1946 in Laramie to John and Sally Mackey, Steve, the model middle child, moved to Pinedale with his two sisters when he was five years old. He attended schools in Pinedale graduating in 1964. While in high school, Steve played football and was on the ski team. Most teachers remember Steve for his practical jokes and winning smile.
He attended the University of Wyoming where he was a member of the ski team. During those years, he was also selected to spend one semester as a Field Representative for the U.S. Antarctic Research Program in the Antarctic in 1967. While there, he was honored to have Mackey Rock, located off the coast of Marie Byrd Land, named for him. Returning to college, he graduated in 1969 with a major in political science and then earned a law degree in 1972.
Steve worked as a law clerk with a firm in Washington D.C., served as staff attorney with Legal Services of Laramie County, practicedlaw privately in Cheyenne from 1975-76, served as a Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Wyoming and successfully argued two criminal cases before the Wyoming Supreme Court. In June, 1978, he began practicing with his father in the law office on Pine Street.
Steve married his college sweetheart, Marilyn Hughes,in 1973; after living various places in the state, they settled in Pinedale in 1978 where they raised three daughters: Julie, Jennifer and Bonnie, all of whom graduated from the University of Wyoming and have earned or are pursuing advanced degrees. Steve’s family loved hiking, backpacking, fishing, and riding horses with him in the summer months. During the winter, Steve took his family cross-country and downhill skiing, snow machining and ice fishing to name a few of their activities. Steve and his family roamed far and wide to such places as Lake Mead, Lake Powell, Yellowstone and up and down the west coast. After the girls moved away from home, Steve and Marilyn were able to enjoy several road trips and especially enjoyed visiting Victoria Island, British Columbia and biking around Moab, Utah.
Steve was a believer in participatory government and, as such, spent much time attending meetings to share his vision of Pinedale’s development. He was a lifelong member of the Wagon Wheel Information Committee and expressed concern about air and water quality conservation. He spoke out at many local government meetings regarding such issues as street renovation and subdivision development. He supported the recent ballot issue to increase the size of the county commissionand also attended legislative redistricting hearings.
Steve is survived by his wife of 38 years, Marilyn; daughters Julie of Cheyenne, Bonnie of Pinedale and Jenny Vincent and her husband Aaron of Riverton; grand children Annie and Chad Vincent; his mother Sally Mackey; and sisters Susan Riske (Don) of Cheyenne, and Molly Olson (Ken) of Hays, Kansas. In addition, many beloved family members including brothers-in law, sisters-in-law, and nieces and nephews were important in Steve’s life. He was preceded in death by his father, John Mackey, in 2007.
Those who knew Steve well commented that while you could take Steve out of Pinedale, you never could take Pinedale out of Steve. From the moment he set foot in this area, he couldn’t get enough of the outdoor life. Much of his knowledge of hunting, fishing and trapping was learned from his father and they spent many hours during Steve’s early teenage years enjoying those sports. One particular morning when Steve was in junior high, he and his father drove to the Hoback, shot and dressed a moose, and retuned home in time for Steve to get to school.
In a similar fashion, Steve taught his daughters to appreciate the outdoors. Julie says, "It was my dad’s love for the mountains and his joy for fishing that I am blessed to carry with me. I have the fondest memories of him: downhill ski trips to Jackson and Targhee, hiking and camping in the Winds, taking my sisters and me to new fishing holes then making us promise not to share the secret spots with others."
Bonnie remembers, "My dad taught me to be responsible. For example, if you’re going to have a horse, it needs food and water. He taught me how to check the oil in my car and to make sure the tires had enough air pressure. He taught me to be independent."
"More importantly, he showed me how to love the simple things in life. He showed me that all you really need is a good hook and some hiking boots. Every time he hooked a fish and had me reel it in, he showed how much he loved me. And every time he took me and the horses to the mountains, he showed me how to be at peace," Bonnie added.
"I can tell you one thing," says Jenny, "My dad did not teach us about Barbies, dress-up, or ballet. He never let having three daughters deter him from disclosing the locations of favorite fishing holes, the proper way to skin an elk, or how to check the vitals of a vehicle. He made sure we knew how to ‘step’ our feet together in just the right way to glide gracefully down a freshly powdered slope. He generously showed us how the most delicate jig, just as the worm touched the bottom of the lake, could hook a monster fish."
Jenny adds, "As his ‘true brunette’ and the middle child, we had a special bond that yielded secret trips to Jackson Hole and private lessons on how to win an argument which, of course, backfired during my teenage years. Dad wanted me to dream big and shoot for the stars all the while teaching us to be realistic. He fully embodied honesty, loyalty and a strong work ethic."
Steve’s life was further enriched when Jenny married Aaron Vincent, bringing another male voice into the family. "Steve and I spent a lot of time together hunting fishing, sight-seeing, driving around and talking," remembers Aaron. "Out of all our hunting and fishing trips, we have a cow elk and an 8" rainbow to show for it. I often wondered if the only reason we took a gun or pole was to justify being away. In fact there were times when one of us forgot a gun and we had to share one between us. Our trips were more about spending time together. Sometimes Steve and I would ride for hours to get to a great hunting spot or lookout. When we got there we sat watching the sunrise and marveling how lucky we were to be there."
Aaron continues, "There were even a few times when we got bucked off, got a horse stuck upside down in a creek or got a truck stuck. Those were fun times too. Last year Steve broke some ribs when Black decided he didn't want him on his back any more. Steve and I were several miles down a wash-boarded, beat-up gravel road. Before we left Steve took a big gulp of Beam and drove his new pickup as fast as he could to pavement. I hate to say it but I chuckled as I watched him drive."
Steve’s friends, young and old, were vital to his Pinedale life. As a child, Steve and his buddies shared the best of times digging to China on the beaches of Fremont Lake with Judd Faler at their shared 5th birthday party, running away with Robbie Sievers to camp on the shores of Pine Creek, and learning to trap muskrat and beaver from Steve Neely were some of his early adventures. One Thanksgiving morning he presented his mother with one of his catches, a porcupine, because she’d told him she’d always wondered what they tasted like.
Living across the alley from the famed Skinner family, Steve always considered himself the 7th brother. As such he learned about skiing, camping at Burnt Lake, outdoor survival and how to get through college while enjoying life.
He followed Sonny Korfanta up Fremont Peak the first time when he was 9 and continued to follow Sonny up many more mountains including the Grand Teton. His mother Sally says his most challenging trek up Fremont Peak was in 1994 when he led six women (three daughters, one wife, one mother and one sister) and a female dog to the summit in honor of Sally’s 73rd birthday. Marilyn remembers that going up was relatively easy but that Steve had his hands full getting his mother, sister and Marilyn herself off the peak. "The three of us slid on our backsides on the descent and wore holes in our jeans. It was dark when we finally got off Fremont before Steve could heave a sigh of relief," Marilyn said.
Steve’s sisters can tell lots of good stories about their brother. Molly’s is best; it’s aboutthe summer the she and Steve set off to Alaska to seek their fortunes lured by tales of great wealth. "About 40 years ago my big brother Steve asked me if I wanted to go to Alaska with him and a friend. Of course I said yes because that’s where my mother and father met during the war and they had a special love for Alaska that they passed on to their kids. "
"We ferried the car to Fairbanks," continues Molly, " and from there we headed to the Kenai Peninsula where we were gillnet fishermen for 3 months. We had dreams of becoming rich, which didn't pan out. We didn’t catch many fish but we learned how to mend nets. Steve and his friend would cast nets off the beach. I was the cook and learned how to fix Salmon 50 different ways, usually with a lot of Miracle Whip. Steve would tell us stories about bears and his eyes would get huge. One night he was convinced there was a bear outside our cabin and he kept checking all night. Stevetook good care of me and I'm grateful he included his little sister on his adventure."
Every life is too brief, and Steve’s was no exception. Even though he’d accomplished so much in his 65 years, it’s when you get to know his independent and self-confident daughters that you can see what a tremendous man he was. Some say the measure of a man can be found in the character of his children; if this is so, one needs only to look at Julie, Jennifer and Bonnie to see the essence, power and goodness of Steve Mackey.
Those who wish to make a donation in Steve’s memory, can select the Steve Mackey Memorial, White Pine Resort, P.O. Box 190, Pinedale, 82941; Garrett’s Palms, P.O. Box 153, Boulder, WY 82923; or the charity of their choice.