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November 28, 2008 3:37 am

Mary J. Rodriguez

(Jan. 2, 1926 - Nov. 24, 2008)

Funeral Mass will be celebrated Saturday, Nov. 29 at 9 a.m. at St. Barbara's Catholic Church for Mary J. Rodriguez, 82, who died Monday, Nov. 24 at the Powell Nursing Home.

Father Glen Szezechowski will officiate at Saturday services. Rosary will be said Friday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. at St. Barbara's.

Mary was born Jan. 2, 1926, in San Bernardino, Calif., daughter of Leonides Juarez and Maria (Mata) Juarez. She attended school through the sixth grade in Juarez, Mexico. There, she married Ben Rodriguez on July 20, 1941.

The family moved to Wyoming, settling in the Lovell area in 1954 and on to Powell in 1956.

Mary was known for her cooking and loved to cook for her family. She also applied her skills as a cook at Northwest Community College for 20 years.

Her grandkids were her pride and joy, and she was a big part of their lives.

Survivors include her daughter, Janie Rodriguez Chavira (Adan) of Powell; four grandchildren, Mike Chavira of Washington, D.C., Laura Vizarraga of Denver, Theresa Chavira, stationed in the U.S. Navy in Japan, and Jennifer Chavira of Laramie; a sister, Maria Sarinana of El Paso, Texas; and many nieces and nephews in Lovell and El Paso.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Ben; and her brother, Franciso Juarez.

Honorary pallbearers include Mike Chavira, Adan Chavira, Jose Sarinana and Alex Rodriguez, Sr.

For those who wish, the family would appreciate memorial donations to the Alzheimer's Foundation.

Cremation has taken place. Thompson Funeral Home is assisting the family.

November 28, 2008 3:35 am

Elmer Sonny Ratcliff

(March 13, 1932 - Nov. 24, 2008)

Elmer (Sonny) Ratcliff, 76, died Monday, Nov. 24 at his Powell home, surrounded by family.

The Texas native had been a resident of Powell since 1973, affiliated for many years in oilfield manufacturing and cattle industries.

He was born March 13, 1932, in Liberty, Texas, to Elmer Ratcliff and Alice (Tanner) Ratcliff. He graduated from Liberty High School in 1950.

He married Delilah May Stearns July 15, 1952, in Liberty, Texas. Sonny served in the Army in a radar unit and anti-aircraft battalion.

Upon his discharge from the military in 1955, he returned to his Texas roots to begin a lifelong affiliation with the oilfield service. In 1962, the family moved to Billings where he was vice president of Continental Laboratories, Inc., developing several mudlogging instruments. The family lived in Billings and Shepherd, Mont.

In 1973, they moved to Powell where he became manager for construction and operation of Cattle, Inc. He also bought a farm two and a half miles west of Powell and started his own machine shop, Ratcliff Machine, designing and manufacturing equipment for mudlogging companies worldwide. His son, Russ, and grandson, Dusty, joined in the family business. In addition, they repaired equipment for several area farmers.

He was a member of the New Hope Southern Baptist Church, the National Rifle Association and the NWC Welding Department. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, horseback riding and singing.

Survivors include his wife, Dee; son, Russ Ratcliff (Tammy) of Powell; daughter, Sandy Ratcliff Griffin of Powell; grandchildren, Mandy (Mike) Schneider of 29 Palms Calif., Josh (Amber) Ratcliff of Akron, Ohio, Dusty (Shelly) Ratcliff of Powell, Jeanee (Kevin) O'Mara of Powell and Amanda (Daniel) Gonzales of Powell; and eight great-grandchildren, Cambria Schneider, Ashton Ratcliff, Zachery Ratcliff, Mckenzie Ratcliff, Riley Beckett, Sydney O'Mara, Olivia Griffin and Kai Gonzales.

He was preceded in death by his parents, two sisters, one brother, and one great-grandchild, Dustin Caden Ratcliff.

Funeral services will be Monday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. at First Baptist Church, with the Rev. Darwin Payton, area missionary for Montana Southern Baptist Convention, officiating. Burial will be in Crown Hill Cemetery.

Pallbearers include Robert Beasley, Josh Ratcliff, Dusty Ratcliff, Michael Schneider, Daniel Gonzales and Kevin O'Mara. Honorary pallbearers are Karl Bear, Lloyd Sullivan, Lee Stearns, Dick Stearns, Roland Munoz, Jim Bellin and Bill Powell.

For those who wish, memorials to the American Cancer Society or the Gideon Bibles would be appreciated by the family.

Visitation will be Sunday, Nov. 30 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Thompson Funeral Home.

November 28, 2008 3:34 am

AIDS still is a health crisis

Monday is the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

The purpose of this day is to bring renewed attention to the global epidemic — a worldwide health crisis that seems to have faded in the American public's eye.

In the 1980s, when the virus was first discovered, a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Now, with new medications that slow the progress of infection, and even suppress the virus, infected people can live relatively normal, disease-free lives.

Better treatment options, however, have led to a more permissive attitude toward behaviors that put people at risk of contracting the disease. Frankly, many people just aren't as scared of the specter of AIDS as they were 20 years ago.

An article early this week in the Casper Star-Tribune quotes Laurie Johnson, who works with the federally-funded Early Intervention Services, as saying, “It's not a hot topic anymore. People don't hear about it. They don't think about it so they don't use protection.”

Even here in Wyoming, where the total number of cases is relatively low — 166 people in the state were living with AIDS at the end of 2007 — the rate of new infections is increasing.

Education still is a critical component — and early testing is crucial. Anyone potentially infected with HIV/AIDS should be tested, both to avoid spreading the disease and to increase longevity. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine HIV testing for nearly all people in the U.S. Free tests are available, year-round, at the family planning offices in Park County.

Even after this year's World AIDS Day is in the past, we can't afford to forget about this disease.

For the average Park County resident, following Yellowstone National Park's winter-use plans easily could induce a headache.

As usual, Yellowstone's plans for the upcoming winter season were stuck in convoluted litigation.

Until an early-autumn ruling, Yellowstone leaders planned to allow up to 540 snowmobiles in the park each day. A district court judge in the District of Columbia voided those plans in September, prompting the U.S. park Service to create a temporary plan for only 318 machines per day. In early November, a Wyoming district court judge ordered the park to revert to a 2004 temporary ruling of a 720-per-day limit of snowmobiles.

For local winter enthusiasts, it's good news. For environmental groups, such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, it's a disappointing setback.

Grappling over winter use is nothing new — various winter-use plans have been fashioned and scrapped for a decade. Yet the back-and-forth litigation and shifting limits are time-consuming and costly, not to mention frustrating.

It's certain that environmental groups will continue to pursue options to reduce the limit of snowmobiles in Yellowstone, and it's inevitable that others will counteract such attempts.

What is also certain: A long-term plan for winter use is necessary. Yellowstone is a beloved park for many, environmentalists and winter enthusiasts alike. A long-term plan that strikes a balance between protecting the park and enjoying it in winter months needs to be established — one that will stand for years to come.

November 25, 2008 5:54 am

Snowmobile battle poised to continue

New temporary plan draws ire of conservationists

Plans for the upcoming winter season in Yellowstone National Park are set, but the long-term picture remains as foggy as ever.

The more than decade-old conflict over snowmobiling in Yellowstone reached a temporary stalemate Nov. 7, when Wyoming District Court Judge Clarence Brimmer ordered park officials to allow 720 snowmobiles per day until a new, permanent rule is drafted.

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During Sample the Season in downtown Powell on Friday evening, Augusta Larsen pauses to peer at a tree adorned with all things Barbie. Dozens of locals voted on decorated trees and sampled holiday treats from main street businesses. Tribune photo by Kara Bacon

Reserve money to keep scholarship commitment

While falling stock prices seem a long way off for some Wyomingites, their effects hit closer to home than many realize.

One of those effects is the erosion of the endowment fund invested by the Northwest College Foundation to help pay for scholarships at the college.

But college and foundation officials say they have no plans to reduce the number or dollar amounts of scholarships next year.

What currently serves as a barley field eventually will become Centennial Park, possibly housing a miniature golf course, a sledding hill, a rock climbing wall or a skate park — or a combination of those attractions and more.

Powell residents are helping determine what will be offered in the park's 10 acres.

Last week, locals and city officials shared their ideas with the park's design firm, Peaks to Plains Design of Billings, and engineering firm, Inberg-Miller Engineers of Powell.

“Be sure to dream big,” Peaks to Plains landscape architect Jolene Rieck told Powell folks.

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Trapper Jordan Harris (4) launches a shot during Northwest College's Friday matchup with Williston State College during the first night of the First National Bank and Trust Shootout in Powell. Harris finished the two-day tournament with a total of 42 points. Tribune photo by David Dickey

Youth and inexperience led the Northwest College Trappers to a 1-5 record during its first six games this season.

However, it was the coming together as a team and new-found confidence that helped the Trappers plow through a pair of top-notch opponents in the 19th annual First National Bank and Trust Shootout at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in Powell last week.

NWC, a team that boasts a lineup consisting of 11 freshmen and only three sophomores, put its recent, youthful woes behind and looked more like a veteran squad during convincing victories against Williston State College Friday and Northeastern Junior College Saturday. Both teams entered Powell with winning records, but neither was able to topple the Trappers.

November 25, 2008 4:02 am

Lady Tetons push NWC in overtime

Northwest 2-5 after weekend tournament

During the span of a week, the Northwest College Lady Trappers endured more than their fair share of adversity.

On Saturday, Nov. 15, the team's bus suffered a breakdown on the interstate as the squad was returning from the Air Force Prep Tournament in Colorado. That caused the team to arrive home a day later than expected, and the after effects spilled into the early portion of last week.

With that in mind, NWC head coach Chad Oletzke said the Lady Trappers (2-5) were ready to simply return to the court and play, which they were scheduled to do Friday in the opening round of the Lady Trapper Tournament in Powell. The problem, however, was the Lady Trappers had no one to play.

Friday's opponent, Salish-Kootenai College, backed out of the tournament the morning of the event. The result was a forfeit victory for the Lady Trappers, but the downside was that NWC missed a valuable opportunity to play.

NWC finally got to compete Saturday against the Williston State College Lady Tetons, but the result was far from what Oletzke had hoped for his team, which lost a 74-63, overtime decision.

“It was a weird week,” Oletzke said. “We had the deal with the bus, which put us behind during the early part of the week. We struggled through Monday as everybody got caught up on school work, and we were practicing for Friday. When Friday got here, the girls didn't find out that we weren't going to play around 1 or 2 p.m.”

When NWC did get to play, Oletzke said his team had trouble maintaining any type of consistency.

“We struggled to get anything going,” Oletzke said. “At times we had players trying to make things happen, but we just couldn't get any consistency. Even when we took a six-point lead (26-20) into halftime, I felt like we should have been up by more.”

The game remained close throughout, thanks in part to turnovers. Both teams struggled to take care of the ball from start to finish. WSC committed 24 turnovers, while NWC finished with 30.

“It's hard to win when you have 30 turnovers,” Oletzke said. “That makes it that much harder.”

WSC tied the game at 30 with 14:15 left in the second half, but it took the Lady Tetons until just under the 12-minute mark to claim its first advantage of the half at 40-37. The lead changed hands five times after that, and WSC held a 54-53 advantage with 3:53 left in regulation.

The Lady Tetons added a 2-point basket for a 56-53 lead before NWC's Erin Cooke trimmed the deficit to 56-55 with 1:24 left on the clock.

Following Cooke's basket, both teams endured turnovers before WSC's Whitney Sundheim hit one of two free throws for a 57-55 advantage.

With 29.7 seconds left, Cooke answered with a clutch, 2-point basket. Both teams each had one final possession before regulation ended, but neither team could break the 57-57 deadlock.

In overtime, NWC opened strong with a quick basket by Sheena Ryan, but the Lady Tetons answered by outscoring NWC 17-4 the rest of the way.

For NWC, Cooke finished as the leading scorer with 18 points. She was followed by Ryan (13), Gita Grava (9), Madara Upeniece (8), Larissa Crump (5), Lacey Gilmer (5), Rachel Tilley (2), Kassi Tucker (2) and Kati Oliverson (1). Grava led the rebounding effort with 12 boards, and Ryan and Cooke each added seven.

WSC had three players finish with double-digit scoring efforts, including Amber Adams (21 points), Sundheim (20) and Kristen Bearstail (11).

• Up next: The Lady Trappers will be in action again Friday and Saturday in the Snow College Thanksgiving Classic. During that tournament, NWC will face Yavapai College Friday and Treasure Valley Community College Saturday.