It started with the death of a former student who had grown up to be an exemplary adult. He had become a successful businessman and an exemplary contributor to his community. He was a volunteer EMT and was Greybull’s fire chief for two decades. In that role, he had been working to prepare the town for possible flooding the day before he died.
The community filled the Greybull High School gym for his funeral. Firemen from around the region also attended, and their equipment lined the route of his procession to the cemetery.
He died much too young.
The next week, I attended another funeral, this one for a woman close to my age. I did not know her, but her brother and sister had been my students, and another brother was part of a group of friends that I joined for nights of friendly poker playing for many years.
The next week, a former colleague and longtime friend died. He had taught, coached and officiated basketball and football at four Big Horn Basin high schools over the years, and was a regular spectator at regional and state basketball tournaments. He died while in Casper for the A and AA state tournament. He also loved music, and had sung sacred music in groups with his children and in a gospel quartet for many years.
His funeral filled the Riverside High School gym in Basin.
Interestingly, the three funerals were quite different from one another. At the first, a minister delivered a sermon and hymns were sung, but otherwise, it was not a religious service. The second was a solemn Christian service conducted according to Lutheran liturgy.
The third was filled with music, punctuated with scripture readings and family reminiscences. Along with two congregational hymns, family members provided the music, and the service ended with a lively gospel song that drew applause from the mourners.
We were on our way home from the third funeral when I found a message on my phone. It was CJ Baker telling me that a body had been found and it was probably that of Gib Mathers.
I first met Gib when he came to Basin to edit the Republican Rustler. I had moved to Powell and was no longer working for the paper, although I was still sending them the predecessor of this column. I didn’t get to know him well at the time, but after he moved to Powell, our paths crossed several times before he came to the Tribune to work.
Gib called himself a loner, and I suppose he was. But he was a dedicated worker, who worked hard on the stories he covered. He was almost always at his desk writing when I arrived for work, and if he wasn’t, you knew he was out somewhere to research an article he was working on. He had the mistaken belief that he could not take good pictures, so sometimes he asked me to go with him and do the photography while he gathered the information he needed to write a story.
Gib had a quirky sense of humor, and was especially adept at coming up with puns that he would drop into the conversation. I never knew him to laugh out loud, but you could tell he was amused by the sly grin on his face and the twinkle in his eyes. He may have been a loner, but he was a good friend, and I’ll miss seeing him when I drop by the office on occasion.
Fortunately, my stream of sad events ended last week when I reported to the cancer center for my quarterly visit. There I was told that there was no sign that the myeloma in my bones was returning. That means I’ve been in remission for 2 1/2 years.
I’m looking forward to more.