Outdoor Report

Until the end, outdoorsman shared his love for nature

Posted 10/3/19

The Powell area lost a dedicated volunteer and outdoors advocate last week.

After drawing a Wyoming pronghorn tag earlier this year, Rich Brockie was excited for a chance to go hunting. He got his …

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Outdoor Report

Until the end, outdoorsman shared his love for nature

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The Powell area lost a dedicated volunteer and outdoors advocate last week.

After drawing a Wyoming pronghorn tag earlier this year, Rich Brockie was excited for a chance to go hunting. He got his trophy on Thursday, Sept. 26, harvesting a nice buck that evening. He toted it to his truck, climbed in the driver’s seat and died.

I only knew Rich by his first name. We talked often while both of us were on breaks from work, sharing small talk about outdoor pursuits. He worked next door to the Tribune at Big Horn Enterprises, caring for clients of varying degrees of physical and developmental disabilities. The job is extremely physical and requires a great deal of compassion and patience. Rich had what it took.

He loved hunting, fishing and everything in the great outdoors. He was happy to share stories of his adventures. I was shocked to hear of his death. And I was saddened to have yelled at him the last time we spoke.

A few weeks ago I was pulling into the parking lot at the Tribune and I saw Rich struggling to lift a large wheelchair into the back of a vehicle. I tried to run over to help, but he was done by the time I arrived. I chastised him, telling him he’d hurt himself and that he could call on me anytime he needed a hand. I’m sure he could’ve had help from a number of his coworkers. But he, by many accounts, could be a stubborn man.

That’s not necessarily a negative trait. Early in life, it occasionally got in the way, according to family. But since moving to Powell, he stubbornly refused to retire. Rich has worked for Big Horn Enterprises for the past three years. He was almost 75.

He told employees at work, “If I can’t do my job, it’s time for me to retire. And no way am I going to retire,” said Patty Paulsen, residential supervisor.

He also stubbornly refused to give up on program participants. Rich was a client favorite. He shared his love for the outdoors, often taking groups out for therapeutic adventures.

“The clients really dug him. His love for the outdoors endeared [clients] to him. He went out of his way to take them fishing on his own time, encouraging their involvement in the outdoors,” said Leif Ohman, who has been with the company for more than 20 years.

Rich not only helped build an appreciation for the outdoors among clients, but he also strived to help make their futures brighter. As one example of his dedication, Rich spent a great deal of his time with a “particularly challenging client,” Paulsen said. Rich helped the client work on a high school equivalency diploma (GED), telling the client that if they got the GED, he would take the client to visit their mother.

“Rich pushed him and pushed him,” Paulsen said. “In the end, he [the client] got his degree and with a very good score.”

Rich followed through on his promise, taking the client on a 14-hour round-trip.

He also got clients involved in the community garden. Rich would tell clients “we take from the land and you need to pay it forward, you’ve got to give back,” Paulsen said. “He impacted their lives and helped change them for the better.”

Clients took it hard after being notified of Rich’s passing on Friday. “With employees that have been here for a long time, they’re like family to participants,” Ohman said.

Rich’s love for the outdoors and dedication to service didn’t end there. He also volunteered for Polestar Outdoors, a local Christian group matching teens with mentors to learn shooting sports and fishing.

“He was heavily involved with the program,” said Ron Vining, president and co-founder of the nonprofit organization. “Any time kids wanted to go fish or hunt, he’d volunteer. He loved the outdoors and was committed to helping. He was phenomenal.”

His daughter Nicole Mattson, of Scottsdale, Arizona, said she and her sisters, Stephanie Day and Michelle Brockie, were started in the outdoors at a young age.

Growing up in Michigan, “we were raised on snowmobiles and downhill and cross country skis,” Mattson said. “We were outdoors all the time.”

Mattson said her father had gone through a transformation in his life. “In the last 15 years he changed a lot,” she said. “He developed patience and love.”

Much of Rich’s transformation, Mattson said, was due to the positive influence of his second wife, Mary K. “She’s what really ignited this passion in him to want to help people.”

It turns out that Rich did strain his back while lifting the wheelchair. And while seeking medical care, it was discovered he had pneumonia and had been walking around with it for a while. But the diagnosis didn’t stop Rich from heading out with his prized pronghorn tag in hand. He was stubborn that way, his daughter said.

“I think the pneumonia weakened his heart. Then he went out to get that antelope and it was just too much,” Mattson said.

If Rich is watching from above, he’d be thrilled his harvest didn’t go to waste. After he was found Friday morning, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Game Warden Dillon Herman collected Rich’s pronghorn, taking it to a family who’d signed up to receive meat for their freezer. Families in need can sign up at the agency’s Cody office for harvests taken by law enforcement actions and other unfortunate circumstances.

“At least he went doing what he loved,” said Paulsen.

While Rich and I were really only acqaintances, finding out more about him from family and friends inspires me. I, like many, were drawn to his kind smile, giving nature and love for the outdoors. Rich’s death leaves a vacancy in the outdoor world — one of many that desperately needs to be filled. Like Rich would say, you’ve got to give back.

Outdoor Report

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