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Obituaries: Blackwell; Brisson; Ekstrom; Greenwalt; McCracken; Wilson

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F. Gerald Blackwell

F. Gerald Blackwell: 1944 – 2024

F. Gerald Blackwell was born on September 10, 1944, in Mendenhall, Mississippi to Philip Arden and Hazel Cordell Blackwell. He was the baby of the family but for only a short time as his twin, Eddie Harald, ruined that status. Through his life, Gerald was called by many different names including: dad, Mr. Blackwell, Jerry, Geeg, The Geeg but his most favorite name to be called was GG, which stood for or Grandpa Gerald. GG was the absolute best grandpa to his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so many others, making it only fitting for his last breaths to be taken while he was surrounded by his family and the song “Grandpa”, by the Judds played. Gerald cruised to heaven during the late morning hours of March 1st as the Wyoming winds were whipping through Fruit Heights, Utah. 

Gerald grew up in Cleveland, Mississippi, with two older brothers, Philip Jr. and Wendell, an older sister, Louise, and his twin. He did not grow up with monetary wealth but he was rich with love and family. 

School came easy to Gerald, as did athletics. Gerald was an exceptional athlete, excelling on the football field and basketball court at Cleveland High School. Gerald attended Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, where he majored in mathematics, was a proud GDI (if you know, you know), and served as class president for a year. 

During his freshmen year, he wrote a letter to his girlfriend’s uncle, who was a U.S. Senator, with the hopes of getting a summer job with the federal government in Mississippi or another southern state so he would still be close to his girlfriend. Gerald did get a job with the National Forest Service, but it was in McCall, ID, a meager 2,057 miles away. That summer brought Gerald many things but little did he know a simple bet with a local girl, Ann Harwood, about jumping into Payette Lake, would lead to finding the love of his life. On June 25, 1967, Gerald married Ann; they remained married until her death in 2021.

Upon graduating from Delta State the couple moved to Seattle, Washington, for Gerald to work at Boeing, where he helped develop the glue which holds the panels on the 747 wings. It should be no surprise to anybody that his favorite part of this job was running over the panels to test the glue. After living in Memphis, Tennessee, Gerald attended graduate school at Mississippi State University where he studied engineering. Upon graduation, the couple lived in Mobile, Alabama, but ultimately made Cheyenne their forever home in 1973. 

That same year, Gerald began working for the State of Wyoming, Department of Environmental Quality, Air Quality Division (DEQ).  After over 33 years, Gerald retired from DEQ and started an asbestos company with his son, David.  They worked together until Gerald decided to really retire.

Gerald had a lifelong love of sports whether he was playing or watching them. Gerald took pride in refereeing high schools sports and helping to coach his children’s sports teams. When he wasn’t coaching he was ALWAYS there cheering his kids on, very loudly. He was also a faithful fan of the Denver Broncos and Wyoming Cowboys.

While family was his first love, restoring and playing with antique cars was not far behind. He would frequently purchase old rust buckets that were sitting abandoned in a field and restore them.  There wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix with a little WD-40, bailing wire and/or duct tape.  For this reason, his children apologize to anybody who purchased a vehicle from him. His love of antique cars was shared with his children, grandchildren, friends and strangers. He was a long-time member of the Oak Spokes Antique Car Club, serving as the President many times. He organized and participated in countless national antique car shows where his cars often placed in one of the top spots. He loved cruising in his old cars and showing off his new toys, which would arrive frequently.

GG took great pride in being a member of the Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) Contract Acts Committee for over 40 years; initially as a chuck wagon race judge then checking IDs at the beer tent. It is unclear which assignment he enjoyed more because as a judge he had the privilege to meet many famous people, but at the beer tent he was closer to the beer. He was a staple in the CFD parades with his “Cheyenne or Bust” car.  He was like a little kid when he was preparing his car for the parade; covering it in mud, tying all the decorations on and, most importantly, borrowing a rooster to display on the back of the car. PETA can rest easy now, this is an end of an era and no roosters were hurt through the decades of partaking in the parade while attached to the back of the car. Gerald donated the final version of the “Bust” car to the Old West Museum so it may be part of CFD memorabilia forever.    

Gerald never met a stranger and would provide a helping hand to anybody he could. He was kind and generous to all and taught his children these traits through his everyday actions. He would give the shirt off his back to anybody in need with no expectation of anything in return. He made the people he met better for just knowing him and the world better by being in it.  He was all the good things in this world that we need more of. 

Gerald will be greatly missed by his two sons and daughters-in-law, Jeff and Tammy of Fruit Heights, Utah and David and Alicia of Cheyenne; one daughter and son-in-law, Beth and George Pitt of Cheyenne; two granddaughters, Toni (Chris Hopper) and Payton (Riley Pontillo); four grandsons: Zac, Chase, Trey (Alex) and Keenan; four great-granddaughters: Chloe, Scarlet, Evelyn, and Dottie; and one great-grandson, Truxton. He will also be missed by his brother, Phillip Jr., of Atlanta, Georgia; sister, Louise Tidmore, of Drew, Mississippi; many nieces and nephews; and too many friends to count that are considered family. 

He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 54 years, Ann Blackwell; his parents; brothers, Wendell and E. Harald; brothers-in-law A.C. Tidmore and Stan Harwood.

A celebration of Gerald Blackwell’s life will be hosted by his family on May 4, at the Cheyenne Frontier Days new Event Center.  Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. and services begin at 2:00 p.m. Wear jeans and a car or beer related shirt in honor of his love of both and his typical daily attire. 

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in his honor to the Davis Hospice Center, Black Dog Animal Rescue, or plant a tree in memory of Gerald.

Having grown up poor, Gerald was known for being painfully cheap and generally based his decisions, big and small, on the cost.  Therefore, his children have decided to not be cheap with his obituary.  We hope those of you who have wondered what the F. at the beginning of his name stood for now know. We love and miss you dad!

Michael Lawrence Brisson

Michael Lawrence Brisson: 1968 – 2024

Michael Brisson of Cheyenne. Peacefully passed away on April 16, 2024 at Davis Hospice Center surrounded by his loving family.

Michael was born February 11,1968, in Cheyenne, Wyoming to Jerry and Patricia Brisson.

Mike was the proud owner of Brisson Siding. His favorite things in life were the Kansas City Chiefs, the Colorado Rockies, Rock and Roll music, and most importantly his granddaughter “Quackie.”

Some of his most memorable times were spent at the lakes fishing. He loved his family and enjoyed spending time with them all. They will forever cherish all the good times they shared together.

Mike is survived by his wife, Bernice; children: Mikey, Breanna, Jerry Jr. (Jasmine), Audrey (LaVonne), Martha (Roybal); grandchildren: Mariah, Zoie, Ashlynn, Ilianna, Tavin, Nova, Aaron and A’niyah; mother, Patricia; siblings: Mary (Josh), Jolene (Jeremy), Gina, Tammy; and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Mike is preceded in death by his father, Jerry Brisson; daughter, Amber Brisson; and grandparents, Edward and Elizabeth Brisson; and grandmother, Dorothy Moralez.

Vigil for the deceased will be held on Monday, April 22, 2024, at 5:00 p.m., in Wiederspahn-Radomsky Chapel.

Funeral Liturgy will be held on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, at 10:00 a.m., at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Burial to follow at Olivet Cemetery.

Verna Nadine Ekstrom

Verna Nadine Ekstrom: 1925 – 2024

On April 15, 2024, Verna Nadine Ekstrom (known mostly as Nadine) passed away peacefully when she was called home to the lord. She was born on November 10, 1925 to Roy and Florence in Pocahontas, Iowa. She grew up on a farm and enjoyed the outdoor life and had a special affinity and love for farm animals and pets.

After graduating from high school in 1943, she moved with her sister Fern Lorraine to Omaha where she got a job during the war working at the Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Manufacturing plant assembling bombers for the war effort. She was a true “Rosie the Riveter” as she worked to assemble and rivet the covering to the aircraft wings. At the end of the war, she worked as a bank teller and attended church at First Covenant Church in Omaha. Here she met Arthur Ekstrom who had just recently returned from the war in Europe. Nadine and Authur married on October 19, 1946, and had her first child Cheryl in August 1947 and her second child, Gary, in June 1949. They remained in Omaha to work and raise a family until 1963 when they relocated to Cheyenne, Wyoming.

While living in Omaha, Nadine was a housewife and mother. She also became the church organist at Bensonvale Covenant church when it opened in the 1950’s. She was always active in the church and her life was characterized by a love of music, cooking, baking, and reading. She found herself with an “empty nest” in the summer of 1967 and decided to look for employment. She obtained an administrative position within the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and worked there for years. She was always a generous financial supporter of multiple Christian organizations, of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the local animal shelter.

Nadine took her responsibilities very seriously in raising her children. She wanted very much for things to go right for the family. She cared enough to expose the family to the right things and in doing that they learned to value honesty, respect, good manners, a sense of order, and stability in the home that many others did not have. She taught them to be conservative and not wasteful, and to value quality because it will endure.

Nadine leaves behind to honor her life brother, Richard; daughter, Cheryl Candiracci; son, Gary Ekstrom; grandchildren, Michael (Cherry), Amy, Peter (Casey); great-grandchildren: Nicholas, Mikayla, Ariana, Dallen, Bradly, Morgan, Colton and Alyssa; and great-great-grandchildren: Rosie, Charlotte, Micah, Brennick and Paisley. She was preceded in death by her parents, Roy and Florence; husband, Arthur; sister, Fern Lorraine; and brothers, Roy and Harry.

Dean Robert Greenwalt

Dean Robert Greenwalt: 1950 – 2024

Dean Robert Greenwalt, age 73, of Cheyenne, Wyoming, passed away on April 15, 2024.

Dean was born on June 30, 1950, to Robert D. Greenwalt and Florence I. Schild in Fort Collins, Colorado.

As a child, Dean enjoyed various church activities and was heavily involved in 4-H for many years, participating in livestock shows and livestock judging. Dean attended Fort Collins High School and was an active member of Future Farmers of America during those years, culminating in the achievement of earning the State Farmer degree. Dean graduated from Fort Collins High School in 1968, and he went on to pursue a B.S. in agricultural business at Colorado State University, graduating in 1972. Dean soon returned to college and graduated in 1978 with a Master’s in public financial management from American University.

Dean began his lengthy career with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), formerly called the Farmers Home Administration as a student intern in 1970. Upon graduation, he started his first job at USDA as an Assistant County Supervisor, kickstarting a five-decade long career from which he retired as Regional Underwriter in 2021. Dean also had a passion for real estate and consulting, leading to the formation of his own business, Greenwalt & Associates, in 1987. He had continued working part-time for Greenwalt & Associates up until his passing.

In 1971, Dean married his best friend, Lizabeth Jo Yancey, in Fort Collins, Colorado; a marriage that would last a lifetime. He and Liza had recently celebrated 50 years of marriage in 2021. Dean and Liza spent the first years of marriage enjoying only each other’s company and later had two children, John Douglas Greenwalt and Rachel Louise Greenwalt. Dean was a loving husband and doting father. There was nothing that Dean would not do for his family. In later years, he became a proud and loving grandfather. Dean was a much-cherished husband, father, and grandfather and will be deeply missed.

Dean carried this compassion for his family to all those he met. Dean was involved in Toast Masters and Kiwanis. He was kind-hearted and wanted everyone around him to be happy. Dean was truly loved by all.
Dean was preceded by death by his parents, Robert D. and Florence I. Greenwalt (Schild); and his son, John Douglas Greenwalt. He is survived by his wife, Lizabeth Jo Greenwalt; daughter, Rachel Louise Greenwalt; and grandchildren: Rebekkah Jane Greenwalt, Samuel Douglas Greenwalt, and Nathaniel Robert Greenwalt.

Esther E. McCracken

Esther E. McCracken: 1932 – 2024

Esther E. McCracken, age 92, passed quietly at Davis Hospice, Cheyenne, Wyoming, surrounded by her loving family.

Esther was born on March 7, 1932, in Cheyenne, Wyoming to John and Mollie Hehr.

Esther was a pharmacy assistant and professional house wife and, more importantly, a mom to her children. She enjoyed bowling, crocheting, sewing, quilting and pottery making. She and her husband, Roy, enjoyed traveling, camping and fishing, and could often be found in the Wyoming outdoors.
She was a kind gentle soul, shy and quiet, more of an observer. She loved her family and friends very much. For those who knew and loved her, she will be greatly missed.

Esther is survived by Helen (Ken) Roylance of Cheyenne; Royeden J. McCracken, of Cottonwood, Arizona; Linda (Roy) Beaver of Cheyenne; and brother-in-law, Dan Akeman. She loved her five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

Esther was preceded in death by her husband, Royeden E. McCracken; sister, Helen J. (Fred) Dicks; and brother, Ruben (Edna) Hehr.

Esther has been cremated and a private family service will be scheduled at a later date.

She now resides where struggle and suffering is a thing of the past. She is at peace.

Barbara Jean Wilson

Barbara Jean Wilson: 1945 – 2024

Barbara Jean (Grisbee) Wilson lost her battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on Monday afternoon, April 15, 2024 in Cheyenne. She is survived by her brother, Steve Grisbee; her children: Angela Wilson (Aaron Johnston), Wayne Wilson (Pam) and Wyatt Wilson (Tara), of Cheyenne; as well as six grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild, with one more on the way; along with, nieces and nephews and several cousins. She was preceded in death by her father, John Grisbee; mother, Dora (Grisbee, Lemaster) Bowles; and youngest brother, Gregory Lemaster.

Barb was born in Deadwood, South Dakota, July 19, 1945 and raised in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Her first love being a two-year-old filly, she raised and trained and named Angel. In her usual style, bucking the western Quarter-horse mania, Barb and her beautiful, quick little half-Arabian took many ribbons and trophies in local gymkhanas and competitions. Angel, Barb, her mom, and brothers, were founding members of the Cheyenne Saddle Tramps, lifelong friends of John and Maxine Easterwood. And, in true Frontier Days, western heritage celebration style of the Wild West and the history of Cheyenne, in those days a Tent City was set up in Holiday Park for a month each year. There were shops and a blacksmith and even a saloon, where Barb’s then-husband, Marvin Wilson, tended bar and was a member of the Gunslingers group of the day, who put on a daily show or two—Barb and Angel were the only team that could give a convincing performance as the “bandit that was shot off her horse,” without injury or incident. These things prepared her well for her time at the USPS as a rural letter carrier, a Real Estate agent, and for the trials and tribulations of being a single mother raising three kids and, later, for her fight against cancer.

When asked, “What do you think should be included in her obituar,” all of her family answered, “You have to say how big hearted she was” and “how tough she was.” Here is a story that says just that:

After undergoing a knee replacement, hip replacement, and beating ovarian cancer, Barb was told she had a heart arrhythmia, which was later diagnosed as a bad mitral valve. It was decided that she was a good candidate for a fairly new procedure called a Mitral Clip, that avoids open heart surgery by scoping in through an artery and installing a clip on the valve to restore proper operation. But, once inside, the doctor discovered there was just too much calcification and the clip would not work, it would have to be open-heart surgery. One week later. She kept a stiff upper lip facing the ordeal before her with that constitution of hers— of which she had enough for 2 or 3 people. She was prepped and ready for surgery, they wheeled her away to the OR. The doctor had explained to Wayne and Wyatt, her sons, that the procedure should take about 4 to 4-1/2 hours. 6 hours later… the OR nurse came in the waiting room, telling them that mom was doing well, and that there had been more calcium build-up than they originally thought. It would be just another hour or so. 2-1/2 hours later …her surgeon came into the waiting room, obviously exhausted, beads of perspiration still on his brow and neck, and sat down next to them, and said, “the surgery was successful, she has a new pig valve and is recovering on the next floor up”. As the doc was leaving, he turned and said, “8-1/2 hours on the table and not a single problem, that is one tough little lady”. Now, due to the longer duration of the surgery, the hospital staff said she won’t come out of the anesthesia until the next day.

When her sons visited as she was waking up, there was some disorientation, but the staff said she would continue to become more alert after little while — bear in mind she was still intubated and on a breathing machine, she could not talk. They asked questions and she was able to answer by blinking once for no and twice for yes. After a lot of blinking and frustration she began moving her hand in little circles and kind of waving it around. Wayne realized she wanted a pen and paper. Unable to move or see very much, her penmanship was barely more than scribbles. With more blinking, frustration and some serious deciphering, her sons were able to make out what she wrote… “how are you two holding up?” Let that sink in.

Lying there in a hospital bed, tubes coming out of everywhere, a machine still breathing for her, sternum sewn together with titanium thread, having undergone tremendous trauma on the OR table for 8-1/2 hours…her chief concern was… the wellbeing of her sons! That was a sight. Two burley-looking, bearded, grown men standing at her side, smiling and crying, the sudden realization that, in every sense of the word, she was…and will always be…a loving, caring, devoted and amazing mom.

Open heart surgery was just a speed bump. About a year later, during a routine blood test, they discovered markers for leukemia. At the hospital it was discovered, the disease was advancing quickly and she was rushed to Anschutz Medical and Cancer facility in Denver. Diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, which is one of the most aggressive leukemias, she was there and under treatment for 27 days, where she recovered mostly, then transferred to a rehab center for another 20 days. She finally got to go home after being away for 47 days. She continued chemo treatments every 4 weeks for 6 months and was in remission, no sign of the cancer (just that awful chemo, as she would say). She was able to reduce the infusions to 6-week intervals and take a 3 month break for the holidays, because the treatments made her feel so terrible. The cancer was in remission for almost 2 years when the treatments quit working, and any other treatments available would have been too harsh for her. She decided she wanted to go home, where her family took turns staying with her and caring for her. She faced each day with that unwavering constitution, good humor, and unbelievable strength. The pain became enormous and she never broke.

She passed away peacefully in her sleep with her loved ones there. The entire family would like to extend special thanks to Angela and Aaron who did so much to make it possible for her to be at home.

Graveside service will be held Monday April 22, 2024 at 1:00 p.m. at Lakeview Cemetery with celebration of life to follow at The Cheyenne Shrine Club, 224 E Iowa St. Cheyenne, WY 82009.
Refreshments will be provided.