By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter
One could almost always expect to see Clarene Law’s friendly face inside the office behind the front desk of the Antler Inn motel in Jackson. If she wasn’t in her office, she could often be found cruising around Jackson in her emerald green 1976 Cadillac.
Law, 89, died Wednesday at St. John’s Health in Jackson.
She was much more than an owner of the Antler. A self-made millionaire, Law oversaw about 400 rooms, also owning the other Town Square Inns of Jackson and co-owning a hotel in Lander with state Sen. Cale Case and served in the Wyoming Legislature for 13 years.
Case, R-Lander, said Law’s kind demeanor and ability to make friends on both sides of the aisle is what he’ll remember most of her time in the Legislature.
“Everyone loved her,” Case said. “There was nobody that would call her an enemy. She bridged the gap in a huge way.”
“Kindness Toward Everyone”
Longtime lobbyist Jonathan Downing said he first met Law when he was a page in the Wyoming House in the early 1990s and was struck by her kindness toward everyone, especially those who disagreed with her.
“She set a standard for decorum and polite civil manners when dealing with tough issues,” Downing said.
Law bought the Antler in 1962, a time when women less frequently owned businesses. During a 2019 podcast interview with Wyoming Humanities, she spoke of how important it was for her to be a positive influence for other women as a business owner.
“Everybody wants to be at the top of the mountain, but you don’t get there all at once,” she said. “You have to know that someone cast you a rope along the way.
“I want to be somebody that can be that rope. I think that’s what women can do to help others – show it’s possible in a difficult environment. Provide a positive environment for young women.”
She also was a member of the Legislature from 1991-2004 and on Jackson’s first zoning commission, her local school board and a number of state tourism boards.
Protocol And Respect
During her 2019 interview, Law said protocol and respect are the two biggest changes in the Legislature since her time there.
“Respecting the process, civility and respect for each other,” Law said. “I think there’s a lessening of that respect for both parties.”
A center-right Republican, Law chaired the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee and created the Cultural Trust Fund with the late Cody Sen. Hank Coe.
“It’s done so much good,” she said. “I’m so proud of the Cultural Trust.”
Law told Wyoming Humanities she was an advocate for immigration reform and loved the visa workers she employed like family.
She won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wyoming Business Report and the Wyoming Women of Influence, the Wyoming Business Person of the Year and the Jackson Hole Citizen of the Year. She’s also an inductee in the Wyoming Business Hall of Fame.
“She was especially sensitive about the way Wyoming worked and Teton County worked. She did that so well,” Case said.
“Made The Sun Shine”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said he had known Law since he was in high school.
“I was attending my first state Republican convention back in 1974 and we had been close ever since,” Driskill told Cowboy State Daily.
“Clarene made the sun shine on Wyoming,” he said, noting that he never heard her say a bad word about anyone.
He said that in 1990 when Wyoming was celebrating its centennial, the state didn’t buy enough complimentary gold coins for attendees at the celebration.
Because state officials were not going to make up for the lack of coins, Law bought them herself so no one would go away empty-handed.
Gold was selling for $800 an ounce, so it was not an inexpensive purchase.
He said his wife Zannie still wears one of those coins around her neck.
“It’s a prized possession,” Driskill said.
“Who We Should Aspire To Be”
U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis described Law as a successful businesswoman, gifted legislator, and devoted community servant.
“She conducted herself with grace and class as she navigated her business and political life, always offering a hand up to those who needed it,” Lummis told Cowboy State Daily.
“Above all else, she was a woman of great faith. Clarene was the type of leader and human being we should all aspire to be. She was a dear friend and a woman I admired greatly.” Lummis said.
Case remembered how Law, a deeply devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave him her free alcoholic drink tickets at a particular event.
Law sat across the aisle from Case during the start of his first stint at the Legislature in 1993. Less than two years later they became business partners, opening The Inn at Lander together.
They remained partners through good times and bad, keeping the business afloat through recessions and personal struggles. Law sold her stake in the business in 2021, but was still working at the Antler as recently as 10 days ago when Case’s son and mother saw stopped in and saw her.
According to the Jackson Hole News and Guide, her son, Steve Meadows, said his mother “meant a lot to the community over the decades because she gave so much.”
“She passed peacefully with her loved ones all around her,” Meadows said. “We were honored to have had her as our mother, grandmother, friend.”
Debbie Pummel, a longtime leader in Wyoming’s tourism industry and state regional director of sales for Safari Timberline Hospitality, said she had planned to visit Law on her upcoming trip to Jackson. She has known her since 1995.
“I admired her for several different reasons, but mainly for the instrumental part she played in Wyoming’s hospitality industry,” Pummel said.
Pummel worked with Law while she was a chair of the Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee and always saw each year at the governor’s annual conference on tourism.
As a legislator, Pummel said Law was always upbeat but firm in what she stood for.
“She’s an amazing lady,” she said.