By Bill Sniffin, publisher
GILLETTE – Friday’s funeral service for former U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi left no doubt about the amazingly high regard in which he was held in by his fellow U. S. senators.
He was loved and respected by his Senate colleagues as he was loved and respected by the people he represented here in the Cowboy State.
Some 20 U.S. senators traveled to the isolated county seat of Campbell County in northeast Wyoming to celebrate the life of their friend.
Enzi died July 26 from complications of a bicycle accident. He had retired in January after representing Wyoming in the Senate for 24 years.
About 2,000 people assembled at the Pronghorn Center at Gillette College (just off Enzi Avenue) for the Friday afternoon service.
Speakers included Enzi’s three children, Emily, Amy, and Brad. The service lasted 90 minutes and much like anything connected with Mike Enzi, it was simply elegant, well-organized, and on time.
We chatted with Mike’s wife Diana following the service. Through tears, she shared with us what happened. She said Mike was riding his bike in Gillette when his Apple watch sent a signal that something bad had happened to him.
She drove to meet him and found the police at the scene of the bicycle accident trying to revive her husband.
“They brought him back and that gave us those three days with him before he left us,” she said.
Mike and Diana were married for 52 years and had one of the best relationships of any married couple. They were inseparable.
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, called the funeral turnout unprecedented.
“There has never been a turnout of this size of U.S. senators for the funeral of an ex-senator,” he said. “This was unparalleled and it just goes to show how beloved Mike was by his colleagues.”
Barrasso described some of the problems other U.S. senators had getting to Gillette.
Because of historic congressional rules, senators are limited as to how many can travel together in the same plane or vehicle.
For some reason, Barrasso said, the federal government would not allow the senators’ planes to land in Gillette. Instead, the senators had to land in Casper and ride two hours north by bus.
In addition to Barrasso and Enzi’s Senate successor, U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, plus U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, other members of Congress in attendance included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky and Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, John Boozman, R-Arkansas, James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, John Cornyn, R-Texas, Steve Daines, R-Montana, Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, James Risch, R-Idaho, Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia.
The service was also attended by former Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Tim Hutchinson, R-Arkansas. Hutchinson also spoke at the service.
Former Wyoming Governors Matt Mead, Dave Freudenthal, and Mike Sullivan were there along with former U. S. Rep. Barbara Cubin. Current Gov. Mark Gordon and his wife Jennie played a major role in the event, including presenting a Wyoming flag to the Enzi family.
There were a great many current and former state legislators and dignitaries, including Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and State Treasurer Curt Meier. I am sure there are a great many whom I have failed to mention here.
Despite this being a celebration of a life well lived, I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. We were all mourning for Mike’s wife Diana and their three children and four grandchildren – but we were also mourning for Mike. Here was a man who took care of all of us and now he was gone. You had to wonder just how many more good works he was planning to do for us all.
It was another reminder of the mystery of life and death. And of how important it is to live each day as if it could be your last.
Mike Enzi lived that kind of life. I honestly do not know anyone who jammed more into his busy life than Mike. His presence was more powerful at that service than just about any other funeral I have ever attended.
It was a perfect Wyoming summer day to hold a sendoff for a perfect Wyoming gentleman. Although we were inside, we could tell that outside the temperatures were in the high 70s with a slight breeze and even an occasional rain shower.
Enzi’s good friend Rev. Donavon Voigt reminded the attendees that Northeast Wyoming was in a terrible dry spell, but four days after Mike passed away, Gillette received a “gully washer” rainstorm.
He also reminded us that Mike Enzi always said his guiding principles were faith, family, friends, and fishing.
On this day thousands of his friends and family members said good-bye and to celebrate a life well lived.