NEWSMAKER OF THE YEAR 2012

By on December 26, 2012

Hail Mary! Reverend Mary Erickson

Mary Erickson

Mary Erickson. (Photo by Mary Grossman)

Faced with a perceived threat, Reverend Mary Erickson was compelled to act. As a mother of two kids, she felt immediate maternal instincts to protect impressionable children from the graphic imagery used by anti-abortionists which included militant members of Operation Save America. Her day job as an assistant priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church had given her the experience she needed to rally others, to organize the fears and aspirations of a group and direct them for good. Her vocation taught her hate is always fought best with love.

Jackson Hole United was formed in the face of the second coming of right-to-life protesters, including Pastor Mark Holick and his church along with OSA volunteers. Intimidated by a recent State Supreme Court ruling in the pro-lifers’ favor, Town of Jackson officials allowed their special events permit with some restrictions. It was obvious someone needed to step in and step up. It was Erickson, and others, who answered the call and provided Jacksonites with a quiet leadership that brought cohesiveness to a fractured community.
When OSA brought its repugnant revival to the town square during Elk Fest, its shock-and-awe campaign was met with civility, compassion, and love. Red-shirted proponents of fire and brimstone were calmed by the soothing ‘blue’ band of tight-knit locals who refused to let their town be hijacked. It was inconceivable that any one person or group could unite such a disparate clutch of citizens, yet here were 2,297 believers dedicated to a movement bigger than Facebook, each ready to pledge an allegiance to their kids and their community.

And the good reverend tended her flock with grace.

“I don’t think I anticipated it having as big an impact as it did. I think it was one of those perfect storm kind of things. The situation met the need,” Erickson says. “I like the fact that we allowed it to be what it needed to be, we agreed that it had to happen and grow organically.”

Still, Erickson acknowledged any inclusive group was going to have its own internal strife. There would be divisiveness. There had to be. JHU is made up of pro-lifers, pro-choicers, political lefts and rights, religious followers and the secular-minded. Each JHU member brought his or her own beliefs and baggage, and that was OK as long as members remembered the golden rule. When their emotions ran raw, when fear and hatred provoked rash rhetoric, they needed to be coaxed back on the path.

“We did have a lot of that on the Facebook side of things. [JH Weekly] was a target of that,” Erickson says. “My sense is to step in when things get ugly and remind people what we are about. It’s OK to disagree but not to get ugly. We may come from different places and backgrounds, but we should all be coming from a place of compassion and understanding. We respect our right for free speech and JH United is an open site intentionally. But we have a mission and goal. We don’t want to shut people up, we just want them to express themselves in a respectful way.”

Erickson admitted she continues to be somewhat surprised by how quickly the group came together and how it has now grown bigger than the issue it was born of. During the wildfire that threatened Jackson, anger occasionally surfaced again, nearly unraveling the threads of community. Some JHU members took up refuge in their safe place. The recent school shooting at Sandy Hook was another example of how horrid the world can be and once again a pacificator was needed to pilot our disquiet into calmer waters. Erickson, a gifted writer, penned an eloquent piece on the JHU Facebook page.

“I’ve had a lot of people tell me that [JHU] has continued to be a reminder for them to try to get back to that place of understanding and compassion for one another,” Erickson says. “The fact that this group has continued to grow shows the need in this world today for all of us to find a way to move back to a civil place when we are hurt or our emotions run high. If we can do that as a community then maybe we can have an effect globally.

“I don’t think it is over, I just don’t know where it’s going. There’s too much need for it in today’s world.”

THE YEAR IN REVIEW:
What a year. For Fatima Andrea Gurrola Tzompa, it officially began on January 1 at 2:31 p.m., after her first gulp of oxygen and the first time she’d opened her eyes in forever. The healthy eight-pound baby girl of Vianney and Julio was the firstborn of the year in Teton County. Ten days later, after falling 15 feet from a second story building he was working on in Grand Teton National Park, Byron Peck, 33, became the first Teton County death in 2012.

JANUARY
Teton County School District No. 1 began the first round of several declarations that would rile some residents. After enduring irresponsible dog owners for as long as they could, officials at the school district announced (Jan. 24) they would be banning dogs from their grounds. This included use of the pathway around the athletic fields, where town and county authorities never had nailed down easements or definitive ownership. TCSD No. 1 also initiated rhetoric concerning year-round school – which it couched as a ‘balanced schedule’ – and introduced parents to a breathalyzer wand it hoped would curb dirty dancing at school parties.

Grizzly 399, in no hurry to den, continued to put on a display for its fans, foraging around Ditch Creek and Triangle X Ranch well into the new year. Wildlife, it appeared, were adapting to global warming faster than humans.
On the political front, the ‘Occupy’ movement was still a news item. Ten Sleep singer-songwriter Jalan Crossland got himself arrested at one such sit-in in Iowa of all places. Foster Friess began the first of his contributions to the Rick Santorum Super PAC.

Comings and Goings: The Settlers’ Club was formed by core members of the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum as a way of bonding together interests in canning and preserving some of the valley’s old stories and traditions. Travis Walker’s Factory Studios celebrated its first anniversary and Habitat for Humanity’s executive director Terri Marino stepped down to move to Hawaii.

FEBRUARY
Without a doubt one of the year’s biggest bombs dropped in February when a jury found Troy Willoughby not guilty of the first degree murder of Lisa Ehlers on February 10. Willoughby was granted a retrial by Judge Timothy Day even after an initial conviction and appeal was upheld by the State Supreme Court, when improprieties were discovered at the first trial. It took jurors five hours to erase a 26-year-old case and free Willoughby. Willoughby’s attorneys would later sue Sublette County Prosecutor’s Office in September.

February seemed to launch a war on wildlife. A lioness was captured in Cache Creek. Game & Fish eventually captured her three kits as well and the whole family was shipped off to the Lander area. Indian Trails homeowners spotted a pair of wolves in their subdivision. Photos and video of the lost lobos hit Facebook and authorities launched into action, killing the grey wolf and never locating the other one. And February was deadly for moose – five were hit and killed on Teton Village Road prompting community members there to rally by erecting several silhouette moose decoys and buying a variable message sign.

February proved deadly for backcountry users. Longtime member of Teton County Search and Rescue Ray Shriver was killed when the helicopter he was riding in went down near Togwotee Pass. Pilot Ken Johnson survived with minor injuries. TCSAR was responding to a snowmobiling accident that claimed the life of 53-year-old Steven Anderson of Morris, Minn.

Two weeks later, Jack Loxtercamp, 35, of Sauk Centre, Minn., triggered a slide on Drag Race Hill near Togwotee Mountain Lodge. He did not survive.
And was that Jamie Foxx riding a horse near Bar BC? Yup, Django Unchained began shooting in Jackson Hole.

Comings and Goings: Olympian Resi Stiegler announced her big comeback at the beginning of the month. Yet another crash would sideline her for the year in March. A new roller derby league formed in Jackson with a team called the Juggernauts. Elk Attack also took shape for the first time onstage and Big R announced it was coming to Jackson. The new Center for the Arts ED Cindee George made her presence felt early. A month after assuming the post, she canned Doug Henderson and Don Kushner. Factory Studios shut its doors on Gregory Lane.

MARCH
In some ways, March was a month to forget. Jackson lost backcountry legends Rando Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer in an avalanche on Ranger Peak in GTNP. Romeo’s blogspot TetonAT buzzed with the news and then condolences. The duo had been skiing the backcountry together since 1996. They were found a few hundred feet from one another in a massive debris field.

Later in March, Sally Francklyn nearly joined them. On March 24, the 24-year-old fell on Once is Enough, outside the boundary of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. She sustained substantial brain damage but after awakening from an 11-day coma she battled back to appear at her own benefit in November.

Nora’s was finally acknowledged for its exquisite fare with a James Beard Foundation award and Dom Gagliardi’s The Rose bloomed at the old Pink Garter spot on its way to becoming the night club of 2012 with its inventive cocktails and imaginative entertainment bookings.

Is that Tim Trefren from Thayne on the History Channel’s Top Shot? It sure was, and he almost won the whole thing.

Comings and Goings: Triangle X remains with the Turner family and gets a 13-year extension on its park concessionaire lease. The Snake River fund tapped Rebecca Reimers as its new executive director and ED Lokey Lytjen announced her retirement from the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum after 16 years at the helm.

APRIL
April was for the birds. Falconer Jason Jones was cited for extra raptors in his possession at the Teton Raptor Center beginning a year-long court battle with WG&F. The raptor center was also taken by surprise when its ‘osprey cam’ nest along Fish Creek was usurped by a Canada goose. The goose got her gander up every time the osprey tried to take it back, so the osprey started in on building a nest from scratch a few hundred yards away. It blew down in a storm.

Feeling her pain, or just worried that she was putting sticks on a power pole, Lower Valley Energy crews built her a brand new nest just in time for laying eggs.

Comings and Goings: Pop star John Mayer dropped in with Nathan Dean and the Damn Band at the Cowboy Bar for a set of smokin’ blues. Marti Halverson was named national committee woman for the state GOP and Lou Hochheiser was tapped new CEO of St. John’s Medical Center after a nine-month nationwide search for Pam Maples’ replacement.

MAY
Pro-life demonstrators returned to Jackson fresh off their State Supreme Court victory. They brought their message to the town square for Elk Fest and were met with a united front of citizens intent on meeting the outsiders with civility, compassion and love. They also faced a certain rabid Mets fan.
Jackson Hole United donned their blue shirts and squelched the invading army of red shirts by remaining calm and preaching compassion. It was pretty much a non-event save the impressive effort to unite a community which continues today.

Grand Targhee Resort was voted the best-tasting water at the 21st annual Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems Technical Conference and Industry Trade Show. The Bridger-Teton NF offered the Town of Jackson a chance to purchase 10 of its acres on North Cache. That deal never went down but another real estate purchase did: Liz Cheney, Dick’s daughter, bought a home in Jackson Hole sparking rumors that she intended to run for office in Wyoming.

George Hoffman, 33, perished in an early morning house fire in Victor.

JUNE
While the nation watched Colorado burn, the Fontenelle fire begins south of Jackson. It raged all summer. A microburst blew down power lines and trees in downtown Jackson including a toppled pine into the Painted Buffalo Inn.
Maria “Masha” Sergeyevna Rumyantseva, 18, of Kaliningrad, Russia, fell to her death on the North Rim of Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Later, climbing ranger and former avalanche forecaster for YNP, Nick Hall, 34, fell more than 3,000 feet to his death while assisting climbers on Mt. Rainier.

A security guard in GTNP claimed he was attacked with a blunt instrument at a party in the park. Christopher Dascoli later admitted he faked the whole thing. The inaugural free Jackson Hole LIVE! concert series kicked off with The Dunwells on June 28. Jennifer Tennican debuted her documentary, Stagecoach Bar – an American Crossroads.

News&Guide co-publisher Liz McCabe died at her home in Moose on the 22nd. She was 101.

Comings and Goings: Jim Roscoe shocked his own Democratic Party when he announced he would not run again for the House. Chamber of Commerce director Tim O’Donoghue tendered his resignation. The restaurant Local opened in the old Cadillac space. A griz thought to be a cub of the famous No. 399 was struck and killed by a motorist in GTNP.

JULY
Fourth of July fireworks were cancelled due to the continued dry summer. Artist Greg McHuron died and real estate agent and town planner Michael Pruett nearly did as well. Pruett crashed his motorcycle mid-month and was in critical condition for a while.

Park rangers were busy with rescues and recoveries. A 31-year-old seasonal member of a BTNF trail crew, Eric Tietze, fell to his death while scaling the Grand. Justin Beldin of Benicia, Calif., also plunged some 1,000 feet in a fall down Northwest Couloir off the Middle Teton. The 27-year-old did not survive. And Matt Jenkins of Seattle, Wash., was killed in a single vehicle accident in Victor. The 27-year-old was an instructor with Teton Science School’s AmeriCorps.

Comings and Goings: A mysterious poster began popping up around town and on Facebook. It featured the picture of a lady’s cruiser with the headline: “Sorry I took your bike.” It was an instant classic, going locally viral in days. Greg Miles announced he would drop out of the race for town council. The library unveiled its new children’s wing and the country music bash scheduled for Targhee was cancelled by the promoters Knitting Factory.

AUGUST
The National Elk refuge turned 100 amidst detractors who feel the feeding program should be discontinued. The John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway also turned 40. First lady Michelle Obama made her first-ever appearance in the Hole, speaking to a large crowd at the Snow King Resort.
A poorly-attended primary resulted in a few political surprises, bouncing longtime councilor Mark Obringer and hailing Hailey Morton as a fresh new face. Rumors that Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake had wed in Jackson Hole were just that. The pathway was finally completed linking bikers and walkers from Jackson to Jenny Lake. Sharop Khudayberganov of Davenport, Iowa, crashed his rig coming down Teton Pass, spreading talcum powder all over the place.

Comings and Goings: True Value shuttered with rumors that Jackson Whole Grocer would move into the space. Jeff Golightly was tapped as the new director for the Chamber.

SEPTEMBER
The Horsethief Canyon Fire dominated our attention beginning September 12. Ignited by a Little Horsethief subdivision resident alleged to be James Anderson, the blaze grabbed headlines for a week before a Type II team knocked it back from the doorsteps of Jackson. Later, a fire in Rock Creek would have residents in Red Top Meadows on evacuation alert.

A freak bike accident led to the death of Robert Verhaaren. The 42-year-old cyclist was participating in the annual race from Logan, Utah, to Jackson (LOTOJA) when he veered suddenly and spilled over the Snake River Bridge into the water. Speculation was that he may have been distracted by the billowing smoke of the Horsethief Canyon Fire as he drew near.

Araceli Mascarenaz was found dead, face down in a tub of water at C-V Ranch. Joseph Schultz of L’Anse, Mich., was busted for running a makeshift meth lab near High School Butte. Filmmakers the Dyers – Stephen and Jonah Lisa – were enjoying their success with Hysteria. It played to local acclaim during Frank Londy’s Indie film fest.

Old Bill’s raised a record $8.4 million. Dan Smitherman was featured in JH Weekly on the 5th talking about preserving the Wyoming Range and the PXP drilling threat to the Noble Basin. A month later to the day that story appeared, a deal was struck to buy out the leases.

OCTOBER
Wyoming took ownership of its wolves from the feds and established an inaugural hunt. A buyout deal was announced to halt PXP drilling in the Noble Basin/Eagle Prospect area. 1% for the Tetons Film Fest launched. Dancing with the Jackson Stars packs the house at Hotel Terra for the Children’s Learning Center. High Country Linens burns a little… again.

Jay Winns crashed his truck coming down Teton Pass. The 36-year-old from Hines, Ore., did not survive. Justine Bruteig, a 79-year-old artist from Kelly, crashed her vehicle into the Hoback River. She was rescued and survived until Nov. 10, when she died from her injuries. And well-known Alexander “Sandy” Zvegintzov, 73, died while hiking Glory Bowl. He had a heart attack.

NOVEMBER
Teton County showed up in droves for the general election. Surprises include Paul Perry being bounced after a half-term with the board of commissioners and journalist Jim Stanford lands a spot on the town council with Morton.
A six-day search for a downed plane ends with the discovery of Myles McGinnis’ body in the cockpit. The 63-year-old crashed his Cessna in the Upper Hoback and was killed on impact. Sally Francklyn was awarded $58 hundred dollars for injuries she sustained while skiing earlier in the year. The award was given by the “The High Fives Foundation – Winter Empowerment Program Service.”

Jan and Ann Bates announced they were closing Teton Steakhouse immediately, right before their traditional free Thanksgiving Day dinner. Elk hunters shoot and kill an adult male grizzly in Grand Teton on Thanksgiving Day.

DECEMBER
Wyoming Whiskey finally goes on sale on 12-1-12. It sells out quickly with mostly positive reviews.

Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson dances ‘Gangnam Style’ to promote youth involvement in a more financially responsible government. USFS announces a desire to explore a forest merger – the biggest of its kind – with Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee. Local electeds don’t like the idea.
The world does not end on Dec. 21, and JH Weekly staff is forced to finish this issue. Crap! We were counting on that.


About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.

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