2016 can suck it. This is a year we have lost more legends than normal. Bowie, Prince, Ali, Gary Marshall…. these are all heavy hitters, – there’s another we just lost. He didn’t sell a million records and he didn’t win an Oscar, but he was well known among many, and he was loved and respected by all who knew him.
Mike Mahoney was the son of an Irish immigrant, a sheep herder, who grew up in Casper and he was my grandpa.
I can’t speak much for his time in the army, growing up during the depression, and herding sheep as a child, though he always told the best stories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I can tell you the strength and the character he exuded was a bar set high. He raised four kids, as a single father, in the 60s. He was a gym teacher, a referee, and a driver’s ed instructor. But to me, he was grandpa. He taught me how to fish, he tried with all his might to teach me to ski, neither of us knowing that I had a brain condition that made balancing on water behind a boat damn near impossible. He did teach me to drive both a car and a boat, but he also bought me my Ken doll because he was tired of me making him walk with my Barbie down the aisle, and he did walk her down the isle many times. He gave me my first taste of beer, and it was awful -Schlitz, so I didn’t go near beer again for a very long time. He is also who my daughter is named after. Something my shy little girl seemed to understand when she last saw him.
The man never sat still for long. Maybe a few minutes under a tree at the lake smoking his pipe before jumping up to water the grass or mow it or work on some project that needed to be done. He was a master at MacGyvering things. My first fishing pole was a willow branch with fishing line tied to it. I caught quite a few fish with it too.
Because he was a teacher for 41 years and because he taught half the state of WY how to drive, everyone knew him. Everyone. We could be eating lunch near the Tetons and you would hear, “Mr. Mahoney!!” Or my favorite: sitting in a boat in the canyon (which I have a fear of btw) after we have just hit a large rock and the boat that was taking on water before (which caused it to sit lower in the water thus hitting said rock) was taking on more water now. We looked at each other and he immediately grabbed the life jackets. There were two good ones and three of us in a boat. And one of us sinks like a bucket of lead in the water. My grandpa was so athletic and so coordinated there was nothing he couldn’t do…. except swim. His body just didn’t float. So while I’m looking around for the nearest spot in the canyon I could get us to, I hear “Mr. Mahoney! Is everything ok?” They threw us a rope and towed us back. This was common though. His former students were always happy to help if needed. Or just happy to see him and catch up. He was loved by so many people, he was respected by everyone, and he deserved respect. He did anything needed to help others. He raised four kids on his own and made sure they knew they were loved and that they had good quality time together, with him, and each other. The kind of man you could always rely on. He filled his kids and grandkids with memories and life lessons that we could fill books with. Above all – he was honest, hard working, he loved his family, and sacrificed whatever needed for those he loved. Mike Mahoney wasn’t just a great man or a hero, he was a legend. And the fact that we lost him in 2016 proves that.
“O Fare the Well old Casper Town I am Bedding you adue/For its maney the Windy Day I spent between old Salt Creek and You,” John J. Crowley