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Riding with the Rangers

Jul 11, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

The death of Carolyn B. Tyler ends the long career of a pioneering newspaperwoman

Fremont County has lost one of its significant citizens. Carolyn Tyler is dead at age 77.

She worked for Riverton Ranger Inc. for 51 years and four months, including a quarter century as editor of the daily Ranger, and continued as a staff writer for a similar period after that.

She was the first woman to work as editor of a daily newspaper in Wyoming and remains one of the few. She influenced the careers of many dozens of young journalists. She won, we believe, more individual Wyoming Press Association Awards than any other person.

No Riverton resident was better known to the public over the past 50 years than our Carolyn.

She wrote countless news stories, columns, obituaries, wedding announcements, birth announcements, police, fire and ambulance logs.

She interviewed political candidates and wrote about community issues for 30 general elections, doling out assignments and checking progress of news stories via thousands of staff meetings.

She answered the Ranger telephone, greeted office visitors, and made news decisions. She manned the office on election night, logging vote totals and transcribing them on huge tote boards as excited visitors waited for the results.

She built an enormous institutional memory of Riverton and Fremont County, cultivating and maintaining confidential, secure relationships with sensitive news sources who learned they could trust her to be fair and discreet.

When it came time to break the difficult story, she didn't shrink from the duty. As a newswoman, she was tough as nails when she needed to be, and many news subjects who doubted it learned the truth the hard way. She fielded uncountable complaints, heard untold disagreements and mediated myriad disputes.

As a columnist, she made Ranger readers familiar with her Nebraska roots, her husband, her parents, her nieces and nephews, her friends and, memorably, her dogs.

She typed up tens of thousands of letters to Santa Claus, compiled detailed indices for the annual Ranger Mining Edition, and proofread tens of thousands of letters, press releases and pieces of mail.

She shot innumerable photographs and processed roll after roll of film in the dark and smell of the chemical darkroom. She combed the Associated Press wire day after day, year after year, working in close proximity to the huge, clattering teletype machines.

She embraced technology to help her do her work better, beginning with early telephone headsets, rudimentary computers and portable cameras.

She used faxes, remote computer bulletin boards and e-mail before most people had even heard of them. She adopted a laptop computer, a wireless keyboard, a wireless computer mouse, a large-screen computer monitor, a smartphone and tablet computer far ahead of widespread consumer demand for them.

And she did it all while doing daily battle with debilitating physical challenges, beginning with polio at age 20, then the lifetime of post-polio ailments that limited her mobility, her strength, the normal functioning of her body, and her energy.

These obstacles led to innovations in personal transportation for Carolyn, who had automobiles with hand-only controls, custom-made vans to accommodate her immobility, a striking electric "tricycle" that she drove to and from work for years, and finally her distinctive power chair in which she traveled the streets of Riverton.

Superseding it all were a fierce loyalty, iron-clad determination and unflagging courage that few human beings could comprehend, much less match. Many readers were unaware of Carolyn's physical trials. Those who were familiar with them marveled -- absolutely marveled -- at her willingness to keep moving forward in the face of a mountain of potential discouragement.

Even after her physical limitations required her departure as editor in 1986, she found vital ways to contribute to the daily newspaper product as a staff writer from home. She never missed a beat -- or a deadline.

Only Ranger co-founder and longtime publisher Robert A. Peck ever worked longer on the Ranger payroll than Carolyn.

No one will ever again occupy a place of such combined significance, influence and longevity on our staff.

A feature of our newspaper for many years was an opinion-page feature called "Riding With the Rangers," assembled from tidbits of commentary, humor and observations from various staff members and assembled into a single column. Carolyn, of course, pieced together that column more than anyone else.

We lost her on Tuesday afternoon. Today is the first day since early 1961 that she hasn't been a member of The Ranger news staff. But we like to think that she still is, and always will be, Riding With the Rangers.

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