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Three taken, leaving us behind

Jul 28, 2013 - By Randy Tucker

These are the kind of occasions that leaves us to ponder the imponderable.

Near the end of Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Cat's Cradle," a dialogue takes place between God and Man.

"What is the purpose of all this?" Man asked politely.

"Everything must have a purpose?" replied God.

"Certainly," said Man.

"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.

And He went away.

In many ways these brief phrases sum up our existence in this mortal plane, leaving many, perhaps most of us, at times pondering what life is all about.

We were away from Riverton for the last week or so with a few days in Indiana and the following week with our daughter Staci in Pittsburgh. You assume that home forever remains the same but in our absence the social fabric of our Fremont County community was rent with change.

A long, brave fight with the heartless bastard that is cancer took one, an ailing and broken heart another, and the third came in "bolt from the blue" fashion on a lonely stretch of Utah Interstate highway.

Three women, in various stages of life, are no longer with us physically but will always remain in the hearts of those whom they loved, and who loved them, and in the people they touched.

Kara was the youngest of Jerry and Rosalie Clemetson's three children. In circumstances unique to life in our rural setting they were intricately entwined with us in many circles. I coached her middle brother Brian in basketball and coached with her older brother Cory in football, and I had Kara as a student at Shoshoni. I worked with Jerry, and my son Brian was her nephew Tyler's football and track coach.

When Kara married Curt Paxton in 1994 the circle widened a bit. Curt and his brother Rick epitomized the ideal of the worthy opponent to my players and myself as they competed for Basin and then Riverside High School against the Shoshoni Wranglers. You couldn't ask for a more open, honest and competitive pair than the Paxton boys, and those traits merged perfectly with Kara's in their three sons, Easton, Treyton and Parker.

Kara's long battle with brain cancer was and remains an inspiration to thousands of people. The loss of a young, loving mother to this horrible disease at the early age of 38 is one of life's imponderables.

Broken hearts sometimes follow broken bodies. In another of life's imponderables, Lory possessed an open and giving heart. Yet her own physical heart, along with the pain of losing husband Gene just two weeks ago were too much for the diminutive woman.

At 6-4 Gene towered over Lory physically, but the couple had the persona of enthralled teenagers for nearly half a century.

Lory always looked out for others and never considered herself first, no matter the situation. I often greeted her with "Hello, Mrs. Franklin," just to get her ire up a bit. She was Lory to everyone, young or old, and always a person worthy of any confidence, the kind of person who exuded trust and caring.

She cared for her own immediate family but extended that care to her church and beyond to the community as a whole. Her life was a tribute and a testament to living simply and taking care of the little things. In the end, it is the little things that matter the most in our lives.

You can spend hours and sometimes people spend the rest of their lives trying to comprehend events that go beyond reason. If I had left five minutes later, if I hadn't forgotten my keys, if the aircraft wasn't full... I wouldn't be here today.

It was one of those incomprehensible events that took my friend Judy from us last weekend on a stretch of I-80 just across the Utah border. No one may ever know why the other driver crossed the center line.

Judy made an impact wherever she went. Her husband, my late friend Jim, often joked, "I was looking for the wildest thing in Jackson Hole and I found her," much to Judy's pretended chagrin.

Jim and Judy were our friends instantly since their arrival in Riverton from Lovell and Pinedale in 1989. Along the way their three children Todd, Troy and Tara became close friends as well.

Judy had an opinion on many subjects and was always willing to share that opinion with anyone feisty enough to challenge her. While Jim and her son Todd often referred to her as "Eva Braun" for her sometimes extreme statements, she was at heart a grandma, delighting in Todd and Troy's young families.

Judy loved life, loved children and had a profound impact on the students she helped in her days with the financial aid office at Central Wyoming College. Staci and my wife Sue spent a now-treasured long afternoon at Judy's home just two weeks ago.

Right or wrong, I often judge people by how their children behave and the role they take in the world as adults. Judy and Jim should be proud of Todd, who soon takes command of an American nuclear submarine; of Troy, an intelligence specialist in the US Army and now working in Europe as a consultant; and of Tara who is one of the most successful and prominent young attorneys in the United States, working from her office in Cheyenne.

In the words of the Randy Travis hit "Three Wooden Crosses," I guess it's not what you take when you leave this world behind you, it's what you leave behind you when you go.

These three women leave legacies that help transcend the imponderable.

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Editor's note: Staff writer Randy Tucker is a retired educator and administrator.

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