GILLETTE – Friday’s funeral for former US Senator Mike Enzi left no doubt about the very high esteem in which he was held by fellow US Senators.
He was loved and respected by his colleagues in the Senate just as he was loved and respected by the people he represented here in Cowboy State.
About 20 US senators traveled to the remote county seat of Campbell Country in northeast Wyoming to celebrate the life of their friend.
Enzi died on July 26 of complications from a bicycle accident. He retired in January after representing Wyoming in the Senate for 24 years.
About 2,000 people gathered 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 like everything Mike Enzi related it was just sleek, well organized and on time.
We spoke with Mike’s wife Diana after the service. Through tears, she shared with us what happened. She said Mike was riding Gillette’s bike 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 it gave us those three days with him before he left us,” she said.
Mike and Diana had been married for 52 years and had one of the best relationships of any married couple. They were inseparable.
US Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, called the funeral attendance unprecedented.
“There has never been an attendance of this size of US senators for the funeral of a former senator,” he said. “It was unprecedented and it shows how much Mike was loved by his colleagues.”
Barrasso described some of the problems other U.S. senators have had in getting to Gillette.
Due to historical rules of Congress, Senators are limited in the number of people who can travel together in the same plane or vehicle.
For some reason, Barrasso said, the federal government would not allow senators’ planes to land at Gillette. Instead, the Senators had to land in Casper and travel two hours north by bus.
In addition to Barrasso and Enzi’s successor in the Senate, US Senator Cynthia Lummis, as well as US Representative Liz Cheney, other members of Congress in attendance included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky and the Senses. 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 followed by the old Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Tim Hutchinson, R-Arkansas. Hutchinson also spoke on the service.
Former Wyoming Governors Matt Mead, Dave Freudenthal and Mike Sullivan were there along with former US Representative Barbara Cubin. Current Governor 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 large number of state legislators and dignitaries, current and former, including Secretary of State Ed Buchanan and Treasurer of State Curt Meier. I’m sure there are a large number that I failed to mention here.
Although it was a celebration of a life well lived, I felt a tremendous sense of sadness. We all mourned Diana, Mike’s wife, their three children and four grandchildren, but we also mourned Mike. Here was a man taking care of all of us and now he was gone. You had to wonder how many more good works he planned to do for all of us.
It was another reminder of the mystery of life and death. And how important it is to live each day as if it could be the last.
Mike Enzi lived that kind of life. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who was more involved in his busy life than Mike. His presence was more powerful at this service than any other funeral I have ever attended.
It was a perfect summer day in Wyoming to praise a perfect Wyoming gentleman. Although we were indoors we could tell the temperatures outside were in the 70’s with a light breeze and even an occasional downpour.
Enzi’s good friend, Reverend Donavon Voigt, reminded attendees that northeastern Wyoming was in a terrible drought, but four days after Mike died, Gillette received a rainstorm.
He also reminded us that Mike Enzi always said his guiding principles were Faith, Family, Friends and Fishing. That day, thousands of friends and family said goodbye and celebrated a life well lived.