July 21, 1917 –Oct. 18, 2011
Mary Kathryn (Viox) Schwope passed to eternal life on Oct. 18, 2011, in Wheatland.
Mary Kay was born July 21, 1917, in Rock Springs. The daughter of Charles A. and Mary F. (Moriarty) Viox, she was raised in Green River, graduating from Green River High School in 1935. She was the granddaughter of Green River pioneers Leo and Josephine Viox and James and Julia Moriarty. She was proud of her Irish-German heritage. She lived in Cheyenne for 64 years, Sheridan for five years, and Wheatland for six years.
She worked for the Union Pacific Railroad as a timekeeper in Cheyenne from 1936 to 1945. During that time, she met E. Lawson Schwope and they married in 1940. World War II shaped the rest of their volunteer lives. They had four children: Michael (Linda) Schwope of Cowley, Fachon (Roger) Wilson of Sheridan, Camille Lione of Glenwood Springs, Colo., and Murel (Steve) Connolly of Wheatland.
Mary Kay was extremely active in the Cheyenne community, serving as a leader in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, 4-H and Parent Teachers Association. As a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, she served in all offices including Unit and State President, VA Hospital volunteer, Rehabilitation chairman coordinating volunteers at both Wyoming VA hospitals, and National Executive Committeewoman. She was recognized for her dedication to Legion and Auxiliary programs, receiving the National Four Chaplain’s Legion of Honor Certificate.
She served on the Wyoming Girls State staff for 14 years, was Girls State Director three years and served on the Girls Nation staff three years. She was both a Boys State and Girls State instructor.
Other community activities include the Cheyenne Civil Defense Council, Democratic Party precinct and county offices, Laramie County Fair Board, Cheyenne Toastmistress Club, DePaul Hospital Guild Board, the Red Cross Board, Heart Fund Drive chair and the Laramie County and Wyoming Bicentennial Committees.
She was always known as Kay to family and friends until she threw her hat (and she had a lot of great hats) into the political ring and had to register with her legal name of Mary K. Schwope. She was elected to 16 years in the Wyoming House of Representatives, serving on the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, Travel, Wildlife and Recreation Committee, the Rules Committee, the (Legislative) Journal and the National Council of State Legislatures. Among other legislation, she sponsored bills concerning hunter safety, snowmobile registration fees for trail grooming, charity pull tabs, bills requested by law enforcement, veteran license plates and Vietnam Vet UW tuition, and the establishment of the Wyoming Veterans’ Oregon Trail Cemetery.
Mary Kay was a Legislative Advisor to the Silver Haired, Jaycees and 4-H Legislatures and to Boys State and Girls State.
She was appointed by then Gov. Ed Herschler to the State Advisory Council for Vocational Education. She held memberships in AARP, Cheyenne Senior Citizens, Zonta International, Wyoming Historical Society, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Union Pacific Old Timers and Retired Railroad Employees Association, the Cheyenne Woman’s Club and Saint Mary’s Parish.
In 2000, Mary Kay was named Wyoming Woman of Distinction by the Wyoming Women’s Council. She epitomized the ideal Wyoming woman: she was informed, articulate, caring effective and always a lady. She took pleasure in our natural beauty, enjoying hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. She cared passionately about education, youth, veterans, the environment, senior concerns and the quality of everyday life in Wyoming. Our world is a better place because of her.
While listing her many civic activities, it must be remembered her greatest accomplishments came through her family. She was a loving wife and mother, a master gardener, a versatile seamstress, an adventuress cook (how can anybody make three meatless meals a day for 40 days of Lent? but oh, the desserts), a raconteur of complex tongue twisters, with a storehouse of memorized poetry and song. She and Lawson’s marriage of 61 years was a permanent commitment that resulted in an admirable partnership based upon love and respect. Their living legacy to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and all who knew them is their underlying philosophy of service to others.
Mary Kay Schwope is survived by four children, who each in their own way have served their respective communities, due in part, to the example set by their mother. She is also survived by 10 grandchildren: Chelle and Lance Schwope, Christopher and Brian Wilson, Julie Dillon, Chris Braudis and Luke Murphy, Laine Moore, Jami Maves and Ben Connolly, and 15 great-grand children: Lacy, Ben, Carson, Tanner, Mary, Alex, Jeffrey, Andrew, Ryan, Hailey, Emily, Kelly, Kevin, Grace, and Maddie. She is also survived by a sister Rosalie (Bob) Neville of Salt Lake City and numerous nieces and nephews.
Mary Kay was preceded in death by her parents, husband Lawson, sisters Helen Moerke and Josephine (Jo) Sturholm, brother Charles A. Viox, Jr. and grandson Shawn Schwope.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Mary Kay and E. Lawson Schwope Heritage Scholarship at Laramie County Community College, 1400 East College Drive, Cheyenne, WY 82007, or charity of the donor’s choice.
A rosary and wake were held at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Wheatland on Sunday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. with Deacon Terry Archbold leading. Funeral services were held on Monday, Oct. 24, at 10 a.m. at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church in Wheatland with Father Rob Spaulding officiating. Burial took place after in the Veterans’ Cemetery in Casper. Gorman’s Funeral Home – Platte Chapel was entrusted with arrangements.
Condolences may be left for the family at gormanfh.com.
She was a remarkable woman with an amazing ability to remember people’s names and a wonderful sense of humor. She was a fierce patriot, a die-hard Democrat and proud Wyomingite. She never passed up a chance to recite a poem from her uncounted repertoire, but her favorite by far was (author unknown) “Wyoming”:
Have you ever seen the sun rise on the high and rolling plain?
Have you ever smelled wet sagebrush after a sudden springtime rain?
Did you ever feel the sting and smart of gravel in your face?
Then you’ve never known the glamour of that god forsaken place,
Have you ever seen the clear cut skyline when the evening shadows fall?
When the mountains look like cardboard and you hear the coyotes call?
Have you seen the painted badlands with their yellow, red and blue?
You’ll never know how lonesome life can be until you do in
Have you seen the sand and sagebrush stretch for miles and miles away,
While down the hill and along the draws the cooling shadows lay.
It’s lonesome, it’s desolate, it’s off the beaten track.
But once you’ve caught the lure of it you’re lonesome until you’re back in
We will miss her.