Al Renneisen — who raised his family in Newcastle, served as a court reporter in northeast Wyoming and was a former member of the Jackson Hole News&Guide partnership group — succumbed peacefully to pancreatic cancer Sunday at his Jackson home. The bright-smiling student of life marked his 70th and last birthday in Jackson Hole during the August eclipse.
Family and friends prepared the following:
Al loved his family and wife, Julie Renneisen. He was kind, especially to children. He loved it when something, whatever it was, was pure; he could hit pure golf shots. He liked good food and drink, and he loved to laugh.
He could spend long hours doing hard work, which helped him as general manager and then co-publisher at the Jackson Hole Guide and in management at the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
He liked to read and talk about philosophy and quote the likes of Nietzsche. He was curious about the universe and its inhabitants. His mid-career, 18-year job as a Wyoming court reporter placed him squarely in one of society’s main philosophical crucibles: the judicial system.
Al worked with Judge Terrence O’Brien, who is now a circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit. Al took his job seriously, and O’Brien noticed — not just his work ethic, but also his engagement.
“He was quite interested in philosophy, particularly ethics, about which he was well-read and ever capable of informed discussion,” O’Brien said. “He was a dedicated, disciplined and conscientious court reporter.”
When he moved to Teton County to help run the Guide, owned by in-laws Fred and Liz McCabe, Al would need his philosophical background, work ethic and patience. Renneisen stepped into a job as general manager of a paper covering a busy town and competing with a cross-town rival.
The job was unrelenting, but Renneisen used humor to keep perspective. In his office he kept a drawing of a grizzled cowboy on the range. The cowboy states: “There were a helluva lot of things they didn’t tell me when I hired on with this outfit.”
Alfred J. Renneisen Jr. was born in 1947 in San Jose, Costa Rica, to Soledad and Alfred J. Renneisen Sr., who was then serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Al moved to Cheyenne as a boy when his father was transferred to F.E. Warren Air Base.
Grandparents, parents and seven siblings lived in the Renneisen home.
“We were a big family raised in a small house,” Renneisen wrote in November. “Somehow that physical closeness helped create friendships and attachments that we share today.”
Al’s love of golf began on the F.E. Warren course where he worked in the pro shop. Many Wyoming evenings, Al was charged with retrieving practice balls that had been hit so errantly they landed beyond the easy collection area of the driving range. Using only his left hand, Al would drive the balls back into the short grass, building a sweeping swing that had at its core a fencer’s balance.
The arcing motion helped Al win the Wyoming Jaycee Tournament as a youth and play late into his last summer.
He loved hitting and watching others hit “pure” golf shots. They brought glimpses of fleeting human grace and nobility. Whether on the course or in the town, Renneisen believed many people had more pureness in them than they were able to let out.
Renneisen graduated from Cheyenne Central High School in 1965 and attended the University of Wyoming, getting what he described as “a great education.” He played for the Pokes golf team.
He later studied court reporting in Denver.
Al married childhood friend Julie McCabe on June 7, 1975, in Cheyenne, and the couple honeymooned in Jackson. They raised four children — Steve, Shane, Lindsey and Catherine — primarily in Newcastle and Gillette. Catherine graduated from Jackson Hole High School.
“Julie gave me strength, purpose and joy,” Al wrote. “What could have been chaos became order. Her love didn’t make me perfect, but her love was perfect.”
Al worked as a carpenter for four years before starting as a Wyoming court reporter in eastern Wyoming. The legal work offers a glimpse into Al’s kindness.
In 1991, Rhonda Officer started as a court reporter in Gillette, and Al served as her mentor.
“While reporting school taught me how to write, Al taught me how to be a reporter,” Officer said.
He helped her with the technical intricacies of the job, found ways to bring laughter into the day, helped her deal with lawyers and judges and served as sounding board when she needed to “hash over some of the craziness that happened in our courtrooms.”
“But probably most of all, Al gave me confidence to do my job,” Officer said.
Officer became friends with the Renneisen family, who also proved caring. They “were always supportive of me and my young children,” Officer recalled.
In the 1990s, Fred and Liz McCabe needed help with the Guide. Fred’s health was declining and the paper was suffering from internal instability while competing against the Jackson Hole News.
The McCabes asked Renneisen to serve as general manager, and he moved his family to Jackson in 1996. He eventually worked as co-publisher with Liz McCabe.
Along with oversight of the businesses, including the McCabe commercial print shop and commercial and rental properties, Al helped at the Guide with copy editing, laughed with staff as he cooked Milk Can Stew at the summer party, spent late nights helping foreman Dan Fauver keep the presses running, swore at the unethical and complimented a well constructed sentence.
Before Fred McCabe died in 1997, he asked Al to “help take care of Liz.” No small task.
Renneisen helped the News and Guide merge in 2002. Al continued to work in management, eventually retiring from the community newspaper business in 2005.
Although he stepped away from the office, he remained in the paper’s partnership group and continued to help Liz take her weekly Valley cover photo.
“Liz gave more than you could give her,” he wrote.
After Liz died, Al and Julie travelled; they couldn’t see enough of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Though they had ties to Montana, Colorado and other parts of Wyoming, the Renneisens remained in Jackson.
Even as his final days approached, Renneisen remained a humble student and philosopher — learning what death had to teach.
“Life is fragile, more so than I ever realized,” Al wrote. “I guess time will tell if I did some good in my life, but I give thanks for family and friends.”
Al is survived by his wife, Julie; four children: Steve Renneisen of Gillette, Shane Renneisen of Laramie, Lindsey Morrison of Ft. Collins, Colo., and Catherine Jones of Belgrade Mont.; seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren; his mother, Sally Renneisen of Cheyenne; six siblings; and a large extended family in Costa Rica. He was preceded in death by his father and a brother, Art Renneisen.
The family thanks the Jackson Hole caregivers who helped Al during his final months. In lieu of flowers, donations may go to the St. John’s Medical Center Foundation to support oncology care.
A private celebration of Al’s life will be held in the summer.