Enzi’s funeral celebration of faith, family, friends, fishing

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By Cary Littlejohn Gillette News Record Via Wyoming News Exchange

The casket of former Sen. Mike Enzi is saluted by a man during the visitation portion of Enzi's funeral service at the Pronghorn Center in Gillette on Friday. (Photo by Mike Moore, Gillette News Record)

GILLETTE — It never ceases to amaze just how quiet a large group of people can be. More impressive still is when they stop talking suddenly, as if a switch got flipped and turned them off.

That was the scene in Gillette College’s Pronghorn Center at the funeral for Mike Enzi, the former Gillette mayor and U.S. senator. The crowd was chattering casually and suddenly they stopped. Pastor Donavon Voigt was leading the procession into the arena, followed by Enzi’s casket and his family. From that moment on, the crowd did not make a sound, except to laugh at a touching story told by one of Enzi’s kids — Emily, Amy and Brad — or Voigt.

Moments before the service began, the delegation of U.S. senators who had made the trip by flying into Casper from Washington, D.C., to honor their friend and colleague. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Wyoming’s Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and Rep. Liz Cheney, and Gov. Mark Gordon were all in attendance, as well as numerous other senators and members, both current and former, of the Wyoming Legislature.

Voigt, in the midst of a touching sermon, told a personal story that defined the tone of the entire service as it danced between poignant and humorous.

“Mike and Diana had invited us to dinner at their home last Thursday,” Voigt said. “I left Gillette on a trip the Friday prior with definite plans to be back in town on Thursday afternoon. Robin and I still went to the Enzi home Thursday evening. I still arrived back in town, and we had dinner while one very significant place at the table sat empty. We went because we must, even now, trust in God and push ahead (a motto of the Enzis).”

They sat outside when suddenly it started to rain, lightly at first and then full-force.

“It was what we call a gully-washer, the likes of which we’d forgotten existed,” Voigt said. “All summer, we’d been praying for rain. Mike got to heaven and within four days got results.”

That got the crowd to laugh.

There were moments of that all throughout the service.

“You know they say there are only six degrees of separation in the whole universe that connects us all,” said Enzi’s daughter Emily. “Not in Wyoming. I’d say it’s two at most. But today, we’re here because of one degree of separation: my dad.”

The U.S. Senate’s chaplain, Barry Black, in a beautifully deep and resonant voice, concluded his short remarks with, “And to my brother from another mother, I say requiescet in pace.”

Translating from the Latin, he concluded, “Rest in peace.”

Enzi’s daughter Amy began by talking about how much he loved to learn, but at some point, she turned to things he enjoyed.

“Speaking of must-buy items, informercials were a form of fascination,” she said. “Many times the infomercials were quoted verbatim if the salesperson did the job well.”

More laughs.

Happy times and fond traditions were recalled. But there was no escaping the sadness that hung over the crowd.

When Brad, Enzi’s son, was nearing the end of his remarks, he took a deep breath, because he knew his next few words would be difficult.

“The thing I know, I know, know, know in my heart, the thing that he treasured most was family,” Brad said.

He told of his dad’s commitment to being there for his family.

“So dedicated, that after he’d already held three grandkids on the day they were born, he left a vote in the Senate,” Brad said.

He looked to the front row of U.S. senators.

“I think maybe got special permission from you, Mitch,” Brad said to Minority Leader McConnell.

“Got on a plane, flew overnight, drove from Denver to Cheyenne, got to the hospital on special permission, held (Allison) for a couple of hours, got in a car and drove back to Denver and flew back for the next vote,” Brad said. “He wasn’t going to miss family.”

Brad also talked of his father’s love for his wife.

“But there was no thing in this life that my dad was more proud of than his wife of 52 years, Diana,” Brad said. “Mom, I’ve never in my life seen a man more enamored, more proud, and more googly-eyed. His best friend and confidant from the day they were introduced. You only need to look at photos where he looks at you and not at the camera to remember his love for you.”

After Brad had finished speaking, an honor guard came forward to fold the flag. Before the folding began, a 21-gun salute rang out, causing many in the arena to jump despite having just been warned.

Then the lonely, haunting notes of taps rang out, crystal clear and bright. Members of the military saluted and held it while the honor guard finished the folding of the American flag into a tight, perfect triangle.

It was presented to Diana, and the audience made not one sound.

Gov. Gordon followed and presented her with the Wyoming flag as well.

To end the service, everyone joined together in song, from the Gillette Chamber Singers to those in attendance, and the family filed out from the arena to attend a private graveside service.

"God bless America, land that I love/Stand beside her and guide her/Through the night with a light from above."

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