Circling the Square

Brothers Henry Tomingas and Byron Tomingas celebrate with their mother, Hailie, at a surprise party for her 96th birthday. The Tomingas brothers are Jackson Hole natives.

Hallie Morrison Tomingas Gunn was 7 years in 1930, the year her family came to Jackson.

Her father, Marvin Mayes, was an electrician hired to build the Upper Flat Creek Power Plant. After 10 years the Mayes family relocated to Nevada, except for 17-year-old Hallie.

Hallie was a voracious reader, as was Homer Richards’ oldest son, Jim. All through high school they thought they would marry, but the World War II pilot was killed in battle.

Hallie married a brilliant and handsome man from Gillette named Bob Tomingas. They had three sons in the 1940s: Robby, Henry and Byron. Hallie’s best friends during those early years in Jackson Hole were the Feuzes, Chamberses, Turners and Wolfs. Esther Craighead was her closest friend and, later, Lona Livingston and Vera Cheney, who both lived in the neighborhood.

She landed the greatest job in the world and became the Teton County librarian in the 1960s. She expanded the old log library with additions, then held the Tri-State Library convention, one of the biggest conventions to ever be held in Jackson at the time. In 1965 she moved to Arizona to finish her degree in library science.

Armed with her new degree, Hallie — changed to Hailie — became the library director in Elko, Nevada. She rebuilt that library, then built several branch libraries and ushered in the age of computers with a mainframe that the college and other parts of the state leveraged. The state honored her in many ways, and she met many major authors and traveled to numerous conventions.

Elko is where she met and married another voracious book reader and jazz pianist, Tom Gunn. They always joked that Hailie got the keys to his heart when he discovered that she had the keys to the library. They were a terrific match, with aligned views of the world, and they also had fun together. Both were proud Americans and did their duty to the country. Tom was a former Navy SEAL.

They drove the Alcan Highway together once again two years ago, up and back so they could celebrate her 94th birthday with her family in Alaska. Sadly, Tom passed away last summer.

Hailie celebrated her 96th birthday May 27 with sons Henry and Byron Tomingas and granddaughter, Persis. They threw a surprise party with a concert and a Hailie roast by Byron and then dinner and a fiddle concert.

“She is 110% ‘there’ and has perfect hearing,” Byron said. “Her oxygen saturation runs at 98% to 100% — probably from all the walks up Snow King. She is Jackson tough and runs us ragged.”

Hailie recently moved to Idaho Falls from Kalispell, Montana. If you’d like to say hello, her email address is 24gunns@gmail.com.

On the road again

It has become a tradition for my daughter Jami and me to take a Wyoming road trip each spring. This year we chose the Farson area, which is about 145 miles south of Jackson.

We took SR 28, which heads west out of Farson. There are many dirt roads leading off of that highway, and we explored a lot of them that follow the Big Sandy River.

Jim, my significant other, pulled my 19-foot travel trailer down, and we found a perfect camping spot by the Big Sandy. Not one car passed by in four days. The weather was perfect and the wildflowers beautiful. I love our public lands. The icing on the cake was two trips into Farson for ice cream cones.

I am headed to St. John’s Medical Center for a hip replacement this week. Yikes!

Email your Circling the Square information to Connie Owen at connie_owen@msn.com or call her at 734-9512.

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