Obituary - Barbara Lee Clark

Barbara Lee Clark

Long-time Jackson Hole resident Barbara Lee Clark died Feb. 1 in Rigby, Idaho. She was 92.

Her family provided the following.

Our mother was born Barbara Lee Bodan on Nov. 8, 1927, in Manderson, the oldest child of Audrey E. Chatfield and Joseph A. Bodan, with two beloved siblings, Emerson Bodan and Nancy Gattis.

Her father was born in 1897 in Kaycee, a first-generation American. In 1900 her mother, Audrey, was born up Spring Creek outside Tensleep, at home, delivered on an ironing board. Audrey’s family, the Chatfields, immigrated to America in 1639 to the Connecticut colony. Audrey’s grandfather, Isaac W. Chatfield, fought in the Union Army.

Barbara’s father was a horseman, carpenter, cook, rancher, dude wrangler and artist. Barbara’s mother cleaned, sewed and was an artist in the kitchen. The family moved 19 times while Barbara was growing up. They ran the Elk Horn Ranch near Bozeman, Montana; the Paint Rock ranch near Hyattville; and the Pitchfork Ranch in Meeteetse. They moved between Montana, Wyoming and California. She remembered picking peaches in California, ending up itchy and covered in peach fuzz; working in the Wyoming sugar beet fields until exhausted, and riding for hours looking for cattle and sheep. Mom particularly loved Hyattville, Bozeman and the Pitchfork Ranch.

Her innate love and deep connection with horses blossomed on the Pitchfork. She and friends would race across sagebrush at a dead run, side by side, swapping reins of each other’s horse. On her horse, Sage King, she would ride to school and to Meeteetse on errands and rescue orphan lambs by slinging them over her saddle to return them to the barn to foster.

Barbara graduated from high school in 1945 in Florence, Montana, then attended Ursuline Academy in Great Falls to study nursing.

In 1948 she came to Jackson Hole with her dear friend Theo Tygum (Owen). They stayed in the Tygum’s home near Mormon Row, working that summer at the cabins at Jackson Lake Dam. They cleaned cabins, making work more fun by dragging each other around on rugs to polish the floors. Once here she was hooked on the valley and planted her roots. She said she would never move again, that she had found her home.

In 1948 Mom met and married Jackson native Jack Neal. Though they divorced in 1963, together they had two boys and a girl: Ronnie, Lesley and Ben. She gained Jack’s entire family, with whom she remained close.

The winter of 1948-49 was the “year of the big snow” in Jackson. That winter, Barbara and Jack caretook the old Ramshorn Ranch (now the Teton Science Schools). They had to go uphill from the second floor to leave the house on to the top of the snow. A radio somehow got tuned into the telephone party-lines. This cross frequency allowed them to keep up with gossip and news in Jackson. During the winter they snowshoed to Kelly for food and social activities. Mom said they would step on the backs of each other’s snowshoes to trip the other. When the snow finally melted away, they could walk from the ranch all the way to Kelly on dead elk carcasses, which broke Mom’s heart.

One summer in 1956 Barbara and Jack were working for Fred and Eva Topping at the Moosehead Ranch. On a cool summer evening Barbara put Lesley and Ronnie to bed then ran back to the lodge for a minute. Ronnie decided they needed heat, so he built a fire in the wood stove. A guest described fire shooting out of the chimney eight feet, watching Barbara fly across the top of the buck fence, over the intervening creek and vanishing into the cabin. Mom entered the cabin to a red-hot bouncing stove with her two darlings lying prostrate, covered in sweat, suffering heat exhaustion and hypoxia.

In 1960 they moved next to the Old Wilson School into the “Lincoln Log” house, aptly nicknamed by Ben. Lesley recalls Mom being nervous about her first day of school. Mom quickly realized Lesley was nothing short of a social butterfly, leading her new friends at recess playing horse, running around whinnying; the love of horses was truly inherited.

In June 1964 Mom married her true love, Lew Clark. He adopted and loved her three children like his own. Early in 1966 they began building their forever dream home on Heck of Hill in Wilson — the first house on the Hill. During the construction of the home Lew realized Bill and Howard Schofield had stored dynamite on the hill. Lew was not sure how to get rid of it, so he blew it up. Made a hole 12 feet deep and 30 feet across and laid down the trees in a ring 120 feet in diameter. We heard it clear in Jackson. Lew’s eyebrows were scorched. He tried to evade the “I-told-you-so” look from Mom, but to no avail. There was a sense and sensibility to our mom that comes from hard experience; some have it and some don’t — but she did. Very little slipped by the Mom-radar.

In 1966 daughter Jennifer was born and by fall they moved into their new home. Mom designed her dream horse barn, mainly from Clark’s Ready-Mix concrete. Much later Mom and Ben renovated the horse barn into the Barn Healing Center, which Ben now operates.

Lew and Barbara were part owners of Clark’s Ready-Mix Construction. Barbara learned all about the business and traveled with Lew all over Wyoming and the country. Mom was an expert horseman, competing and winning competitive endurance rides of up to 40 miles; barrel racing; and other riding events. During our childhood she would say, “Let’s go, it’s time to ride.” She could transform from expert horseman dressed in Levis and favorite boots to the most beautiful, perfectly dressed woman in the room. Those closest to her described her as always classy, beautiful and elegant.

Love of horses defined her life. A natural athlete raised on ranches, both working cattle ranches and dude ranches, always around horse people and always on a horse. She even competed as a jockey; with her svelte build she was just the right size. Barbara was a founding member of the Teton Barrel Racing Association. Theo Owen, Jean Mills and she took up leading the Wilson Wranglers after Babs Yokel retired. Later, with help from Pat Hardeman, they created the Wilson Hoofbeats 4-H group.

Everything we know about horses, rodeo, horsemanship, and barrel racing we learned at her side. Barbara would ride Breeze and lead Jenny’s pony, Tico, to pick up Jenny from grade school. Coolest thing a mom could ever do.

Barbara taught about nature to anyone who rode with her. She sparked a passion for flowers and wild botanicals in Ben. He would ride his pony, Rondo, while she taught him names of indigenous plants. Ben loved picking wildflowers and making bouquets of wild arnica, yarrow, fireweed, lupine, larkspur and whatever flower Mom pointed out to him.

She instilled in him the love for these flowers and botanicals, which became his life’s work. When nearing a ditch, Mom would remind him to hang on to the reins and swells as Rondo would over-jump a narrow ditch. Six-year-old Ben became preoccupied with his flowers, so when Rondo jumped the muddy ditch, Ben flew off the saddle, landing face first in the mud but still holding the flowers. It took Mom some time to remove the dirt from his teeth, but she proudly placed the wildflower bouquet in a vase in the dining room.

As her children grew up in Jackson their lives became involved with rodeo, track and skiing. Mom and Dad were our most able promoters and cheerleaders. Supporting us in our triumphs and heartaches, they gave of themselves fully … in time, talent and money. They traveled with Ronnie and Lesley and later with Ben and Jenny as they skied, raced and rodeoed all across the country.

After Lew passed in 1992 she devoted her time to her kids, her grandchildren and countless close friends. She created many wonderful memories with picnics at holidays and birthdays, meeting at Jackson Lake and String Lake, swimming and floating with friends and family, and sharing her famous baked beans. Pack trips every summer from Turpin Meadow Ranch into the Yellowstone and snow-machine trips to Goose Wing Ranch and Yellowstone. Many Christmases were spent on Heck of a Hill watching from her living room as the snow fell, waiting for friends to show up for the best and fastest sledding parties in the country.

Having Barbara as a mother was an honor and a blessing to us all. The valley is a better place for her life here. She will be missed by all who knew and loved her.

Her funeral was held at the LDS church in Jackson in February. Memorial contributions may be made to the Senior Center of Jackson Hole.

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