Green River Star -

By David Martin

Many recognized for contributions in 2019


December 31, 2019

File photo

Rob Smith, a member of the American Legion Post 28, listens to members of the post and VFW during the annual Memorial Day Ceremony at Riverview Cemetery.

The past year was a year of triumph and recognition for many people in Green River.

Bacila named distinguished citizen

Gayle Bacila was named Green River's 2019 Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Green River Chamber of Commerce in April. Bacila has volunteered within the community for more than 50 years, helped at Castle Rock Rehabilitation Center before being hired to work there, serving on the Golden Hour Senior Center board, D.A.R.E. program, Green River Lions Club and many other organizations.

Cheryl Jensen nominated Bacila for the award.

"I have known and admired Gayle for 19 years," Jensen's letter stated. "This lady has a true love for our Green River community and all the folks that reside here."

She was surprised with the award during the April Lunch and Learn hosted by the chamber.

"I was floored," Bacila said. "I thought I was just going to a Lunch and Learn. They surprised me with that."

Former resident climbs Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is the world's tallest free standing mountain and one former resident had the opportunity to climb it. Shelly Steadman's climb in Africa took seven days to accomplish out of a 19-day trip. Having previously climbed to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, Steadman said she was concerned about altitude sickness as the top of Kilimanjaro is higher than Everest Base Camp. She ended up not getting sick during the climb and recognized part of her former home in the African landscape.

"Some of it reminded me of Southwestern Wyoming with the vast openness," Steadman said.

While she admits the trip wasn't cheap, Steadman justifies it by saying life is short and she needs to take advantage of every opportunity.

"I would definitely do a trip like this again," Steadman said. "I love the adventure of seeing new places, meeting new people, and the challenge of pushing my body and mind to do more than I think I can. We are all much stronger than we think."

Speech and debate have great season

The Green River High School speech and debate team continued its dominating ways throughout the 2018-2019 season.

While the team wasn't successful in attaining another state title, earning fourth at the state tournament in Riverton, a few members placed well in their categories. This included Madi Young and Shelbee McFadden taking first in cross examination debate.

"We need strength in all events and we didn't have the numbers in those events that we have had in the past," head speech and debate coach Carina White said after the event. "Worland and Riverton are absolute power houses in the acting events because the head speech and debate coaches for both teams are also the theater directors."

The team took first at districts shortly after, with 10 students qualifying for nationals in Dallas. Those students were:

Public forum: Ramsey Taliaferro and Matthew Pickering

Congress house one: Rachel Heisinger

Lincoln Douglas debate: Rachel Heisinger

Senate: Rebecca Shamer and Matthew Pickering

Cross examination debate: Rebecca Shamer and Levi Hren

Foreign extemporaneous: Hannah Thomas

Humor: Raymond Garcia

House one: Will Allen

World schools: Levi Peterson

Big questions debate: Jessica Petri

Petri ended up taking 13th at nationals in the big questions debate category. White was also honored with the National Speech and Debate Association's distinguished service gold key. She was later named to the Wyoming Speech and Debate Hall of Fame this year.

"I coach because I believe in the power speech and debate has to transform lives, help students gain confidence, form friendships, learn valuable skills and learn to be part of a team," White told the Star. "What we do matters and as long as I feel like I am able to contribute I will keep doing this."

City celebrates Powell's legacy

The year was the 150th anniversary of Maj. John Wesley Powell's expedition down the Green River in 1869.

Powell, a Civil War veteran and river explorer, pushed off from Green River Station and ventured down the Colorado River and eventually into the Grand Canyon. The expedition dealt with many perils along the way, but ultimately became a scientific and historical achievement. Powell's name would be used in naming Lake Powell between Utah and Arizona, as well as for the mineral Powellite.

The anniversary celebration started with a discussion about Powell and the future of the Colorado River, followed by a cleanup of the Green River and educational program hosted by the USGS.

An expedition following much of Powell's route was launched May 24.

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum also hosted a special exhibit examining Powell's expedition, which included entries from journals Powell and his men made before and during their trek.

Teachers honored for service

Several teachers in Green River were recognized for the service they provide to students and the community throughout the year.

Among those honored were Bradlee Skinner, GRHS's theater teacher. Skinner was recognized as the Sweetwater County School District No. 2 Teacher of the Year and the Jostens Renaissance Educator of the Year. The district's teacher of the year award is nominated by students and submitted to the district's superintendent. Skinner said he was honored and humbled to receive the district teacher of the year award and was overcome with emotion when he was told of the Jostens award.

"I was genuinely surprised and may have cried a little. It was a bit overwhelming to receive such recognition for the work we are doing at GRHS," he said.

Lori Hastert, a sixth-grade teacher at Lincoln Middle School, was also honored for her work with students. Hastert was named the Veterans of Foreign Wars/Maher Wyoming State Teacher of the Year.

Hastert works to collect items for care packages, which are sent to soldiers serving in foreign countries. She has also been a driving force behind keeping the school's Veterans Day program going and having students build signs with the names of Green River veterans for placement along Uinta Drive.

"You don't do it because you think it might (earn you) an award, you do it because it's right and important," Hastert said.

Gray receives UW recognition

Brittany Wells Gray received recognition from the University of Wyoming this year, earning the university's Rising Alumni Award. Gray is the program director for Climb Wyoming in Sweetwater County, which assists single mothers in career training that helps establish them in higher-paying careers.

"Supporting others as they make meaningful changes has been a pulling force in my life," Gray said. "This is why my current work with Climb Wyoming means so much to me. I genuinely love helping others succeed. It's an honor to be part of someone else's journey."

Toddler earns pageant crown

An 18-month-old toddler earned two awards after competing in the All American Girl National Finals in Las Vegas. Rylie McMullen, Wyoming's Baby Miss All American Girl, was placed fourth alternate in the competition and received the national photogenic award in her age division. The national photogenic award included a crown and sash.

Resident donates kidney

Rachelle Morris made a decision to donate a kidney to a help her sister's friend. For most, it would be a difficult decision to make, but Morris immediately offered to help. Initially, she was scheduled to donate her kidney to Jesse Laughter, but an opportunity arose that granted Laughter with a better match than Morris could provide.

A son had planned to donate a kidney to his mother, but doctors discovered he wasn't a match for her. Morris turned out to be a match for the mother while the son was a better match for Laughter.

Talking about the experience prior to the surgery, Morris said she was in it for the mother and said her decision came from a watching a cousin look for a matching kidney donor.

"I really feel that God has it under control. It's in his control. He's for it and it's going to be fine," Morris said.


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