Wyoming agriculture will long remember Cliff Hansen
Casper — “There are great people in this world who leave a lot of footsteps, but for the truly great ones we build monuments,” said Ron Micheli in 2005 at a ceremony dedicating a statue on the Wyoming Capitol lawn to past Wyoming Governor and U.S. Senator Cliff Hansen of Jackson.
News that the 97-year-old Wyoming statesmen had passed away Oct. 20 caused many in the agricultural community to pause and remember a man who was a leader, a friend and always a gentleman.
“I can think of no one in Wyoming’s history who has provided leadership in so many ways and at so many levels — from the Jackson Hole Cattle Association to the United States Senate,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “Cliff Hansen was a man whose roots in agriculture remained firmly established throughout his life and guided his actions as Governor, Senator and, most recently, respected senior statesman.”
Magagna continues, “The Wyoming Stock Growers Association has lost its most senior past President. President Hansen stands high among the great leaders with whom the Association has been blessed. It was through Cliff’s foresight and generosity that we enjoy one of the finest office and conference facilities in Cheyenne, dedicated to his daughter Mary Mead. I am pleased to call Cliff Hansen both a friend and a mentor in my own career.”
Sheridan rancher Chas Kane came to know Hansen through his involvement in the Stock Growers. Laughing, he recalls, “Before Joe Watt died, he and Cliff and I would get on the phone every Sunday afternoon and we’d settle the world’s affairs.” On three or four different occasions Chas says he and Arlene visited Hansen when he served in the U.S. Senate. “He was always as common as could be. He was friendly and always had time to visit. He was the best statesman Wyoming has ever had and a good friend.”
“The story of Wyoming and the life of Cliff Hansen are intertwined – a pioneer state and its patriarch,” says U.S Senator Mike Enzi. “People often say Wyoming is what America was. Cliff Hansen was the independent spirit, the rugged cowboy that helped make her great.”
“Cliff Hansen was a living icon,” U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis says. “He exemplified the quintessential Wyoming life through his humor, humility and complete devotion to family, community and country. His vision and passion for our state and its people are a testament to his career in public service.”
“One made a mistake if they confused Senator Hansen’s gentle manner with weakness. He was a fierce advocate for all things Wyoming and for his family,” says Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal.
During a 2005 interview with the Roundup Hansen expressed his gratitude for his life in Wyoming and his family. Hansen and his wife Martha celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary two months ago. Martha, their son Peter, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren survive Hansen. Mary Mead, the Hansens’ daughter, passed away after being thrown from a horse in 1996.
Hansen was equally proud of his ranching heritage. “I was raised on a cattle ranch, on a homestead in Jackson Hole,” he said. “I think that if there is one thing stockmen have in great supply that many people do not, it is the opportunity to learn to contribute and get along with other people. We help our neighbors. It’s one of the unique things that can be said about ranchers. They do help each other…they’re eager to help because they know the next day they may need help themselves.”
Anyone who had the pleasure to meet Cliff Hansen knows he had “neighbors” stretching from Jackson Hole to Cheyenne and from Sundance to Evanston and all places in between.
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.