Labor Day Tragedy strikes Cooke City 2006

 It is silly to try and put to words the impact of Monday’s events. Two great men were lost. Two men who in more ways than could possibly be fathomed made this little town’s heart beat. Pat and Steve died while volunteering their time and their service for us. It seems so trivial to think that two great men were lost because of two measly t.v. channels.  But their commitment to Cooke City was anything but trivial. They loved this community, they loved its people, they loved its beauty. They were doing what they always did – trying to make this a better place with the talents that they had. They had many talents. But, they will be remembered most because of their genuineness – Pat’s humor and his passion for life – Steve’s warm greeting and concern for others. As in every tragedy there are heroes. Judy and Debbi are the greatest of them all. I have had the privilege of spending many hours with these two remarkable women over the last few days and have been amazed at their strength, love, and grace. Both are far too young to have to deal with this pain - both for the second time. There is Troy and Doug who spent all day on the mountain on Monday, single handedly making sure that Judy and Debbi had a chance to say goodbye before dark.  

There is the crew who without hesitation started clearing the path for the search team. There is the Cooke City Search and Rescue, along with the Park Service and County authorities who worked all day on recovery. There were countless people offering hug after hug, baking food, bringing food and without having the words to say, showing in their eyes they felt this loss deep down to the core. In other words, this community did for Pat and Steve and their families what Pat and Steve would have done for any one of us. Here’s the thing, the trash compactor will continue to crush our garbage, the summer cabins will be closed this fall and re-opened next spring, the Beartooth Café will continue to put out great food and service, but none of those things and none of those places will ever be the same for any of us – that is Pat and Steve’s legacy – they made Cooke City a better place – they made us better people.

A joint service will be held on Friday, September 8th at 1pm at the Clark’s Fork Trailhead (just east of Skyline). Carpooling and funeral procession will begin at 12:30 at the compactor site. Please bring a blanket or lawn chair. A reception will take place after the service at the Range Riders in Silver Gate. Please bring an appetizer or desert to share. Meat, cheese, fruit and vegetable trays will be provided. In the event of rain, the service will be at the Range Riders at 1pm and the reception will follow.

Steven Thomas Liebl was born on December 22, 1958 and left this world on September 4, 2006 as a result of an automobile accident. He grew up in Wisconsin. After high school he worked at various jobs, traveled, and served in the armed forces. He attended the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, working his way through school. He worked in both Yellowstone and Glacier Parks and fell in love with Montana and its mountains. He fought the fires of 1988, worked at the Fire Cache in Mammoth, drove snow coach and worked at the Northeast entrance gate. By 1994 Steve purchased a piece of paradise close to Silver Gate and moved from the Gardiner area.
He absolutely loved hiking, hunting and exploring the Beartooth Mountains, usually with at least one dog accompanying him. Steve became an important member of the Cooke City community. He started our local Newsletter in 1998, managed the Compactor facility, was caretaker for many local homes, and worked as a realtor. He was an all-around handyman and took on anything – “no job too small or strange” from woodworking, carpentry, remodeling, sign-making and wreath-making. He was both talented and very creative, enjoying many things from cooking wonderful meals to creating original works. At the compactor he started an art gallery, a free box of usable items, and a book exchange.
Steve is preceded in death by his parents, Alice and Louis Liebl. He is survived by two brothers, Daniel of North Carolina and Kenneth of Wisconsin and by his “angel” and life companion of the last 10 years, Judy Mikonis, and two labs, Sadie and Dakota.
At the compactor and around town Steve always took the time to listen and to help if he could. Such a kind, generous and giving heart will be truly missed.
A joint memorial service for Steve and his friend Pat Myers will be held on Friday, September 8th at 1pm at the Clark’s Fork Trailhead. A reception will follow at the Range Riders in Silver Gate. Memorials can be donated to the Cooke City Search and Rescue/EMS or the Cooke City Fire Department.

Charles P. Myers The world lost a unique soul on September 4, 2006. Charles P. “Pat” Myers was killed in a one-vehicle accident on Miller Mountain near Cooke City, Montana. Pat and friend Steve Liebl were on their way to change batteries in the city’s television tower when their jeep rolled off the mountain. It was somehow fitting that Pat died in the mountains that he loved.

Pat was born on April 29, 1955 in Billings, to Charles and Betty Myers. He had one older sister, Vicki Newman. He attended Billings West High School and later worked in the oil fields throughout the northwest as a roughneck. Ultimately he was an assistant driller on the second largest drilling ship in the world off the coast of South America. Pat graduated from Eastern Montana College with a degree in psychology in 1989. He worked for Alternatives, Inc. as a client advisor and counselor.

In 1991, Pat and Christina Kelly were blessed by the birth of their cherished daughter, Jesse Blake. Pat and Jesse loved to read together when she was little and read the complete trilogy, Lord of the Rings. Jesse resided primarily with her father and they had a special relationship together. He often told her he loved her to the moon and back a thousand times.

Pat graduated second in his class from the University of Montana School of Law in 1991 and began the practice of law in Billings. He spent his legal career defending the rights of individuals and he helped many people over his fourteen year career.

In 1992, Pat met the love of his life, Debbi Surratt, while they were playing co-ed softball in Billings. Pat and Debbi were married on March 12, 1994 in Red Lodge. Their marriage united as a family Pat and daughter Jesse, and Debbi and daughter Laura Dianne, son Phillip Jon, and step-daughter Tera Lea. The family made their home in Billings and later in Cooke City, where they built their family cabin and became partners in the Beartooth Café. Michael Mueller of Borgstadt, Germany joined their family when he spent a year as a foreign exchange student and continues to be an important part of their family.

Pat continued his law practice in Billings, while Debbi taught psychiatric nursing at MSU. The family split their time between Billings and Cooke City, depending on the season. Pat loved to 4-wheel with Jesse, hunt with Phil and fly fish with Laura and future son-in-law Steve. Pat and Debbi enjoyed horseback riding in the mountains, as well as cross-country skiing and backpacking and fishing together. He even learned to play bridge! They truly loved spending time together and planned to retire in Cooke City.

Pat became an active member of the AA community in 1986 and remained so during his life. He started an AA group in Cooke City and sponsored many people through the program.

Everyone who knew Pat has a story to tell about him. He had a wicked sense of humor and was rarely seen without his black cowboy hat. Pat made and kept friends wherever he went, and the world will be less without him.

Pat is survived by his beloved wife Debbi, children Jesse, Phil and Laura, and future son-in-law Steve Watson, along with dogs Tundra and Tawny. He is also survived and remembered with love by all of his many friends of both long and short acquaintance.

A celebration of Pat’s life is planned for 1:00 p.m. Friday, September 8th at the Clark’s Fork Trailhead east of Cooke City. In honor of Pat, please wear jeans. A potluck dinner will be held at the Range Riders in Cooke City directly following the ceremony. A memorial service will be held Monday, September 11 at 1:00 p.m. at Shiloh Methodist in Billings. Pat’s ashes will be scattered over the mountains he loved.

The family extends their heartfelt appreciation and deepest respect to the many courageous and dedicated people who facilitated the recovery of Pat’s body.

Memorials may be made to Alcoholics Anonymous or the Cooke City Search and Rescue/EMS.

 From the Cooke City Newsletter.