Chris Onufer & Steve Romeo Memorial

Post by blogger | March 14, 2012      
In touching tribute to Chris Onufer and Steve Romeo.

In touching tribute to Chris Onufer and Steve Romeo, crossed skis and wreath on Jackson Hole tram car.

I headed up to Jackson, Wyoming yesterday to attended the memorial last evening for Chris Onufur and Steve Romeo, who lost their lives in an avalanche this past week. The event was held in the open “square” area at the base of the Jackson Hole Resorts, with one of the famed Jackson tram cars hanging above, doors open and holding a wreath and crossed skis. A large crowd showed up, must have been at least 400 people.

As events such as these are, this one was heart wrenching but at the same time joyful as a celebration of two lives very well lived.

I didn’t know Chris Onufer. It was beautiful hearing what a master he was at his job of heading up the tram maintenance department, “maintaining the machine that brings so much joy.” Indeed, I got a whole new perspective on what the machinery of our ski resorts means to the people who work on it. When those individuals are connected to the community and ski themselves, there exists a synergy where job and lifestyle blend into something very special. It sounded like Chris exemplified that.

Numerous people spoke of course. Onufer’s father was articulate and funny, while at the same time you could see just how hard it must be and our hearts went out to him. Explaining the whole evolution of Steve Romeo’s ski career was his longtime partner Reed Finlay. Amusing tales of Romeo’s start as a lift mechanic brought perspective and depth to the view of Steve’s life. Romeo’s sister Lisa was to me the most poignant, as she brought the view in tight to the family level of brother and sister growing up together, including letting us know the details of Romeo’s first ever day of skiing (he straightlined the bunny hill.)

Anyone who lives in a mountain town for any length of time will end up periodically at events like this. They’re indeed part and parcel to the fabric of alpine lifestyle. But that doesn’t make them any easier. As I heard many times, “this is rough.”

While the process of grief is exactly that, and can’t be hurried, it does help to keep lifting up what is good, and looking at things from the point of view of the cycle of life and death, as the greater human condition. A poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye was included in the even program. The last few lines go like this:

“I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing,
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I do not die.”



8 Responses to “Chris Onufer & Steve Romeo Memorial”

  1. wyomingowen March 14th, 2012 9:03 am

    Lou, good to see you there last night. As with Steve and Chris, your energy is most admirable getting up here on short notice!

  2. mt splitski March 14th, 2012 9:54 am

    Nice job and thanks for covering this Lou. I wish I could’ve been there.

  3. Dustin Lemke March 14th, 2012 10:01 am

    Thanks for coming here to share in a tribute for two great men who lived life to the fullest. Mountain communities seem to have events like this all too often, but as part of the healing process, it is essential. Thanks for all of your kind words.

  4. Rick March 14th, 2012 10:39 pm

    I live in Alberta, close to Banff, and while the essence of mountain life thrives here, Jackson Hole is a place my wife and I “know” should have been our home. To have lived there would have been beyond description. It is an unbelievable place. I try to live without regret, but if only …

    Just the picture of that tram sends a shiver through me, and the thought creeps into my mind – at what point does risking it all outweigh wanting to experience everything that Jackson offers, and for as many years as possible? Forgive me if that sounds judgemental – it is not intended that way.

  5. Lou March 15th, 2012 7:39 am

    Rick, yeah, probably best to leave of the philosophical stuff on this post. A better place for it would probably be the in-depth eulogy I wrote a few days ago, that does ask some of those questions. Here is the link, comments appreciated and if you want to converse there about risk sports and such, I think if done with sensitivity it’s appropriate. Steve would have expected no less. “We blog…”

  6. Terry Mathews March 15th, 2012 10:59 am

    The poem at the end remind me of a Native American poem that I heard years ago.

    I give you this one thought to keep —
    I am with you still; I do not sleep.

    I am a thousand winds that blow;
    I am the diamond glints on snow;
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
    I am the gentle autumn rain.

    When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
    I am the swift, uplifting rush
    of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.

    Do not think of me as gone;
    I am with you still — in each new dawn.

  7. Lou March 15th, 2012 11:07 am

    Terry and all, for the full poem and an extensive province, see

    Whatever your beliefs about what happens to a person after they die, it is so true that their spirit, memory, presence, whatever can live on very powerfully in the world around us.This is of great comfort to us. Many people who have loved ones pass feel or sense their presence near and around, both in a mystical sense (“in a quiet room”), but also, yes, “in the flowers, in the winds, in the birds…” It’s a beautiful thing we have as humans, and something to cherish and encourage in ourselves and others. This poem speaks to that so well..

  8. Terry Mathews March 15th, 2012 11:14 am

    Aha! Thanks for that, Lou. It appears what I was quoting was a variation of that poem. As things often do on the internet, the source must have been lost in translation at some point (many websites still list it as a “Native American poem”). I’m glad that I’m now able to attribute it to the correct source.

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