Life is too short when it comes to Cosmos, golden dogs and a few thousand good friends

By Bill Sniffin

In her own words, Leslie Blythe could see a time into the future when she would gather with a few of her girl friends, all of whom were now over 100 years old, and they would sip cocktails at 4 p.m. Her drink of choice would naturally be a Cosmopolitan.

All four gals would be accompanied by their service dogs, which, not unexpectedly, were golden retrievers.

She always touted her Cosmo because it featured cranberry juice, which contains antioxidants and prolongs life.

And who could argue with her peek into the future? Leslie Blythe was a strong, lively young woman when we had this conversation last year. She was in tip-top shape. She literally had more friends than anyone anywhere. There is no non-politician in Wyoming who could match her Rolodex.

Leslie died from complications of the flu at the age of 58 on Jan. 5 at the Casper hospital. She was ubiquitous. She was the Energizer Bunny. She was a force of nature. And I am finding it impossible to believe she is really gone.

I met Leslie when she took her first media job as an intern at our newspaper in Lander. She was probably about 21 and worked with some well-known Wyoming journalists such as Bruce McCormack (retired Cody Enterprise publisher) and Milton Ontiveroz of the University of Wyoming’s publications department.

She graduated from UW and ended up working with media but doing it primarily through Pacific Power, which morphed into Rocky Mountain Power. She had a 30-year career and celebrated that anniversary with delight.

On her Facebook page back on Dec. 1, she marveled that she had worked for the same company for so long: “Thirty years ago today, I was blessed to embark on an amazing journey with a great company. Fresh out of graduate school and just a pup, I joined the ‘CY Avenue’ gang – Dick Brown, Bob Tarantola, Bert Leonard, Carl Ertler, Debbie Roman, Bill Miller, Bill Edwards, Linda Eckes Evans, Mary Karantzas, Jane Drake, Jane Chatman, ‘Baughman,’ Ivan Bassart – and so many other wonderful co-workers throughout this state and elsewhere at what was then called Pacific Power. So many fabulous opportunities over the years, and so many remarkable adventures these past three decades.

“I feel fortunate every day to call Rocky Mountain Power my home – thank you! And, the best part is being a member of this team. All the phenomenal people with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work, as well as all the friends I’ve made over the years in this great state and elsewhere. Thirty years! Don’t they go by in a blink! Here’s to many more!”

Leslie and I always stayed in touch and in recent years we were the two Wyoming representatives on the Mountain West AAA board. She had a huge impact on that group and represented Wyoming AAA members well.

It was at one of our meetings in March 2017 when she got the news that her godson, Aidan McCroskey, had died. Poor Leslie was inconsolable. We all felt so helpless, as we tried to help her get through this tragedy. Now, we are the ones who are inconsolable.

We will be celebrating her life at a service this summer.

I cannot write about Leslie without mentioning her love of golden retrievers, of which she and her husband Mark Wilkinson were breeders of champions. They loved those dogs. She was a champion showman and an officer in the national organization.

Leslie had a great sense of humor. Her last Facebook post was a funny mention Dec. 30 when the Quick Lane in Casper, which has a time and temperature sign, showed a temperature of minus 196. “OK, I don’t want to hear any whining about the ‘cold weather’ where you live – try Casper Wyoming today! Certainly hope this is a sign malfunction, but I wouldn’t be surprised if not, it’s so cold.”

But the post that brought tears to my eyes came from her husband who wrote Jan. 5: “This is from Mark. My heart is breaking knowing I have to inform you of my wife’s passing. Thank you all for the best wishes and prayers over the past couple of days. Leslie was friend to all and I know it may seem crass to post here, but I would rather you hear from the horse’s mouth. Leslie knew so many people that I can’t make all those calls. I will miss you my love, my wife, my friend.”