In loving memory, Mary Eileen (Schmidt) Oakley

Mary Eileen (Schmidt) Oakley – June 24, 2022

“You know that place between sleep and awake, that place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.” ~ Peter Pan

Mary Eileen Oakley, age 75 of Lander, Wyoming passed away at her home on Friday, June 24, 2022 surrounded in the love of her family.

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Born on September 30, 1946 in Gordon, Nebraska, Eileen was the second of four children of Fred and Frances Schmidt.

Eileen grew up on the family farm in Gordon, Nebraska with her sister, Linda, and brothers, Tom and Randy as well as many cousins. The Schmidt family raised corn, wheat, alfalfa, potatoes and purebred Charolais cattle. Her childhood on the farm inspired a lifelong love of agriculture and livestock. Eileen attended Mount Pleasant School, which was a one-room school house near their family farm, even riding her horse to school some days. The family was active in 4-H and Eileen enjoyed showing horses and steers at the Sheridan County Fair and the Nebraska State Fair. Her beloved mother passed on a deep knowledge and tradition of true farm cooking. She treated countless family and friends to her cooking over the years.

At Gordon High School, Eileen was a cheerleader, active in High School Rodeo and was the Gordon FFA Sweetheart. She graduated in 1964.

Eileen enrolled at the University of Wyoming studying Agricultural Business and earning a Bachelor of Science. While at UW she was one of the first women to ever compete for the University of Wyoming Livestock Judging Team. She was proud to represent the Brown & Gold at Livestock Shows in Denver and Fort Worth.

Her freshman year, Eileen met a bull rider that became the love of her life and her partner in life’s adventures, Chuck Oakley, from Lander, Wyoming, charmed Eileen and fell in love with the beautiful, smart woman that became his wife; the start of a 45-year strong, loving relationship that they both cherished.

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Chuck and Eileen were married June 16, 1967. The couple honeymooned in Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks before returning to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where Chuck served in the Marine Corps. They returned to Laramie and Eileen graduated with her AgriBusiness degree. Chuck and Eileen then moved to Rawlins, Wyoming to begin their new life in the Game & Fish family. All of their three spirited daughters, Debbie, Cheri and Ember were born there.

In 1977, the couple transferred to Kemmerer, Wyoming with Chuck’s work as a Game Warden. During their time in Kemmerer, Eileen not only supported Chuck and his career, but dedicated her life to bringing up her daughters. She spent endless hours teaching the girls horsemanship, grace and etiquette (some of it stuck!) and instilling in them a hard-working, determined attitude to succeed. She was a knowledgeable and generous 4-H leader, passing on her experience to many young minds. The family spent countless happy weekends camping, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and riding horseback at the cabin up Clear Creek, Commissary Ridge and many areas in southwest Wyoming, where Eileen inspired wonder for the majesty of God’s creation in her family and friends.

Eileen followed her dream of owning her own Charolais herd in 1982, purchasing the first 10 Charolais heifers from her father that would become the seedstock of Oakley Charolais. Eileen was dedicated to the improvement of the breed through selective genetics and the pair enjoyed raising their beautiful, white cattle that so many people enjoyed seeing, especially from their ranch in Fremont County. Chuck and Eileen raised Charolais for decades and were members of the Charolais Association. Eileen was an active member of the Fremont County Cattlewomen, a group she very much enjoyed.

In 1988, the family returned to Chuck’s childhood hometown of Lander, Wyoming. Chuck and Eileen established an operation to be envied. They continued following and supporting their daughters compete around the state in multiple sports, cheerleading, in Miss Rodeo Wyoming and more. She continued on their dream and their beautiful place after Chuck’s passing. She enjoyed working with her tractor, spraying weeds and irrigating hayfields in addition to watching her calves grow. The best part was sharing her place with family and friends, and watching the sunset over the river as the trout rose to the surface.

Eileen worked at Fremont County Title and then the Fremont County Assessor’s office for a decade. From that experience, she was ready to run for office! She was elected Fremont County Assessor in 1998, where she served Fremont County with her signature smile, warm attitude, grace and great knowledge for many, many years. She was a beloved public servant. Along with that, she was an active Republican, especially with Fremont County Republican Women, the backbone of our local party, including serving as the President. She served as Fremont County’s State Committeewoman for the past 4 years.

Eileen was an ardent supporter of their beloved University of Wyoming. She was a member of the Cowboy Joe Club, and she and Chuck donated several steers to the “Steer-a-Year” program. They both enjoyed attending basketball, football and wrestling over the years. Eileen and Ember were with friends in Las Vegas when the Cowboys won the Mountain West Conference Tournament in 2015!

She was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church and was a woman of a quiet, but strong faith in God. She recently volunteered on the Memorial Foundation Board for the church. She served on the CWC Foundation Board from 2014-2016. She and Chuck were supporters of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Eileen was diagnosed with colon cancer in July of 2021. She faced the disease determination and faith. She was a valiant fighter.

Eileen was a much loved, greatly respected woman with the true spirit of the West and was a role model and inspiration to many. She loved to sit by the campfire and tell stories, visit with friends over the incredible meals she prepared and have an occasional Crown and Coke with those she loved. She will be desperately missed by her family and friends, a warm, glowing light extinguished too soon.

Eileen was preceded in death by Charles A. Oakley (husband); Frances M. Schmidt (mother); Fred W. Schmidt (father); Thomas J. Schmidt (brother) and Shawn Schwope (nephew).

Eileen is survived by her daughters Deborah Marie Simpson (Colin); Cheri Lynn Copeland (Eric); Ember Ann Oakley; grandsons Mackenzie Simpson, Trey Copeland, Nicholas Simpson, and Mason Copeland; sister Linda Schwope; brother Randy Schmidt (Marjorie); nephews, Lance Schwope (Amy), Aaron Schmidt (Aubrey) and Kyle Schmidt (Claire); niece, Michelle Schwope and numerous cousins, family and friends.

Funeral services will be held on Thursday, June 30, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lander, Wyoming. A public viewing will be held Wednesday, June 29, 2022 from 5:00-6:00 p.m. at Hudson’s Funeral Home in Lander, Wyoming. All friends are welcome.

Memorial donations can be sent in care of:
Eileen Oakley Memorial
P.O. Box 506
Lander, WY 82520

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