Mother Knows Best: Prominent Wyomingites Share Pearls of Wisdom From their Mothers and Grandmothers

I’ve only had one influencer in my life: my mother. Technically, I haven’t heard her voice in six years—she passed away in 2017 at age 83—but her advice plays on in the soundtrack of my mind, guiding me in my daily habits at home and at work.

Cynthia Hanson, pictured above with her son, Eric, passed along her mother’s practical advice to “put things in the same place every day so you don’t lose them.” (Courtesy photo from Cynthia Hanson)

Some advice was practical: “Put things in the same place every day so you don’t lose them.”

Some advice was motivational: “Never give up. If your way isn’t working, find another way.”

Some advice was prophetic: “Enjoy the busy days of parenting. They don’t last forever, and you’ll look back and miss driving Eric everywhere.”

In talking about my son, Eric, my mother was offering sage advice. But some of her other counsel was, well, old-fashioned: “A woman of a certain age shouldn’t wear shorts. You, my dear, have reached that age” and “Always dress up and wear high heels when you fly. You’ll get better service.” (For the record, I still wear shorts, and I always dress for comfort when I travel.)

But my mother saved her best advice for last.

“Mom, what do you want me to know?” I asked, standing at her bedside while she was in hospice. She didn’t have much time left, and I desperately wanted to receive her guidance one more time.

“You’re always in your head,” she whispered. “Listen to your heart, too. Your heart knows what to do.”

And every day, I try to do just that. Because on most things in life, my mom really did know best.

In honor of Mother’s Day, we asked prominent Wyomingites from across the state to share the best advice their mothers and grandmothers passed down to them.

From all of us at the Wyoming Truth, here’s to a happy Mother’s Day!

Cynthia Hanson, Editor

Pictured above is State Rep. David Northrup (R-Powell) whose mother advised him to “look for things that are out of place,” advice that he uses in politics. (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Legislature)

State Rep. David Northrup (R-Powell) on his mother, Mary Ann Northrup: “She always said … to look for things that are out of place. I’ve used that more than one time. I use it when I’m rock hunting, I use it when I’m gardening and, of course, I use it in politics.”

Christie Wildcat (right) is pictured with her mother, Jenni Wildcat, in 2000. (Courtesy photo from Jenni Wildcat)

Christie Wildcat, senior office associate for the University of Wyoming’s Native American Education, Research and Cultural Center, on her mother, Jenni Wildcat:

‘You are a strong, resilient native woman. You carry good medicine and are what your ancestors dreamed of. They couldn’t stop us then, and there is no stopping you now, so you can do anything you set your mind to.’”

Pictured above is Matt Hall, Mayor of Cody, who learned “life lessons” from his mother.  (Wyoming Truth photo by Ruffin Prevost)

Matt Hall, Mayor of Cody, on his mother, Donni Hall: “Mom was never heavy on advice in the verbal sense. My brother and I just picked up on her life lessons by watching how she handled herself. She was always thoughtful and never spoke ill of others, and didn’t know what a grudge was. Her center of the universe was the kitchen, and my brother and I have adapted our homes the same way. She believed in education and loved the arts, and traveled much more than I have. The only thing she probably never wanted us to do was get a tattoo.”

Christi Kelley (left) is pictured with her mother, Janet Pickinpaugh. (Courtesy photo from Christi Kelley)

Christi Kelley, K unit manager at the Wyoming State Penitentiary, on her mother, Janet Pickinpaugh: “The best advice I received from my mother was to always stay true to yourself and know your worth in everything you do. Stand strong for your beliefs and don’t take crap from anyone.”

Darin Westby (left) is pictured with his mother, Loni Freese, and his brother, Brad. (Courtesy photo from Darin Westby)

Darin Westby, interim director of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, on his mother, Loni Freese: “Other than the standard ‘Nothing good happens after midnight,’ my mom stressed the importance of integrity and brand management to ensure that we were solid members of our community. She would always say, ‘You only have one brand, and you alone are responsible for managing it,’ and ‘Integrity is key; once you lose it, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get it back.’ Her wisdom has remained at the forefront of my mind as I’ve grown as a leader.”

Pictured above are Susan Simpson Gallagher and her mother, Ann Simpson. (Wyoming Truth photo by Ruffin Prevost)

Susan Simpson Gallagher, gallery owner in Cody and supporter of the arts on her mother, Ann Simpson: “‘Don’t come out of your room until you can be nice.’ I have tried to take this advice throughout my life! ‘Always do the thing you would regret the most not doing.’ Sometimes it is difficult to figure out what that is. But once you do it, you know it! ‘Tell the truth. That way you always remember what you said.’ And ‘To do a thing, be at it.’ As a professional procrastinator, it is infuriating advice, yet it is often the kick in the butt that I need.”

Pictured above is Upton Mayor Nicholas “Nick” Trandahl. (Courtesy photo from Nicholas Trandahl)

Nicholas “Nick” Trandahl, Mayor of Upton and assistant publisher/editor of the Weston County Gazette, on his mother, Lisa LeVasseur: “My mother, an assertive second-generation newspaperwoman, has never been short on advice. Some that stuck with me was her emphasis on reading and writing when I was very young, instilling in me an enduring love for literature and expressing myself through the written word.”

State Auditor Kristi Racines learned to “stay humble” from her mother. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming State Auditor’s Office)

State Auditor Kristi Racines on her mother: “The first advice, or I should say quote, that I think of from my mother is, ‘It all pays the same.’ In a work sense, this means to stay humble and not fear getting your hands dirty because it isn’t included in your job description. In other words, don’t [think] that you’re above or below any task that needs to be done!”

Andrew Munz is pictured with his mother, Helga Tesar. (Photo courtesy from Andrew Munz)

Andrew Munz, Jackson Hole-based writer and comedian, on his mother, Helga Tesar: “I am a notorious procrastinator and always had trouble planning ahead to complete homework, creative projects, etc. I’ll never forget having a phone call with my mom to tell her my latest creative idea, when I heard her let out an exasperated sigh. ‘Just finish something,’ she said. ‘Finish one thing, Andrew. Then you work on the next thing.’ The advice was so simple and direct, but coming through my mom’s tone, it was exactly what I needed to hear. That sticks with me.”

Pictured above is Kelly Barlow, whose mother advised her to use good manners.  (Courtesy photo from Kelly Barlow)

Kelly Barlow, owner/partner at Gourmet Lamb of Wyoming/Barlow Ranch, on her mother, Kathryn Robinson: “Do you know that time in your teen years when you don’t think your parents are very smart or understand anything you are going through? That was when my mother told me, ‘Young lady, someday you will look down your arm and see my hand!’ This came to light the moment after my daughter’s birth. I called my mom that morning and said, ‘I looked down my arm this morning and saw your hand.’ Being a Southern woman, my mother had many sayings and wisdom to impart daily. If she caught you complaining, she would tell you that you would complain at the Lord’s Supper. Another bit of wisdom has been used over the years: ‘Good manners don’t cost you a thing, and they go a long way.’”


Robert “Ronnie” Jones’ mother always reminded him that “Nothing worthwhile is easy.”  (Courtesy photo from Robert “Ronnie” Jones)

Robert “Ronnie” Jones, director of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations, on his mother, Diane Jones: “When I was struggling, like many people do early in their life, through high school, college and early in my career, my mom would always remind me that ‘Nothing worthwhile is easy.’ I often reflect on those wise words and am thankful she shared them with me at a young age. I have found the advice applicable every step along my journey, and it has helped me get through challenging times. I have taken every opportunity given to me, when I see my children struggling with something, to pass the wisdom along to them.”

Rancher Charlene Camblin is pictured above with her mother, Jayne Harris. (Courtesy photo from Charlene Camblin)

Charlene Camblin, rancher and co-founder of the Frontier Republicans, on her mother, Jayne Harris: “My mom ran the ranch that her grandad homesteaded. She lived by the motto: ‘Don’t ask someone to do something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself.’ The essence of this statement guides me daily. Respect people and appreciate everyone’s efforts; we all are doing the best we can.”

Ty Espy (left) is pictured with his mother, Diana Espy, and his brother, Robert. (Courtesy photo from Ty Espy)

Ty Espy, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Young Producers Assembly president, on his mother, Diana Espy: “The best piece of advice I’ve got from my mother is ‘Run it like it’s your own. Someday it will be.’”

Laura Baker’s mother bestowed on her a “sense of fun.” (Courtesy photo from Laura Baker)

Laura Baker, executive director of CyberWyoming, on her mother, Candy “CJ” Haynes: “My mother passed away in 2010 after breast cancer metastasized. The best thing she bestowed on me was a sense of fun. The example I remember every year was ‘The Lighting of Pinky.’ Her birthday was in December, and she lit a 15-foot plywood cutout of a pink flamingo surrounded by white and pink lights, leaned up against her house, and toasted Pinky. She was unapologetic about her love of the fun and impractical. And, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all had something silly to share like that?”

State Sen. Tim French (R-Powell) received endless encouragement from his mother, who told him, “You can do it, son.” (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Legislature)

State Sen. Tim French (R-Powell) on his mother, Dorothy French: “She always encouraged me that I could do anything I wanted to do. She was just very encouraging that way: ‘You can do it, son … Anything you want to be or anything you want to try.’”

Pictured above is Hunter Old Elk, whose grandmother advised her to “fall in love” with herself and school before searching for romantic love. (Courtesy photo from Buffalo Bill Center of the West)

Hunter Old Elk, assistant curator of the Plains Indian Museum in Cody on her paternal grandmother, Carlene Old Elk: “The best advice I’ve ever received from my grandma is: ‘There is always time to find romantic love. Fall in love with yourself and school first.’”

State Rep. Chip Neiman (R-Hulett) learned the importance of “integrity” from his mother. (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Legislature)

State Rep. Chip Neiman (R-Hulett) and Wyoming House Majority Floor Leader on his mother, Lorene “Mae” Neiman: “I dearly loved my mom and miss her desperately.  She, along with my dad, were the stabilizing forces in my life. Some of mom’s best advice to me was to always be a person of integrity. Deal honestly with everyone, and if you make a mistake, own it and take responsibility. Work hard, and above all, love and be able to forgive others. This also makes me laugh about some great advice I got from her as a little kid: ‘Flush!’”

Lindsay Linton Buk is pictured with her mother, Carol Linton. (Courtesy photo from Lindsay Linton Buk)

Lindsay Linton Buk, photographer and creator of Women in Wyoming, on her mother, Carol Linton: “The best advice I’ve received from my mom has been through action, not words. She continues to be my fiercest supporter and never lets me quit when the going gets tough. She was my right hand when I produced Women in Wyoming and is my village for my two young boys. Thanks to this unwavering support and love, especially now that I’m a mom, I am the woman I am today.”

Seth Norris is pictured with his mother, Belinda Pirtle. (Courtesy photo from Seth Norris)

Seth Norris, new warden for the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution on his mother, Belinda Pirtle: “‘Always work hard and treat others with respect.’ She always instilled in me to be dedicated to whatever group or team I was a part of. This has been a principle that I have leaned on throughout my life and career.”

Pictured above is State Sen. Affie Ellis (R-Cheyenne), who strives to live “full days” thanks to the advice she received from her mother. (Courtesy photo from the Wyoming Legislature)

State Sen. Affie Ellis (R-Laramie) on her mother, Lenora Burnside: “‘Don’t be lazy. You’ll have plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead.’ My mom’s advice has made me strive to live full days—to take care of the people I love and to work on issues that I care about.”

Quinn Goldhammer is pictured with her mother, Jana Goldhammer, in 1992. (Courtesy photo from Quinn Goldhammer)

Quinn Goldhammer, executive director of AVA Community Art Center in Gillette on her mother, Jana Goldhammer: “My mother isn’t a woman who preaches or insists that she knows best, but rather demonstrates her values through an authentic approach to living life. She is fiercely independent, a hard worker with strong ethics and an advocate for anyone needing support or resources.Lately, my favorite thing is that my mom consistently sends a message at the start of each week celebrating our accomplishments and encouraging us to have a great week. I will always value the unconditional love and support my mother provides to my family, and owe my own accomplishments and moral foundations to the many ways that my mother modeled a woman’s’ true role in the world: to be strong, brave, resilient and unapologetic.”


CJ Baker, Ellen Fike, Jennifer Kocher, Ruffin Prevost, Elizabeth Sampson, Shen Wu Tan and Melissa Thomasma contributed to this report.

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