From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 48 - February 22, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Friends & Family remember Lance Koppenhafer
Services to be held today at 1 p.m. in the Pinedale High School Auditorium.
by Janet Montgomery

This past Saturday, a tragic accident claimed the life of Lance Koppenhafer.

While the 44-year-old wasn’t born in Sublette County, Lance operated one of a few mechanic shops in Pinedale making him an acquaintance or good buddy to many of us who live here.

Lance spent his youth in Grants, N.M., and came to Pinedale from Mancos, Colo, in about 1985.

“How did I not know him is a better question,” said Todd Stevie, who owns and operates Sublette County Feed in Pinedale.

The two friends meet the year Lance moved to town, 1985.

Stevie said that their first encounter with one another was at the Cowboy Bar.

He remembered it well, and said that the two got to be acquaintances right away.

“We really got to be great friends – when (Lance) opened LK Repair,” Stevie said. “I was selling Dodges ... (and) we were in the same building.”

The two friends shared a love of fishing and hunting and rodeo, especially roping.

“He had a big passion for rodeo,” Lana Koppenhafer recalled of her late husband.

Lance raised Quarter horses on a ranch out on Pole Creek Road.

“He loved to team rope,” Lana said. “He loved his horses.”

With about 40 to care for, Lana said that they foaled out about a dozen mares in the spring as well.

Lance and Lana had just seen each other around town before Lance finally asked her out on a date. He took her bow hunting for bears in the Hoback area, where they sat in a bear stand in the pouring rain.

“It made an impression,” she said.

One of Lana’s favorite memories she said happened when she had gotten a sheep permit. Lance and Lana took the horses and rode into the mountains where they stayed for 11 days.

“Just the two of us,” she said. “It was awesome to just be able to be together and spend that time together.”

Lana said that Lance was the kind of person who would do anything for anybody.

People would call at the house with a flat tire or whatever, and Lance would be right there.

“It didn’t matter who it was,” she said. “His heart was as big as it could be. ... He was just a man who would give his all 100 percent. That’s just the way he was.”

Stevie described Lance as “being a good standup person.”

“He bailed me out of more binds in more ways than anybody ever will,” he said.

Stevie recounted a recent bailout by Lance when Stevie was taking some guests out on a pack trip. As they turned the corner up to Soda Lake, the tire blew out, and another one was close to going as well.

Stevie said he called Lance, who told Stevie to get to the shop right way. By 8:45 a.m., the bus was back on the road.

Stevie said his guests were amazed that the tires got fixed so fast.

“My answer to them,” Stevie said, “Good people do good things.”

The two men spent a lot of time together over the past 20 or so years making a lot of memories together.

“I was with him on his last two elk hunts when he got his last two elk ... I (saw) him at 12:30 p.m. the day he died,” Stevie said.

The day that Lance died, Lana said that he was going to haul hay over to some stock in the Big Piney area. She had tried to reach him several times and later asked her son where Lance was.

They speculated what Lance could be doing, and Warren went out to Pole Creek to find him, and he did.

Lance had been operating a skid-steer tractor and apparently hit the hydraulic switch causing it to come down on him.

According to the release from the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, Lance incurred severe internal injuries, and he was pronounced dead at the scene from massive trauma to the chest area.

From the time that Lance’s body was found, Lana said, “It was pretty much chaos ...”

“It’s just like I lost a brother,” Stevie said. “There’s so many things that go through my mind about (things) we did ... There’s so much of it.”

Stevie said he would miss just shooting the breeze with his friend the most. Either Lance would show up at the feed store along about closing time Saturday, or Stevie would stop in at the LK Repair for a cup of coffee and some talk.

“He found the good in everybody,” Stevie said of his friend. “The whole community, the whole county, and everybody that knew him was better off for knowing him. There’s one hell of a big hole in the county that won’t be filled anytime soon, — if ever.”

Lance’s 18-year-old son Warren said: “He was my dad, my best friend, my boss for the last three or four months ... It’s going to be hard just because of the fact he provided me with everything ... He did everything with me or for me.”

Warren said he will miss hanging out with his dad the most.

“He loved his family,” Warren said. “He loved his place out there (on Pole Creek).”

Warren said that any chance he got, Lance loved to show his ranch where he had about 40 horses.

“He was busy all the time,” Lana said. “He was constantly on the go ... Whether it was helping someone else out or being with his horses.”

Lance participated in the Sublette County Sporting Association in putting together local rodeos, and he worked with the Ag Center in Big Piney as well.

He rode bulls a few years back.

Lana said when her son Warren was born over a Rendezvous weekend, Lance ran up to hospital in Jackson to see his wife and child and then he ran home to ride bull then up to see his family again.

“He had a big passion for rodeo,” she said.

Over the years, Lance garnered numerous awards and saddles for his rodeo competitions, which included a lot of roping saddles.

Warren said that his dad’s No. 1 hobby was team roping, and last fall, the Pinedale man got to head to Oklahoma City to compete in the United States Team Roping Circuit Championships.

“I know that was going to be a big memory for him and my sister,” he said, “a week of together time for them.”

Another time of just being with dad that meant a lot came last summer when Warren, his 15-year-old sister Kyla, and Lance headed for the hills so to speak, to the area of Section Corner Lake.

Warren said it was a time for his dad to get away from town and work, even though he loved work.

“It was just the fact he got to be with me and my sister with nobody else around,” he said. “He loved his family ... He loved being in the mountains and fishing.”

Warren said: “The only thing that matters to me is that he was 10-foot tall and bullet proof. ... He was and always will be ... He was No. 1.”

Family and friends can say their goodbyes to Lance today with services to be held at the Pinedale High School Auditorium at 1 p.m. with a reception to follow at Stockman’s.

Stevie said, “If there’s one thing that Lance Koppenhafer could come back today and ask, it would be to take care of his kids and his family.”

An account has been set up at 1st Bank in Pinedale for a rodeo scholarship in Lance’s name, and donations would also be welcome for the family.

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