Gary Vernon Lauridsen, 61, passed away November 5, 2019, at his home in Kersey, Colorado.
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Gary was born June 30, 1958, in Ft. Collins, Colorado, to DeWayne and Geraldine (Miller) Lauridsen.
Gary was a cowboy. Although he spent his professional career in the construction industry, working as an electrician, plumber, carpenter, and Jack-of-all-trades, he was a cowboy to the core. Being born into the Lauridsen family, there is no way he could have been anything else. Roping and competitiveness pulsed through his veins. Gray and his siblings grew up riding and roping anything that would move. This included each other, the dogs, his sister’s goats, neighbor’s chickens, and truly anything that was not anchored.
When Gary was seven years old, he and his brother Steve were playing with a neighbor boy. Well, boys will be boys, and the playing got a bit rambunctious. A playful rock fight left a serious bruise on Gary’s thigh. Normally this bruise would have gone away. Unfortunately, for Gary, it became infected. After weeks of treatment his infection eventually overtook his immune system and Gary developed Rheumatoid Arthritis. At that time, 1965, it was extremely rare for children to be diagnosed with RA. Consequently, his doctors spent many months attempting to treat something they were not sure how to treat in children. Luckily, being a Lauridsen, Gary did not succumb to the negative life the medical profession prescribed for him. He worked hard and continued to pursue his passion for roping.
In the years following Gary’s diagnosis, Gary and Steve had two ponies that the boys worked hard to break. Okay, they really just spent their days playing cowboy and Indian. It is probably safe to assume that those ponies taught the boys as much or more than the boys taught the horses. Gary and Steve would race home from school, catch the ponies and race to the top of the hill by the house so they didn’t have to open chutes for Rick to practice his roping. At that point, Rick, being older than the others, was at a more serious stage in his rodeo career. Rick relied on Gary and Steve to open the chute so he could practice. He always promised that he would open the chute for them when he was done practicing. Well, as you can imagine, Rick’s practice usually took longer than the daylight lasted. So, the other two never felt they got their fair share of roping time. They figured if they stayed up on the hill, at least they could have fun and not have to work for Rick.
His “birthday present” on his 16th birthday was to have surgery on both feet to correct the joint damage that had already occurred. He spent the next nine months with casts on both feet and in a wheelchair or using crutches for his mobility. However, even this could not deter his riding. His dad would saddle his horse and hoist him into the saddle so he could rope. They got away with this for several weeks until Geraldine came out to the practice pen one day. Recounts of the day tell of her scolding DeWayne and yelling, “DeWayne, you’ll kill him!” As Gary’s RA continued to impact his joints he worked diligently to adjust his roping in order to maintain his competitive nature. He constantly worked to compensate for how his hands continued to change. The manner he used to release and deliver his rope had to differ from the traditional methods. He watched his dad, Rick and Steve. He studied their delivery and knew how the rope needed to contact the steer, but he had to change how he threw it so it could still catch. Although he remained competitive at the rodeos and jackpots, only his family and very close friends knew how hard he worked to overcome the physical challenges he faced every day. He simply would not give up and he was not going to be content to simply rope and ride. He was determined to be the very best he could be. For everybody who roped in Colorado and Wyoming in those years knew when the Lauridsen’s pulled into a roping, they were going to collect most of the payouts for each roping. In addition to roping in the arena, Gary grew up working cattle around Horsetooth, Red Feather and LaPorte with his dad and grandfather.
In 1976, Gary graduated from Poudre High School, LaPorte, CO. Upon graduation he moved to Wyoming where he worked as a cowboy on the Red Desert. He loved the cowboy life and, in spite of the long days and thankless hours, he would not choose any other way of life. After three years on the desert, he returned to Ft. Collins. He enrolled in college but in the spring, when his dad got fresh roping cattle, the days in the classroom came to an end. He spent the next few years working on various ranches and for his dad and grandfather in the feedlot at Cobb Lake. He put up hay and did everything he could to stay true to his passion. He eventually moved into the construction industry in order to have a better income so he could rope more. Gray spent a couple of summers producing weekly roping at Jack Hawn’s arena. Again, the hours were long and typically thankless, but he never complained. He worked hard to keep his cattle solid and to make sure that every roper had an equal chance at winning. He never wanted his cattle to cause someone to not draw a check.
Through these years, Gary married and the light of his life, his daughter Ashlee, was born in 1987. As she grew and developed the same Lauridsen competitive nature, she chose a different sport. Ashlee was a dynamic soccer player. Every weekend, Gary would load his horses in the trailer, go watch Ashlee play soccer in the mornings and then he would sweep her away and they would head off to a roping. Although Ashlee didn’t rope through those early years, she always rode with her dad. She started roping in her early 20’s and her competitive edge and athleticism proved her to be a great horsewoman and roper.
In 2007, after a few years of restructuring his life, Gary’s life took a turn for the better. He was at a roping and ran into a childhood friend. Gary and Julie began their life together and never looked back. They were both able to pursue their professional careers and their lifelong passions in roping and riding. Since Julie had her summers off with her teaching, they were able to find jobs on ranches in the summers and spent countless days at brandings, round ups and working cattle. They both believed in the healing powers of livestock and they loved supporting each other in these passions.
Gary always shared with anyone who asked, or who would listen, that he knew in his heart that his horses were what kept him moving and what kept him physically able to do what he did. When he was a teenager, and his doctors told him that he needed to plan on getting a desk job and that he would need to use a wheelchair for the rest of his life, he became determined to prove them wrong. He often stated that he knew first-hand how the movement of horses kept his joints moving more freely and how that movement decreased the pain he endured. He was proud to state that if he had not had horses in his life he probably would not have been able to walk or do what he did by the time he was in his early twenties. Gary gave the credit for his mobility to his love of horses and roping.
As a result of Gary’s RA, he continued to work hard to accomplish everything he did. He modified everything in his life and in his construction trailer. He put extra pulls and levers on every tool and he devised ways to strengthen or lengthen common devices. He used specific horse tack that was easy to adjust. Few people ever noticed these modifications because he worked so hard to make sure they were not flamboyant or evident. He just wanted to be “normal.” Gary did not choose a life that was easy. He could have made a great living as an architect or in industrial design, but he preferred to be active and to work in the field.
He was a cowboy to the core. In his mid 50’s Gary moved back into cowboy/ranch work as his primary work. This brought him great pleasure yet dynamic challenges. One fall he spent a long night of being “lost” in the Montana rugged country. Gary had had a long day of gathering cattle and his horse was played out. Although Gary stated that he was never lost and he was never even concerned, he was the only one. The cowboys on site who were searching for him, as well as the local sheriff and officials, and of course family members, were quite concerned. Gary built a fire, dried out, let his horse graze for a couple of hours and then moved on down the trial until he could get back to where he needed to be.
Then there was the time when he and the entire crew at a gathering were detained for cattle rustling until the local sheriff and brand inspector could get brand papers in line. Gary never lived a dull moment. He worked hard, played hard and pushed himself to be his very best in all aspects of his life. Gary was tough to the core, and had a heart of gold. The only thing Gary loved more than roping was his family. Gary was a cowboy!
Gary is survived by his wife Julie, daughter, Ashlee and Ryan Spencer, stepson, Cody Szallar and stepdaughter, Jamie and Chris Sykes. Grandchildren: Weston, Bryson, Blake and Conner. His father DeWayne Lauridsen, siblings: Rick and Tammi Lauridsen, Steve and Polly Lauridsen, Terrie and Dennis Guenther, and Jody and Vergil Wooldridge. Nieces and Nephews: Dustin (Carly) Bowling, Jessica Guenther, Tyler (Becky) and Daniell Lauridsen; Kori Kirchenschlager and Dakota Kirchenschlager.