ROCK SPRINGS — Mardell Johnson Pieper and Barbara Taylor Smith are The Remember When Monday Committee of Rock Springs Young at Heart’s women of the month for June.
The two women will be honored during Remember When Monday at 11:30 a.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the center, 2400 Reagan Ave. Meals will be served during both presentations. The food costs $4 for those 60 and older and $6 for those 59 and younger.
Sponsors include the Daily Rocket-Miner, Sweetwater County Historical Museum and Rock Springs Historical Museum.
If you would like to nominate a woman to be honored during the Year of the Woman, she must be 60 or older, a Sweetwater County resident and have dedicated her life to service of the community, family, career or church.
Contact Rock Springs Young at Heart with nominations at 307-352-6737.
RED HAT QUEEN
Mardell Johnson Pieper was born on Sept. 27, 1942, in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, to Harry and Wilma Johnson. She was raised on a 5,000-acre ranch near Morill, Nebraska, where her father raised registered Hereford cattle and registered Corridale sheep. One of her earliest memories was of her father on horseback trying to save his cattle during the Blizzard of ‘49.
She graduated from Morill High School in 1960 and got a job as an aide in the Brighton, Colorado, school. She became the school secretary, a career path she would follow for many years. Mardell also had learned to speak Spanish fluently, so for seven years she was the translator in the area for the Mexican nationals who worked in the sugar beet industry. Before Mardell retired in 1995, she worked as secretary for the Southeast District of the Wyoming Education Association. Her career in education spanned 32 years.
She and her husband, John Pieper, met as members of the Rural Youth Organization. They both loved to dance — square dancing and ballroom dancing. John served in the military and when he returned, they married in 1962. They will be married 57 years this October, and they still love to dance.
Before moving to Rock Springs in 1979, they lived and worked in Colorado for 12 years. John’s job at Halliburton brought them to Rock Springs. The family includes daughter Holly and son Kent. Holly was the publisher of the Rocket-Miner for many years and is now editor of the Pinedale and Big Piney newspapers. Kent is a rancher in Utah. Holly has three sons, Matthew, Jace and Lance Jackman, and she is married to Randy Dabb. Kent is the father of RJ Pieper. All the grandchildren live in Rock Springs.
Since retirement, both Mardell and John have volunteered at Young at Heart and have been especially helpful with special events such as Casino Fever, Oktoberfest and the New Year’s Eve Dance. Mardell works regularly at the dining room desk and at the reception desk. Their daughter and family volunteer as well. Holly has been the Young at Heart Foundation president for many years.
Mardell is the founding Queen Mother of the Rolling Rock Hatters, the first Red Hat Society chapter in Sweetwater County in 1980. At one point the group consisted of 90 Red Hatters. She now enjoys a small group of Red Hatters, the Sage Brush Dollies. Mardell has also taught cake decorating in her home for over 20 years
Mardell believes that “whether you rest or whether you buy, you pay for the space you occupy.” She also believes in serving as a volunteer.
A woman of many talents I!
WRITER AND TEACHER
Barbara Taylor Smith was born in Nome, North Dakota, in December of 1946 to Howard and Bernice Taylor. She grew up in this Norwegian farming community surrounded by relatives, listening to their stories until the eighth grade when her parents “up and moved to to Havre, Montana.” Nome is where her roots still are planted, where her grandparents homesteaded and her mother was the high school basketball coach.
Barbara says, “Mom had to keep being pregnant with me a secret until the basketball season was over. You couldn’t teach and be pregnant. Uff da!” In Havre, her mother was the junior high school English teacher and her dad was Hill County sheriff for 16 years.
After Barbara graduated from high school, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the University of Northern Montana in Havre and then won a fellowship for her Master of Arts at the University South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota, graduating in 1969. She learned of an opening at the brand-new campus of the Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs. The college needed an English teacher, so she applied, interviewed and was hired. When she arrived to begin her career in the fall of 1969, the boom time was just beginning and not only that, she was in on the move from Reliance to the new campus on College Hill.
Barbara taught a variety of English, journalism and creative writing courses for 38 years at WWCC, and served for 19 of those years as the division chair before retiring in 2008. During her career, she brought over 100 writers to lecture at the college by writing grants and by networking. She belongs to the Wyoming Writers Association and is professor emeritus at WWCC. Barbara continues to teach the memoir writing class for WWCC at Young at Heart and has for over 20 years, always encouraging her students to tell their stories. She has succeeded!
Barbara has been published in collections such as “The Last Great Place,” “Wyoming Fence Lines,” “Deep West,” “Leaning into the Wind,” “Waven an the Wind,” “Crazy Woman Creek,” “Ucross: The Ten Years,” “Letters from Wyoming,” “Drive, He Said,” and most recently the Wyoming anthology “Blood, Water, Wind and Stone.” She received the Nelje Blanchan award for nature writing in 2008, the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award in 2006, the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship in 1990, with a residency at the Ucross Foundation.
She helped raise her three stepchildren when she married Leonard Smith in 1973. She and Leonard have twins, Jason and Julie Smith, and one grandchild, Elijah Toth. Jason and Julie live in Rock Springs.
As a volunteer, she has served on the YWCA Board, Arlene Wesswick Foundation Board, Wyoming Council of Arts, State of Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund Board, Wyoming Humanities Council and is currently serving as an executive producer for the Rock Springs Actors’ Mission.
Her life is an awesome story!