Beloved Cody native, Sen. Henry Huttleston Rogers “Hank” Coe, 74, died peacefully at his Cody home on Jan. 21, 2021, surrounded by his loving family.
Hank was born to Margaret “Peg” Shaw Coe and Henry H.R. Coe on April 29, 1946, in Cody. Hank’s parents and grandparents were strong supporters of the Cody community, and Hank devoted his life to carrying on that tradition.
Hank’s education was broad-based, including early school years in Cody, followed by preparatory school at Lawrenceville (New Jersey), Fountain Valley (Colorado Springs) and Pinecrest (Florida), after which he attended the University of Wyoming in Laramie.
Though Hank’s father died in 1966, the Coe family continued to operate Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill Cody’s original hunting lodge near Yellowstone’s East Entrance, and it was while they were both working there during the summer of 1970 that Hank met Marty Strannigan.
In 1971, Hank and Marty eloped to Cheyenne, where they were married by a judge who happened to be acquainted with their parents. The judge inquired sternly if Hank’s mother, Peg, and Marty’s father, UW Basketball Coach Bill Strannigan, knew what they were up to. Presumably the young couple answered satisfactorily as the judge proceeded with the wedding, and they then joined 24 of their closest family members and friends for their honeymoon in Hawaii.
Hank and Marty’s first son, H.R., was born in 1973, followed by daughters Carey Ann, in 1976, and Bethany, in 1978. While he and Marty raised their young family, Hank also started out his career with Cody Bus Lines, then eventually became a stock broker and worked at that until he retired. He also initiated a lifetime passion for public service.
Hank volunteered as a fireman for 23 years, serving two years as chief and many years as captain and training officer. He always said that, “The most rewarding thing I ever did was the Cody Volunteer Fire Department.” While Hank’s fire-fighting resulted in many enduring friendships, it could also be emotionally challenging, such as the time when he responded to the Cody Enterprise fire in 1974, when he lost a fellow firefighter and good friend, Bob Moore, and fellow Cody citizen, Eric Olsen, and when helping to hold the fire line at Pahaska Tepee near Yellowstone in 1988.
Throughout Hank’s life, athletics and staying in shape were always a priority. He played football, softball, golf, and racquetball, often competing in tournaments. Winter snowmobile outings at Pahaska were rounded out by summer pack trips. He was as enthusiastic about supporting his children’s athletic efforts as he was about the Wyoming Cowboys and Denver Broncos, and he attended several Super Bowls with relatives and friends. Until recently, Hank faithfully walked 3 to 5 miles each day at Beck Lake.
Hank loved his children. He coached H.R.’s baseball teams and loved to travel to all his children’s tournaments and sporting events. Even after they grew up, Hank would always call his daughters whenever they drove long-distance to ensure they made it safely home. H.R., Carey, and Bethany say they could never have asked for a better father, noting that, “He was always there for us, just supported us.” Hank was proud of their accomplishments and loved watching his grandchildren play sports in person or on Facebook.
It was said of Hank’s grandmother, Effie Shaw, that she had an innate ability to unite her family by visiting among them and subtly weaving their lives, interests, and goals together. Hank inherited this skill and soon wielded it deftly and generously to bond people and their interests, benefiting not only his local community but all of Wyoming and its future generations.
Hank never quit volunteering and connecting people. His parents and grandparents were early trustees of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and Hank joined Peg on that board to serve there until his death. He was also a director of Shoshone First National Bank, and in 1975, Hank became a board member of the Cody Medical Foundation (formerly Coe Medical Foundation) and served several years as its president. He was also a constant advocate for Wyoming recreation and air travel opportunities, serving on the Yellowstone Regional Airport Board.
Hank was a Park County Commissioner for eight years before being elected to the Wyoming State Legislature, where he served for 32 years and held positions as majority floor leader, Senate vice president, and president of the Senate. Hank also chaired the Education Committee, the Air Transportation Liaison Committee and was a member of the Senate Minerals, Business & Economic Development Committee; Select Committee on Capital Financing & Investments; Energy Council (which he also chaired) and Council of State Governments-West Education.
Education was a cherished focus. Hank’s years on the Legislature’s Education Committee involved profound dedication to ensuring every school district had the same equal way to deliver education. He was instrumental in developing the Hathaway Scholarship, a merit-based scholarship supported by a $400 million endowment fund and created to benefit countless future generations of Wyoming students.
Once involved in politics, Hank was a very hands-on representative; he knew the number of people — or in many cases personally knew the individuals — that his legislation would affect, and worked tirelessly to address their needs.
In 2003, after 32 years of marriage, Hank and Marty transitioned their relationship to an enduring friendship.
While Hank’s public achievements were impressive, his love for family and friends was the essence of his character. He also firmly asserted there was no better place to live than Cody, and had ample experience to back up that claim. Cruises and trips to Hawaii with Peg and his extended family occurred annually for many years. Hank also traveled all over the world, including several trips with dear friend and companion Naoma Tate.
Hank was also well-acquainted with Wyoming’s highways (and numerous Wyoming state troopers) given his love for fast cars and what they could do. Fourth of July parties at his mother’s house were legendary events and Hank always enjoyed them. He also inherited the family passion for a good poker game and loved playing cards with his friends at the Directors’ Club as well as with the family at Peg’s on Christmas and during reunions at Pahaska and the Shaw cabin.
Hank was married to Kari Cooper of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for three years, during which period they divided their time between Cody and Jackson Hole.
Hank was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October 2020, and fought that battle with his trademark humor, fortitude and courage. Hank never complained, saying, “Don’t feel sorry for me, I have had a good life.”
On Jan. 19, 2021, Hank received the honor of his life. In a ceremony organized by the Park County Commissioners, Hank was honored by both of Wyoming’s U.S. Senators, the governor, several state lawmakers, county commissioners, and others. Commissioners Joe Tilden and Lee Livingston put forth a resolution to declare April 29 (his birthday), as “Hank Coe Day” in Park County, and U.S. Sen. John Barrasso read a tribute to Hank that he and Sen. Cynthia Lummis would later enter into the Congressional Record. Hank’s initial response was typical (“Tell them I don’t deserve it!”), followed by his gratitude for “such a prestigious honor.” Subsequently, after Hank passed, a moment of silence in his memory was held at the Wyoming Legislature.
Hank was preceded in death by his parents, Henry H.R. Coe and Margaret Shaw Coe; his uncles and aunts: the Hon. Robert Douglas Coe, William Rogers Coe, Count (Leonardo) and Countess (Natalie) Vitteti, Charles “Chuck” and Rhoda Shaw, Dick and Phyl Shaw, Ruth and Don Kern, stepsister Natalie Gerdes, stepsister Dorothy Mae Boyd, brother-in-law James Hayes, and cousins, Geoffrey Cameron Shaw, Michael Coe, Greg Gerdes, and Scott and Jimmy Boyd.
Hank is survived by his former wife, Marty Coe; and their children: H.R. Coe and grandson Henry Coe; Carey (Jeff) Johnson, granddaughter Madeline Coe and grandsons, Jrakke and Jagger Johnson; Bethany Boydstun and grandchildren Jack, Tyler and Lily; his sister Anne Hayes; brother Bob (Angela) Coe; nephew Jay (Brittany) Hayes and children Colin, Addison, and Camden; niece Meg (William) Frère and daughter Anne-Margaret; nephews Rob Coe and Hubbard (Francie) Coe; brother-in-law Keith Gerdes; niece Anne Gerdes Perryman; nephew Mike Gerdes; nephews Chris, Bobby, Spencer and Adam Boyd; cousins Ernie Shaw; Greg Shaw; Katy Kern; Dick Kern; Alan Kern; Lee Kern; Bob (Jeanean Kirk) Shaw; Mike (Julie) Shaw; Anne Shaw Moran; William Rogers “Bill” Coe; and Count Ernesto “Tino” Vitteti. Hank also leaves among his survivors many dear friends, companions, and caregivers.
There will be a visitation on Friday, Jan. 29, at Ballard Funeral Home, 636 19th Street in Cody, from 5 to 7 p.m. Please gather at or near Christ Episcopal Church in Cody on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, at 11:15 a.m. for a community procession to Riverside Cemetery, where Sen. Coe will be laid to rest. (Services, with chapel attendance by invitation only, will be held at 10 a.m. The service will be broadcast through the Facebook page for Christ Church Cody.)
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Cody Fire Department for the Dale Keever Fund (Needy Kids’ Christmas), 1125 11th Street, Cody, WY 82414; the Cody Medical Foundation, 1108 14th Street, #422 Cody, WY 82414, https://codymedicalfoundation.org/how-to-donate/; or the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, 720 Sheridan Avenue, Cody, WY 82414, or online condolences can be sent on Sen. Coe’s page at www.BallardFH.com.