My old school chum and Sheep Barn roommate Felix Bessler is in hospice in Cody with terminal lung and liver cancer. For each of us, we can think of one or more people who said something, did something--an act of love or kindness, a word of encouragement, a suggestion--that altered the course of our lives. For me, Felix Bessler was one of these persons.
Felix grew up in a large family in a tiny house on Willwood, the farming community south of Powell WY. He slept with other children in the unheated basement of their small home. Somehow, he had saved enough money to start school at the University of Wyoming in Laramie the fall after our graduation from Powell High School in 1949. Louise and I started college at Northwest Community College in Powell. During Christmas break, I saw Felix, or "Red" as he was then fondly called, at a Powell High School basketball game. He said, "Blood, I've got an extra bunk in the room in the hayloft of the sheep barn at the UW stock farm. Why don't you come down with me and go to school there?" Great question. I had no money. I had no job. I had a scholarship that would pay most of my tuition, only a thimbleful at the time. Dad cashed the $75 check I earned at my job at the Park County Sentinel, a weekly paper that was about to fold, when we made a quiick trip to Powell where the K Bar was the only place open to cash a check. I packed my meager belongings in a cardboard box and in my FFA Samsonite suitcase. Mom and Dad never said, "How do you think you can do this? You have no money. You have no job. You have no clothes." Instead, they waved goodby on a frosty January 1 as I headed for Willwood to pick up Red and head for Laramie.
Fifteen miles north of Laramie, Red told me that his girlfriend, Dolly, had a cute little blonde girlfriend named Velna and that I should call her when we got to town and go on a blind date to a square dance. Three or four days later, I knocked on the door of 615 Flint, knees trembling, fearful, What would she look like? Would she turn up her nose when she saw me? Would she think she had made a big mistake? Off to the square dance we went. Three years later we got married. Fifty nine years after that, 62 total, we are still together, though neither of us can square dance any longer.
So Felix was responsible for me going to the University of Wyoming and for finding the girl who would be my lifelong companion. How much more can one person affect your life than that? We have stayed in touch over the years. But I have never forgotten, nor have I ever given Felix enough credit, for the ways in which he changed my life forever. Thank you Felix (Red), and may you be at peace.