Wyoming State Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) was found dead early Tuesday at a Gillette hotel. She was 56. An autopsy is planned, according to Campbell County Coroner Tom Eekhoff.
Governor Matt Mead ordered state flags at the Wyoming Capitol Building in Cheyenne and in Campbell County lowered to half-staff from now until sunset of the internment for Wallis, who has represented the county in the Wyoming Legislature since 2007.
“Wyoming lost a great voice today. Representative Wallis was a poet and her eloquence was on display whether she was writing or debating on the floor of the House or in my office. The strength of her convictions was clear, as was her commitment to the West and our way of life. I will miss her,” Mead said.
Wallis practiced politics her own way, blending her uniquely western style of Libertarianism into a GOP caucus that was often left scratching its collected head. She was a fierce believer in individual rights and in helping Wyoming’s farm and ranch community.
Married for 18 years to cowboy poet and author Rod McQueary, who died in late 2012, Wallis was also one of the West’s larger-than-life personalities. With McQueary, she co-wrote “The Cowboy Cattle-log” and published “Surviving the Good Life,” a memoir of Wallis’ grandmother.
Like other Wyoming ranchers during the recent drought, she became concerned about starving horses being abandoned, and she worked to bring back horse slaughter. Animal rights activists began calling her “Slaughterhouse Sue.” She did not seem to care, pointing out that horsemeat was on the menu not all that long ago at the Harvard Faculty Club.
Wallis and McQueary were friends with two old cowboys who apparently could have made their own version of the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” Wallis, citing that friendship, emerged as a leader in Cheyenne for equal rights for same-sex couples.
Likewise, Wallis stood up for the right of Wyoming women to abortion services. In doing so, she could be blunt, telling her fellow lawmakers that as a young, single mother of three, she made a difficult decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Her opposition helped defeat a bill that would have required doctors to show women ultrasound images and require 24 hours notice before an abortion.
The daughter of former Wyoming legislator Dick Wallis, she was staying overnight at the Tower West Lodge in Gillette because an annual legislative breakfast was being held there Tuesday morning. But, shortly before 7 a.m., Gillette police dispatched an EMS unit to Wallis’ room and Campbell County Sheriff Bill Pownall confirmed her death.
Up until she died, Wallis showed no signs of slowing down. She had just returned from the Western Stock Show in Denver.
And she’d promised to sponsor a bill in the Wyoming Legislature, which begins Feb. 10, to legalize medical marijuana. She says McQueary, known for his appearances at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, benefited from medical marijuana obtained in Colorado before he died.
Wallis also tried to legalize raw milk sales in Wyoming, and, when that did not work, she worked on regulators to allow cow-share programs. She was more successful with opening home kitchens to making cottage foods.
“She was a bulldog you know, she really was an incredible force on it, and was phenomenally respected, particularly on her ag issues on a nationwide basis,” said state Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-Devil’s Tower).© Food Safety News