Nov. 4, 1943 – Aug. 17, 2017
David Michael Mattis went home to meet his savior on Thursday, Aug. 17 surrounded by his family at Spirit Mountain Hospice House in Cody, Wyo., after a yearlong struggle with Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at 10 a.m. at the Greybull High School auditorium.
Dave was born in Adrian, Mich., to Merland and Harriet Nelson Mattis on Nov. 4, 1943. He grew up on Wamplers Lake and loved fishing and running his little boat around the lake. He graduated from Brooklyn High School in May of 1961. On May 19, 1961, he and his high school sweetheart, Kay Dunkel, were married. To this union three children were born: David Scott, Daniel and Tamara. Dave began his working career at the grocery store at Wamplers Lake at the age of 14. It was here that he learned his work ethic.
He grew up in a family of carpenters so when he and Kay were married, he began his partnership in the construction business with his dad. While doing that, he worked with a brick mason who taught him the art of that trade.
They built their new home at Wamplers Lake and as the kids grew he confessed that he had always dreamed of living out west and being in law enforcement. The summer of 1973 found the whole family traveling through the west looking for property. They found the perfect 80-acre “ranch” south of Manderson and bought it. Dave began his new career as a brick mason after arriving at their new home in December of 1973. To say that Dave was an artist with brick and stone would not be bragging. He bricked houses and built rock fireplaces all over the county, especially up the Shell Valley. He kept busy with his job and with the 70 acres of hay along with helping the kids with all of their 4-H projects. He and Kay started the first 4-H horse club in Manderson, the Hill & Gully Riders. His work was always satisfying to him, but in 1980 he was given the opportunity to fulfill the other part of his dream when he was offered a job as a deputy Sheriff for Big Horn County. He went right to work, from Deputy to Undersheriff, then Sheriff. He always maintained the mantra that he was a “peace officer,” not a “cop.” In the mid ‘80s Dave became interested in the K9 program. He convinced the commissioners how valuable a dog would be to the county, then went off to Great Falls, Mont., for three months to train “Kyler” who turned out to be an amazing K-9. In 1994 he ran for Sheriff and served in that capacity until 2006. He turned the K-9 program over to other deputies when he was sworn in as Sheriff, which gave him the time to pursue something else he felt passionate about –The United States Constitution. His oath of office was sacred to him as he staunchly defended the people of Big Horn County. In 2011 he was honored in Las Vegas, NV with the distinction of being the “First Constitutional Sheriff ” in the nation. Sheriff Richard Mack presented the award on behalf of CSPOA (Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer Association). In 2000 he was able to dedicate the new Big Horn County Jail and Dispatch Center, which he helped design and got to lay the first brick on. He was also a member of the Western States Sheriff’s Association and was well known in the west for his stance he took to protect and uphold his oath.
In 2006 he retired and turned his garage into a wood shop and started his woodworking business, “Posse Productions.” His life had come full circle, back to building things. He loved to make all kinds of wood projects from reclaimed wood that he and Kay would rescue from old buildings and corrals. He also used Russian olive branches for his canes and walking sticks. As in everything he did, he was meticulous about his products. He joined “Made in Wyoming” and sold his products around the state. He and Kay loved to fish for walleye and for their 50th anniversary bought a new fishing boat and took many trips to area lakes and reservoirs. He made his own lures and harnesses for fishing as he didn’t like the way the packaged ones were made. He chaired the Big Horn County Republican Party for several years and he and Kay were state committeeman and committeewoman for the party for two terms. They traveled around the state to meetings and Dave was very well known and respected among our elected officials. He was a very conservative Republican and wanted to see the party get back to its grass roots.
His life was full and his faith was strong. In August 2016 Dave was diagnosed with Interstitial Pulmonary Fibrosis, to which there is no cure. He continued to work in his shop right up to a few weeks before he entered hospice care. Dave was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Greybull and served many terms as an Elder. After his family, his Christian walk was the most important to him. He served the State Presbytery on the Committee On Ministry, working with churches without pastors and solving conflict in churches. He was also on the Presbytery Council, tasked with running the churches statewide until he could no longer make the trips to Casper for meetings.
His last week was spent in Cody in Hospice care with Kay, his three kids and spouses and some of the grandchildren by his side at all times. He is survived by his wife of 56 years Kay, son Scott (Virgie) of Greybull, son Daniel (Julie) of Worland and daughter Tamara (James) of Rawlins; 12 grandchildren, Josh, Derek, Caleb, Alex, Jessica, Aubree, Colton, Lacey, Spencer, Rhett, JoAnna and Garrett and by 16 great grandchildren.
He’ll be greatly missed but we are comforted by the knowledge that he is fishing to his heart’s content and will be the best darn Sheriff that Heaven has ever had.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to: Greybull First Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 484, Greybull, WY 82426, or to the American Lung Association, http://www.lung.org/. A lunch will be served for everyone immediately after the service at the Greybull Elks Club.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Atwood Family Funeral Directors.