CHUGWATER – To fall in love is a wonderous thing. To find it a second time is nothing less than miraculous and evidence of lives filled with grace.
That would be Dan and Lynn Kirkbride of Chugwater. Each having lost a spouse to cancer, they pressed on and found a miraculous relationship in one another while attending a grief support group.
They have enjoyed 27 years of marriage, five children that blended well into their new family and now five grandchildren. They have raised their family while tending to the family ranch.
And, oh yeah, Dan is a Republican member of the Wyoming House of Representatives who has been representing District 4 since 2013.
Dan is a Wyoming boy, born and raised, and Lynn is a Wisconsin girl. The proximity of the two states is a fair distance from one another, and they grew up approximately 1,022 miles from one another. So the question begs to ask, “how did a Badger and a Cowboy find each other?”
“I have a good story,” Lynn said. “I think God had to go to a lot of work to get me to Platte County. I grew up in Brookfield, Wisc. I came to Wyoming in 1986 with my first husband who came to pastor Calvary Baptist Church in Cheyenne and then a couple of years later got a brain tumor. We had just had our third son and my husband died 11 months after the brain tumor in 1991.”
Almost prophetic, the couple when they were pastoring, traveled on Highway 25 toward a church conference in Casper. She glanced down over the overpass in Chugwater and wondered who would live there. Little did she know, she would.
Lynn had three boys and Dan had two girls and they were all raised in Platte County.
As a girl, growing up in Wisconsin, Lynn’s family had an acre of land which was sometimes rare in the larger suburbs to be able to have that.
“My dad was a stickler for the yard, and I can remember raking leaves and picking apples and just having room to grow up,” she said. “I loved that. I had a great big pine tree out of my window and remember listening to the mourning doves.”
Lynn, who says that she had a great childhood, was adopted when she was eight months old and also had a brother that was adopted. That brother encountered a serious neck injury while Lynn was away at college and it affected her life greatly.
“That kind of just changed my whole world in so many different ways,” she said.
It altered her path as she changed colleges and ended up graduating with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Trinity College in Deerfield, Ill.
As for Dan, he grew up about 40 miles east of Chugwater and graduated with 10 classmates from Albin High School.
“We didn’t have any neighbors, but we did have a great time growing up,” Kirkbride said. “It’s been a wonderful life, two brothers and great parents.”
Dan graduated from high school and then went on the University of Wyoming and graduated with a journalism degree.
“Actually, I’ve never worked full time in the journalism field though I did do some part-time jobs with the Laramie Boomerang and Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation,” he said. “My first job for the first six years out of college was with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship which was a campus ministry.”
After working in campus ministry for six years, Dan decided to go back to seminary. After a year into the program, he was missing his family and the ranch and packed his suitcase and headed to a career choice that would sustain him for the rest of his life.
“You know, it’s been really nice,” he said. “Because there were lots of other interests beside just ranching. I was interested in politics, the church, coaching, writing and radio. I got to dabble in all those other things in addition to making a good living raising cattle. I’ve been ranching since 1982.”
Dan met his first wife when he was in second grade and she was in first grade. They were married 17 years before his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The girls were only 6 and 9 years old.
It was a very difficult 40-month journey until she finally died in December 1991. Dan was at that point having to wear all those hats that his wife had worn plus maintain his strength and composure to keep a fully functional ranch running.
Dan said God stepped in and introduced the two widowers at a grief support system in Cheyenne. The couple say that not only was it a miracle, but they say their marriage was as good as the deaths of their spouses was bad.
A life of changes then took another turn as the challenges of a blended family all deeply grieved as death touched them all. Dan continued to ranch and with Lynn at his side, they took on the task of raising their children.
For Dan, the peace he found as a child out in the solitude of the ranch again became a type of sanctuary. He has developed a creed about his life. Both Dan and Lynn have weathered changes, they have stood toe-to-toe with death and they have maintained their integrity and their character.
“I have always tried to give my best every day,” he said. “Even for all the things that just God and I knew about. At the end of the day you had a good feeling having met whatever challenges was before you and you knew you gave it your best.”
And for all the things on their plates, Dan had decided in his heart that to make a difference in Platte County, he would have to add even more. And so, he entered into the political ring.
With all the stresses that come to a normal marriage, this one was going to stretch things even further and undertake an arena in the public eye. For most couples there are bad days, but the Kirkbride’s take them all in stride, communicating as they work together.
“Don’t we all have bad days?” Lynn asked. “Sometimes we’re home and nobody else has to see them, but we don’t really disagree on very much. We just have very little conflict. And we just talk and have respect for each other. For me, there’s nothing not to respect about him. He’s not a harsh person, he’s a thoughtful thinker and he’s easy to live with.”
Dan agreed: “We were a wonderful match and it was so fortunate to find each other. We’ve had good times.”