Obituaries: Freeland, Groves, Smiley

Diana Freeland

Diana Lynn Freeland: Feb. 28, 1958—July 15, 2022

Celebration of Life for Diana Freeland will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, at Wright Baptist Church.

Diana Lynn Freeland, 64, of Gillette, Wyoming, passed away on Friday, July 15, 2022, at her home.

Diana was born Feb. 28, 1958, in Hot Springs, South Dakota, to Ronald William Mertens and Barbara Louise (Baker) Mertens. She was the first born of four children.

Diana grew up in Custer, South Dakota, graduating from high school in May 1976. During her years in Custer, she worked at cafes and a grocery store. During her senior year she worked for Custer State Forestry.

After graduation Diana worked as an aid in the Custer Junior High School; a year later she went to work at the VA hospital in Hot Springs, South Dakota. The following year, she transferred to the Forest Service in Custer.

On Jan. 2, 1981, Diana married Douglas Arthur Freeland. A year later the couple moved to Wright, Wyoming, where Doug started work at Black Thunder Mine. Diana went to work for Decker’s.

Diana’s desire was to be a stay-at-home mom; after having their first son, Nicholas, Diana did stay at home. She delighted in being a stay-at-home mom. She was excited when she found out she would be a mother again. Diana was happy to have a sibling for Nick. Diana’s desire to know Jesus grew during this time while the boys were young. She was baptized January 1987. Diana enjoyed raising her family.

In 1996, Diana was diagnosed with breast cancer. This changed her life and her desire to have more family and friends come to Jesus. Following treatment, Diana worked at the school, Big D and Subway. She enjoyed each of these jobs when she got to be around many people. She tirelessly offered her experiences and knowledge of cancer to anyone. Providing support to a multitude of people through the years. In 2013, the cancer returned. Eventually after different treatments, the cancer returned again. She fought the battle until her death.

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Diana is preceded in death by her dad, Ronald William Mertens.

She is survived by her husband, Douglas of Gillette; sons, Nick (Ashley) of Gillette; Mike (Beatriz) of Gillette; and grandson Kohlter of Gillette. She is also survived by siblings, Karen (Dean) of Custer; Ron (Bobbi) of Gillette; Todd of Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and nieces Paige and Jozey; great-nieces, Jersey, Oaklie and Kaylie, great-nephew, Phoenix; aunts and uncles, Gerry and Denny Anderson of Custer; Homer and Dorothy Baker of Custer; and Andy Baxter of Charles City, Iowa; Candace (James) of Michigan and grandchildren, Kaitlyn (Colter) of Gillette; Kenady, Kylie, Kara and Deagan of Michigan; and other “grandchildren” of Wright, Wyoming, Leland, J.D., Tag, Hunter, Kaiden, Emily and Kidog.

Memorials and condolences may be sent in care of Walker Funeral Home 410 Medical Arts Court, Gillette, WY 82716. Condolences may also be expressed at www.walkerfuneralgillette.com.


Wanda Groves

Wanda Lee Groves: Sept. 8, 1931—July 13, 2022

Wanda Lee Groves, 90, passed away Wednesday, July 13, 2022, at Primrose Assisted Living in Gillette, Wyoming, with her loving husband and caregivers by her side.

Wanda was born Sept. 8, 1931, to Clara Mae and Leslie David Lemons in Powersville, Missouri. She was the baby of the family with four older siblings. At the age of 4, Wanda traveled with her parents to Wyoming where the family worked on a couple of different ranches before settling in Gillette. Wanda attended school at Savageton, Midwest High School and graduated from Campbell County High School in 1950.

At the time of graduation, she worked in the fountain at the Corner Drug Store. Wanda married John Groves on July 1, 1950, shortly after graduation. They made their home on the Henry Schlautmann ranch where John was employed by his uncle. In 1963, John and Wanda purchased the ranch from Henry. They raised three daughters, Nancy, Carolyn and Lois Ann.

Wanda enjoyed cooking large meals when the family would gather for holidays and cattle work. She also cooked for hunters during antelope season. She was an avid gardener, canning much of what she raised and enjoyed baking pies. Wanda was a 4-H Leader and 4-H Council member for many years, teaching her own daughters to sew along with other kids.

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During the oil boom, Wanda managed the Savageton Bar, which was located on the ranch land. She worked many hours making sure it was stocked, cleaned and the shifts were covered. When John lost his eyesight, Wanda took over running the ranch with the help of Glen her son-in-law. Her favorite place to be was in the field, whether it was during spring planting or running the swather during haying season. There were many days she could be found weeding her garden, or cleaning the house after a long day running the ranch. There wasn’t much on the ranch that Wanda couldn’t do.

Wanda enjoyed playing the slot machines in Las Vegas, and they would vacation there for a few weeks in the dead of winter. Eventually they joined John’s sister and cousin in Beaver Dam, Arizona, which is a short drive from Nevada and the casinos. They bought a house and proceeded to build a beautiful brick fence and made it their own. The highlight of their winter get away was the weekly Sunday breakfasts and a little gambling with their neighbors and family, whom many were from the Gillette area.

As Wanda’s health started to fail, they moved to Primrose Retirement Community where she enjoyed the Friday night music at the pub.

Wanda is survived by her husband, John, daughters Nancy (Glen) Terry, Carolyn (Jim) Blauert and Lois Ann (Bob) Edwards.  She has eight grandchildren, Shawn (Krista) Terry, Justin (Becky) Terry, Clay (Misty) Terry, Cody (Danya) Terry, Marty (Darci) Edwards, Tiffany (Dave) Rehbein, Kim Blauert, and Brad (Ann) Blauert, and 15 great grandchildren. Preceding Wanda in death were her parents; brother D.H. (Fern) Lemons, and sisters Esther (Bert) Rollins; Velma (Vern) Scott; and Rosalie (Winnie) Whelan.

Funeral service for Wanda Groves was Tuesday, July 19, 2022, at Gillette Memorial Chapel with Pastor Marty Crump officiating; interment followed at Savageton Cemetery.

Donations in Wanda’s name may be made to the Campbell County 4-H Council.

We would like to thank Primrose staff and the many private caregivers that loved and cared for Wanda.

Memorials and condolences may be sent in care of Gillette Memorial Chapel 210 W. 5th St., Gillette, WY 82716. Condolences may also be expressed at www.gillettememorialchapel.com.

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Arrangements are entrusted to the care of Bustard & Jacoby Funeral Home, 600 CY Ave., Casper, WY 82601.


Kevin Smiley

Kevin Ray Smiley: April 19, 1959—July 15, 2022

Kevin’s journey on this earth came to a close in Gillette, Wyoming, with his siblings, children, grandchildren and mother by his side.

Kevin was born in Pierre, South Dakota, the fourth of five children, to Bill and Marie Smiley. He attended grade school in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, and after moving with his family to Sheridan he attended junior high school at Holy Name, then Sheridan High School, graduating in 1977. Kevin planned to continue his basketball career after graduation, but unfortunately he lost his eye in a firework accident.

After high school Kevin married Kristina Ballek. Together, they raised three children — Nicholas, Nichole and Shelby. During his time in Sheridan, Kevin worked as a skilled carpenter, eventually co-owning and operating Blacktooth Construction. When he wasn’t working, you could find him teaching his kids his love for basketball at the YMCA. After spending some time living in Montana, South Dakota and Texas, he moved to Gillette where he continued working in construction.

Kevin was a proud Lakota Sioux, which was evident in his love of nature, all living things, camping and hunting. He loved building sweat lodges, and hosting sweat ceremonies. He was happiest with the earth under his feet, and loved collecting holy rocks everywhere he went. Kevin will be remembered as always finding the beauty in everything, seeing the good in every person, and touching many lives.

Kevin loved his children and grandchildren with all his heart. He was also quite the jokester and prankster. He always had the last puzzle piece hidden in his pocket, and he loved masking up and scaring his friends and neighbors. There have been stories that he liked to throw his glass eye on the table during a game of poker. His sense of humor would always put a smile on your face.

His creativity knew no bounds. His beadwork on medicine bags, purses, moccasins and belts was second to none. He loved to make special keepsakes for all of his friends and family. A most caring man.

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Kevin is preceded in death by his father Bill, nephew Jarid, and grandson Will. He leaves his Mom, Marie, siblings Marilyn, Billie Jo (Bill), Kathy (Ben), and Danny (Kim). He is also survived by his children; Nick (Lauren), Nichole (Dustin), and Shelby (Austin), his grandchildren; Grant, Hunter, Arrow, Kai, Kenley and Kase, and numerous beloved nieces, nephews and friends.

To assist with Kevin’s final wishes, memorials and condolences may be sent in care of Gillette Memorial Chapel 210 W. 5th St., Gillette, WY 82716.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022, at noon at The Pine Island Group Area in the Bighorn National Forest — off of US-14 just south of Arrowhead Lodge.

Please RSVP here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd6bdqXJEXWgerFAX2A_cUk0wlQsIU6jq-2evras0zpCi5u4A/viewform?usp=sf_link