Kirby Williams left Jackson on Christmas morning in the midst of a winter snow storm, the
most fitting departure for a man who loved the snow and loved to ski. He was at home
surrounded by all his loved ones and his dogs as he left on a sigh.
Kirby was born in May of 1943 to Kenneth and Jeanne Williams in Ogden, Utah. He remained
their only child. He and Jeanne moved to Jackson in 1949. Jeanne met and married Byron
Jenkins in 1951 and thus began a life on the Jenkins ranch. He grew up with his cousins Mike
Wardell and John Becker, splitting time between the ranch in town and their guest ranch at the
Highlands in what would become Grand Teton park. He enjoyed a traditional Wyoming
childhood of hunting, fishing, running a muskrat trap line and family ski trips. Kirby shared a
few summers in Ogden with his father and their new family including Marilyn and siblings Clint
and Jan. He attended school in Jackson, graduating from Jackson/Wilson High in 1961. He
graduated from Utah State University, leaving with a history degree and what would become
life long friends. A quarter of law school was completed, when he was advised to “get skiing
out of his system and then come back”. Never happened.
Kirby returned to Jackson to a career of summers spent guiding fishing, clearing the ski runs at
the mountain resort and working carpentry. Winters were worked at JHSC (would become
JHMR), first as a groomer and then 35 years as a ski patroller. Upon retirement in 2003, he
became a gentleman rancher and combined his passions of carpentry and fishing to build and
restore wooden boats.
Kirby married Susan (Surf) Obenland in 1974. They traveled and adventured the West and the
world for 23 years. Daniel Cody was born in 1985, the greatest pride to Kirby. The two guys
fished, skied, rode dirt bikes and grew up together. Dan was a good side kick. Kirby married
Stephanie Stegall in 2001. They built a home together on the ranch and worked in tandem as
ranchers, adventurers and parents to many spoiled dogs.
Kirby survived a bout of H1N1 (swine) flu in 2010. It was the start of many hits to his health. He
maintained a good attitude, even as his ability to fish and ski was reduced and then replaced
with walks on the ranch with his dogs. His life long love of birds, starting with his pet sparrow
hawk Rocket kept him entertained summer and winter and took on more importance in the last
few years. He enjoyed all the wildlife that visited the ranch.
Kirby left quickly and with the grace and dignity we had come to expect of him. He will be
missed by all those who mourn his loss. But celebrated for having known him and learned from
him. He was a man with a quick smile and concern for all he met. His long time goal was to
return to earth as a raven, because “they soar with the eagles, they always have enough to eat
and they play year round”. Watch for a raven that gives a dip of its wing in salutation. And
know he has returned for a quick bit of fun.
A celebration of his life and legend will be held in the spring. We ask in lieu of flowers, please
make a donation to the animal adoption center to help out an animal in need or to the Doug
Coombs foundation to get a youngster out into the wild.