Lehmann, Connally to be honored

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GUNNISON, Colo. – There was something about the rural way of life that appealed to Tim Lehmann and Casey Connally.

They had quite separate lives, but there was a form of unity founded in the Gunnison Valley and with the annual Cattlemen’s Days. They died mere days apart last November, and what they did for this community will be honored at this year’s celebration during the rodeo, set for Thursday, July 11-Saturday, July 13, at Fred Field Western Center in Gunnison.

“Both Tim and Casey made an impact in this community in their own ways, the Cattlemen’s Days committee wanted to honor them alongside two other people who were a very big part of our celebration, Dale Irby and Brett Redden,” said Brad Tutor, president of the volunteer group that produces the annual event.

Casey Connally will be honored during the Thursday performance of the rodeo. She was a volunteer with the Cattlemen’s Days, especially in the early stages of its Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign. An avid horsewoman who was born in Texas, she moved to Gunnison with her mother and sister in the early 1970s.

“Her love of horses came from our mom,” said Lee Connally, Casey’s older sister. “Mom rode cutting horses when she was a teenager and in college until she met my dad. Casey and I grew up doing 4H gymkhanas and even competed in barrel racing for a short time in junior high and high school. Casey was more into it than me.

“With Mom being a cutter, she brought Casey into the whole cutting thing, and Casey flourished at it. She was good at it and worked with horses most of her adult life.”

Those experiences made her who she was, outgoing with lots of friends, positive and bubbly to those around her. She loved animals, especially horses, and shared her friendly, compassionate nature with those around her.

In March 2022, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma and died Nov. 29, 2023.

“Casey left her mark where she wanted, and she got to do what she did with horses,” Lee Connally said. “She did it well. She felt pretty content with her life when she left.”

Celebrating her life and her personality during the rodeo’s pink night might be the perfect way to honor Casey Connally. Redden and Irby will be recognized during Friday’s performance of the rodeo, which is Patriot Night. Lehmann will be honored during Saturday’s Ranchland Conservation Legacy rodeo, and it’s just as fitting.

He wasn’t raised in a ranching family, but he adjusted to that life very well. Born in Grand Junction, Colorado, Lehmann was an athlete who went to Mesa State College to play football. That’s where he met Michelle Sammons, who became his wife in 1993. She introduced him to the Sammons family ranch, where he worked alongside his father-in-law, Glen, and other members of the family.

In fact, that’s where Tim and Michelle raised their children, Wyatt and Jessica, and where Tim grew into rancher, an advocate and a major member of the community.

“I’m the fourth generation of my family to work on this ranch, and Jessica is the fifth,” Michelle Sammons Lehmann said. “I went to college and roped him and brought him back. He never left, and we built a life here on the ranch.”

Jessica lives just two houses down from her folks and has worked with them all her life. She not only looked up to her father, she cherished all the time she had alongside him, whether it was horseback pushing cattle or fixing fence or just eating a meal together.

“Dad had a great sense of humor,” Jessica said with a laugh. “He was also very ornery, and you had to have some tough skin if you were going to be around him.” 

His personality was lively and infectious. It was what guided him into advocacy, first on the board for the Gunnison County Stockgrowers, then to the board of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. His biggest step, though, may have been helping his children and other youngsters through the 4H program in the valley.

“He would meet somebody one time and become their best friend,” Jessica said. “He had a way of making everyone feel welcome. He had so many friends in the community; everyone knew him and respected him. Everyone looked at him for guidance. He was very prideful about this place, but he was also very ornery and witty, but that’s because he truly cared about people.

“I strive to be like him. He was very empathetic for other people. He loved us very much and was a big family man. He was one of the biggest supporters and cheerleaders in our lives.”

Her brother seconded the thought of his father’s love and support.

“He dedicated his life to his family, ranching and lobbying for the agricultural industry,” Wyatt said. “He instilled so many values in us, but one of the most impactful was teaching us that helping people is one of the most noble professions. He gave me the desire to commit my life to helping people achieve a healthier lifestyle, non of which would have been possible without him.”

Tim Lehmann died Nov. 15, 2023, after suffering a heart attack, and now a community will come together to remember him and celebrate his life in a way that would make him proud.

“I love it, and I love talking about my father,” Jessica said. “To recognize him at something he was so involved in and at a place where so many people loved and appreciated him will be at is perfect.”

The first few months after losing someone close can be tough, but the Lehmanns are working through their pain through recollections and love. This is a chance for their guiding light to shine.

“We are a very private people and a little uncomfortable with this happening, but we are pleased that he is being recognized this way,” Michelle said. “It’s really an honor.”


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