Citizens share why they came to area and stayed

By David Peck

“Why Lovell, Why Byron, Why Cowley” was the topic of the June general membership meeting at the Mustang Cafe in Lovell, and four citizens told the packed house why they moved to north Big Horn County and stayed.

School District No. 2 superintendent Doug Hazen was first up, joined by his wife, Lindsey. The Hazens (engaged at the time) moved to the area in 2008 when Doug was hired as a math teacher at Lovell High School and have lived here ever since except for the 2019-20 school year, when he took a junior high principal job in Columbia Falls, Montana.

Moving to Lovell (actually Byron for two years) was an adjustment, Doug said, because they had both lived in cities, Doug from Wisconsin and Lindsey from St. Paul, Minnesota. They went to college at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee, then moved to Aberdeen, South Dakota for graduate work at Northern State. He joked that Lindsey said at the time that she couldn’t live in as small a community as Aberdeen, which now has a population of around 26,000.

And then they moved to Byron and, eventually, Lovell, when Doug was hired to teach math, later becoming the middle school principal and currently superintendent. He also coached football for many years at LHS.

Lured to Wyoming by better teaching salaries than South Dakota, Hazen said he soon learned to appreciate the quality of education in the Cowboy State, and the quality of small-town life.

“The people are wonderful here,” he said. “It’s been a great experience, and we feel blessed. Even being away helped us value what we have here. I’m biased, but once we got to come back we could see what a quality educational experience our children have.”

Lindsey Hazen said the people made them fall in love with Lovell, and they are thrilled to be back in the community. She noted what she called “a great network of women” who support each other and help with each others’ families, for instance opening their homes to help watch kids when necessary.

Having lived in other communities or talking to parents in other towns or cities, that kind of family support is not to be taken for granted, Lindsey said, noting that when they moved back to Lovell from Montana, they knew they were coming home.

“There was no reason to welcome us into your community 13 years ago, but you did,” Doug said. “We are blessed.”

Denney NeVille

Local artist Denney NeVille has deep roots in Byron. His great-grandfather, Joseph Hyrum NeVille, was one of the men who came to Byron to build the Sidon Canal in 1900, and he grew up in Byron, but he lived for several years in California and Montana before returning home in 1976.

NeVille joked that he was born in the Cattlemen Motel, then the Lovell hospital, and now his daughter Amber May manages the motel. He said he enjoyed a lot of freedoms growing up in Byron. A kid could be gone all day fishing and his parents didn’t worry, though he admitted that a boy might come home “pretty smelly of mud and fish.”

After one semester at Northwest Community College, during which he realized he wanted to be involved in art, he moved to Los Angeles to attend art school, served a two-year mission in France, where he was exposed to European art, then returned to finish school in L.A., where he met his future wife, Linda.

NeVille came home to undergo a pre-draft induction physical in Butte, Montana, told he would likely be drafted in four to six months, but about that time he took a job as an illustrator for Hughes Aircraft Co. in Culver City, which required him to obtain a security clearance.

“I never did hear from my draft board,” he said. “I assume that security clearance cleared me from serving in Vietnam, though a number of my friends did.”

NeVille worked in the animation industry in Reseda, California, for three years, then grew tired of the work and took a job with CTA Architects in Montana, working for only about six weeks before he met Stan Lynde, who hired NeVille to assist in producing the Rick O’Shay comic strip. He and Linda moved to Red Lodge for six years, then moved to Byron in ’76. NeVille continued to work for Lynde for two more years before the comic strip ended.

Denney and Linda raised five children in Byron, and he noted, “They’re scattered all around, but I’m still here.”

He said he’s been involved with several galleries in the area and has been able to make a living as an artist.

“I’ve been able to do what I want to do,” he said. “It’s sometimes been difficult, but I’m glad I have a wife who supported me. I’m here and still enjoying it.”

NeVille showed two examples of his work, the first being a landscape with a tipi in it. He joked that an artist can always sell art with a tipi in it. He also showed a work of cartoon art entitled “All in a Day’s Work” that he submitted and sold at the Buffalo Bill Annual Art Auction in September.

The work shows a cowboy holding onto a bucking bronc for dear life while performing his job, NeVille said, noting that the cartoon shows 13 different things going on at the same time illustrating the challenges a cowboy faces daily.

“It was different than anything they’d ever had at the auction,” he said. “It was a completely different concept for that show, which is a pretty sophisticated show. It was quite a hit. It was surprising how many people gravitated
to it.”

Gary Emmett

Town of Lovell Parks Director Gary Emmett also had a successful career going in another state before coming back to his hometown.

“After high school (and a two-year church mission) I spent 20 years in Idaho,” he said. “I got a degree in horticulture, and although positions changed, I always worked in the horticulture industry. All three jobs since college have dealt with my degree, so I’ve been very fortunate.”

It was almost fate that brought Emmett and his wife, Brenda, home to Lovell. They had put a deposit on a house in Utah but were second on the list and the deal fell through. Working a sales job at the time, Emmett served a wide area and realized he could live anywhere, so the couple moved back to Lovell. He was then hired three years later as the parks director (in 2012).

“What brought us here was our parents,” he said, “mine and my wife’s. We wanted to help take care of them in their later years. Lovell is home.”

He said he understands what Lindsey Hazen meant about coming home, noting, “That’s what this town is. We’ve been back 12 years and plan on being here many more.”