Friends, family, students gather to remember Steve Jackson

Mike Moore photo
Photographs of Steve Jackson line the numerous tables present at his Celebration of Life gathering.

Steve Jackson’s daughter Cammie Vodicka embraces her son Brady Vodicka as attendees gather at Jackson’s Celebration of Life event Oct. 28.

Blake Jackson, son of Steve Jackson, holds his two-year-old daughter Ida while speaking to people in line for food last Saturday evening.

By Mike Moore

The impact Steve Jackson had during his 59 years on this earth was clearly evident last Saturday. More than 200 friends, family and former students gathered in Glenrock for his funeral and celebration of life.
Steve passed away Oct. 19 after losing a fight to a rare autoimmune disease called Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP). The disease first appeared 14 years ago and worsened in the last five years of his life.
The turnout was compelling for his daughter Cammie Vodicka, and wife of 39 years, Arlene, as they walked into the Glenrock Middle School Auditorium to see a couple hundred attendees as the funeral began.
“My mom and I just started crying; we really felt the warmth and love of the community,” Vodicka said Monday.
The family initially wanted to hold the funeral at Christ Episcopal Church in Glenrock, but opted to move the service to Glenrock Middle School to hold a larger crowd.
Steve’s son, Blake, said it was an honor to have so many people his father touched while on this earth come out to show support that day.
“When you realize that he impacted those sorts of people, to me, it shows the kind of person he was,” Blake said. “I think a big part of it was he was a big supporter of the community. He rarely missed a Glenrock football game.”
The bond Blake and his father had was indeed special. At one point, in Blake’s younger years, he and his father worked together to haul and paint rocks to rebuild a decrepit “G” near the football field. The termed “G Hill”has since been rebuilt to what it is today, but Blake fondly remembers the special time he shared with his dad, trudging up the hill to replace the dilapidated “G”.
“There’s multiple stories of him being part of the community and helping out,” Blake said. “Those obviously speak fondly to me because those were a couple big projects I took on in high school that he was a part of.”
Steve marched to his own beat, which Vodicka says made him a desirable member of the community to be around.
“He had this weird sense of humor,” Vodicka said. “He loved life. He was always interested in other people and what they were doing and kind of always took the spotlight off of him.”
Putting his community first, along with serving in a school system in the same town he grew up in, made Steve a well-known and loved individual.
“He was involved and willing to help and loved Glenrock for its traditions and sense of community,” Blake noted.
For a brief period, Steve worked as the athletic director and social studies teacher in the Glenrock School District. In addition, he also taught civics and law while working in Casper for the Natrona County School District. He worked briefly at Dean Morgan Junior High before moving on to teach at Centennial Junior High, also in Casper.
Steve had to leave his former career in education five years ago after his illness worsened. Arlene also worked in education, retiring last year in order to help her husband in his time of need.
According to Vodicka, her father’s condition worsened a few weeks ago leaving them little time before his passing.
“Once he got more ill, it went fast,” she said. “He started depending on others like my mother a lot more to do stuff. We weren’t expecting him to go so fast.”
One of the memories of her father Vodicka holds close is how Steve always treasured the little things in life. She says this showed her how to relish normal day-to-day things, such as spending ample time with family members.
Mark Allington, who currently serves as a counselor with the Converse County School District No. 1 in Douglas, has been a lifelong friend of Steve.
Allington says the way his friend viewed life is what made him a special to have around.
“Steve was very laid back about most things,” he said. “The kinds of things people argue about today and kinds of things people fight about on social media and things dividing the country - Steve, you know, never got involved in that. He just made the decision it wasn’t worth his time or worth the hassle.”
They first bonded through playing little league baseball together, and, when they were 15, they attended a baseball camp in Oklahoma.
The pair attended Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, to play baseball before the two transferred down to Chadron State College, where they played baseball together as walk-ons. Steve later earned his teaching degree from the University of Wyoming.
“I can’t say enough good things about Steve; he’s always been one of my best friends,” Allington said. “Steve was one of those guys that, if you needed something, you could certainly count on him to be there for you.”
As to Steve’s response if he could have been a fly on the wall during his funeral and celebration of life - Allington thinks he would have been humbled by the outpouring of community support.
“I don’t think Steve realized how many people he did touch, whether it was with his teaching or just friendships or relationships he built over the years,” he noted. “It was always about doing the right thing to him. If he lent a helping hand to someone, he didn’t expect anything in return.”
Even when the illness was at its worst, Allington said his friend would always try to deflect the attention from him to someone or something else.
“You would always ask him ‘Steve, how are you feeling?’ and his response would always be ‘I’m good, I’m OK,’” he said. “He would turn the conversation around to ‘how are you, how’s your family, how are the kids?’ I would say he is probably one of the most courageous persons I’ve ever met in my life, dealing with the illness that he had and I really admire him for that.”
In addition to their two children, Steve and Arlene also have a daughter and son-in-law, followed by seven grandchildren. He is survived in death by his wife Arlene, children Blake and Cammie; mother Margaret; brothers Joe and Don; sister Linda, and seven beautiful grandchildren, Lilly, Brady, Hays, Story, Nella, Ida, and Tate, as well as brother and sister-in-law, Steve and Melanie Cielinski and many other family and friends, according to his obituary.
Following his funeral, more than 100 friends and family gathered for a Celebration of Life, which had numerous photos of Steve living his life to the fullest spread throughout the expanses of the room. Blake thanks Steve Orszulak of Smoking Bibs BBQ for providing smoked meats to accompany the meal. Throughout the evening, friends and family shared memories of Steve as they mingled around.
“Overall, he was a great guy,” Blake said of his father. “We’re appreciative of the Town of Glenrock and (Christ) Episcopal Church in Glenrock in support of the family and of him. My mother being a teacher as well, we had food from the high school, food from the middle school and family in town.”
“He’s the best father in the world,” Vodicka smiled as she sat surrounded by a loving community during the Celebration of Life.


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