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CMC teacher, outdoorsman killed in mountain biking accident

This article was originally printed in The Citizen Telegram.  By John Gardner.
Steve Chesley

An avid outdoorsman, Steve Chesley enjoys fishing at a lake in Big Sky, Montana this past summer. Chesley was in Montana visiting his daughter, Tara Preston, and his son Brett Chesley, both of whom live in Bozeman, Mont. Photo courtesy of Tara Preston

Steve Chesley lived life as he died, always going forward and never looking back.

“That has brought me comfort,” said Chesley’s son Brett Chesley. “Knowing that he was enjoying his life and that he wasn’t letting anyone hold him back.”

Chesley died in a mountain biking accident outside of De Beque on Oct. 21. He was riding with longtime friend and mountain biking partner, Gary Miller. Chesley was 62.

“Steve spent his last day very, very happy, and doing something he loved,” Miller said. “It is so sad that the day came to such a sudden and tragic ending. He is missed beyond measure.”

Steve’s wife, Mary Kay Chesley, said Steve was a man with a variety of interests who did what he enjoyed and was always the voice of reason. He was the kind of man who would ride his road bicycle from Rifle to Kearney, Neb., for his 30th class reunion, just because it was something he wanted to do.

“There are a lot of things I can say about him like that,” Mary Kay said. “But he never did it for show, or to be in the spotlight. He just did it because he enjoyed it.”

That is just the kind of guy Steve Chesley was. He did what he wanted to do, and that was that.

Steve was born in Callaway, Neb., on Sept. 19, 1949. He attended Kearney State College in Nebraska, earning a bachelors degree in education and art. He moved to Rifle in 1978 for a teaching position with the Garfield School District Re-2, where Chesley taught for the next 27 years.

Steve married Mary Kay Dryer in 1979 and they had two children, Brett Chesley, 23, and Tara Preston, 28. Both live in Bozeman, Mont.

Teaching brought Steve to Rifle, but his love of the outdoors kept him here.

“He loved the small town,” said Tara. “He needed to be some place where he could be outside.”

According to Tara, her father would walk through the woods for hours just to be outdoors and to look at the wildlife. That love of the outdoors is something he’s passed on to both of his kids.

“He taught me to have a respect for everything around us, the natural world, and to not take it for granted,” Tara said.

Along with mountain biking, Chesley enjoyed a plethora of outdoor activities including: road cycling, skiing, hunting, backpacking, fishing and hiking. He also enjoyed sports, including playing and coaching basketball. And despite living in Colorado for over three decades, he remained a loyal fan of Nebraska Cornhusker football.

Longtime friend, hunting partner, and fellow instructor Brad Skinner remembered Chesley as a brother more than a friend.

“He was such a quality guy, I don’t think I ever had a bad time with him,” Skinner said. “Whatever we were doing, we were having fun.”

According to Skinner and other members of the Chesley family, Chesley didn’t care much for what others thought of him. He just did whatever he enjoyed doing. Skinner explained that while that may sound like a negative characteristic, it certainly was not.

“He was so unassuming and he did so many things, but he never had the spotlight on himself,” Skinner said.

Those who knew Chesley “are better for the experience,” Skinner said. “He made me a better person, there is no question about that.”

Besides teaching math in Rifle public schools, Chesley also taught at Colorado Mountain College for close to 30 years and was instrumental in building the school’s ceramics arts program. Also a well-known local artist, Steve was a founding member of the Midland Arts Company in downtown Rifle.

“As far as an artist, he was one of the most talented ceramic artists I’ve ever known,” said local artist and friend Alan Lambert.

But, as far as a person, Lambert said he would trust Chesley with “anything and everything” and said that he was “an all-around great guy.

“He is going to be extremely missed in this community.” Lambert said.

Besides being active in his community, being a great friend to many, an accomplished artist and a well-know educator, Steve Chesley was, first and foremost, a husband and a father. He was a family man.

“How do you sum up the most amazing man in the world? You can’t,” Tara said. “He was my daddy.”