Friends, family rally around Uptain family
The Three Amigos always came home with memories from their camping trips.
Sometimes it was of the trout that the trio — Mark Uptain, Joe Pedrey and Aaron Rodolph — had snagged for dinner. Sometimes it was spending the evening belting out a rendition of “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” attempting to capture the spirit of the song showcased in “Top Gun.”
Uptain had always loved the outdoors, be it fishing trips with friends, introducing his five kids to the wilderness or guiding clients into the backcountry.
“He didn’t have to guide for money, he did it because he loved doing it,” said Uptain’s sister, Anna George, “and honestly looking back, I wouldn’t tell him to stop even if I knew [what would happen]. He would have hated being inside all the time.”
Uptain was attacked and killed Friday by a grizzly bear while retrieving an elk with a hunting client on Terrace Mountain. He was 37.
The father of five worked as a guide for Martin Outfitters, in addition to owning and running Blue Sky Services and Restoration. Friends and family who shared stories about Uptain’s character and personality on Tuesday remembered him as generous and courageous.
Uptain is said to have diverted the bears’ attention off his client, Corey Chubon, which allowed the Florida resident to escape but led to Uptain’s death.
Since learning of his passing, the Jackson Hole community has shown its support for Uptain’s widow, Sarah, and their children, donating about $140,000 of a $150,000 goal to a GoFundMe account by press time. Friends have also been quick to sign up for a meal train, TinyURL.com/uptainfamily, taking shifts to cook the family dinners and arrange the food to be provided at his service, scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Baptist Church.
“He was somebody who would give you the shirt off his back if you asked him — didn’t matter if you were a stranger,” friend Kris Lunde said.
Uptain grew up in Casper alongside eight siblings. As a kid, he loved to go camping, hunting and fishing as much as possible, George said. Her brother was good at everything he tried, even a brief boxing career in high school, a sport that took him to the state championships in one year.
After high school, Uptain moved to Jackson, and his wife, Sarah, soon followed. He considered law school, but after the couple got pregnant with their first child, now 17-year-old Isabelle, Uptain put his energy into supporting his family, which grew to include Brianna, Kirsten, Morgan and Benjamin.
He started a small cleaning business and later bought Blue Sky Services and Restoration.
“He worked so much and so hard, I don’t know how he had time to do all the fun stuff too and to lead a balanced life,” George said.
Uptain passed his passion for the outdoors on to his children and his many nieces and nephews. He often had kids in tow on his wilderness adventures, teaching them how to hunt or cast a fishing rod. At his kids’ soccer or basketball games, he was also one of the best parents to snag a seat next to, Lunde said.
“One thing’s for sure,” Lunde said. “He set a great example of being a great husband, a great dad.”
This gentle leadership and guidance is what made him not only a great fatther, said Matt Litzelman, chair of the board of elders at First Baptist Church, but an asset to the community.
Through the church, Uptain mentored many men through First Baptist’s Celebrate Recovery program.
“He was as generous with his time as anyone I have ever met,” said Ray McDaniel, pastor at First Baptist Church, where Uptain sat on the board of elders.
McDaniel will give the sermon at Uptain’s funeral service today.
The church has set up two funds for the family — the first collects money earmarked for tuition for Uptain’s three youngest children who attend the Classical Academy. The second has been established to support the family. Checks may be made out to First Baptist Church, P.O. Box 1167, Jackson WY 83001, indicating which fund the money should be deposited in on the memo line.
Foster and Lynn Friess have also offered to match the tuition assistance fund in an effort to provide long-term support for the children’s education, said Polly Friess, the head of Classical Academy.
Uptain lived a full life, George said, and though the siblings had established their own families in different places, he was always someone she felt close to. When they would go camping, it was easy to slide back into the topics that bonded the two — conversations about faith, personal challenges and accomplishments, or even just the latest book one had read.
Uptain read a lot in his free time, she said.
But the most important thing to him was making time for the people he loved.
“To him it was important to have friends to do life with,” George said. “And he always did.”