Some in Cody knew my dad Leonard E. Underland from his years at Energy West (Cody Gas Company when it inhabited the red brick of what’s now Rawhide Coffee).
Leonard was, in essence, service with a smile, and at retirement his boss estimated that Leonard had answered well over 180,000 phone calls during his decades at Cody Gas. You may have seen Len around town in his electric wheelchair. He may have helped you pay your gas bill. He went to be with the Lord on May 5, 2019.
Leonard Underland was born in Hettinger, N.D., on Sept. 2, 1934, to a farm couple who raised sheep, wheat and a handful of cattle. His mother, quite hard of hearing from an illness in her teen years, was a saint. In 1948, during the wave of polio sweeping the nation, Leonard lost the use of his legs and spent his high school years at a Jamestown, N.D., boarding school then called the Crippled Children’s School. The two years he subsequently spent at business college in Billings showed him what the West was like, and he never forgot.
He met Marlene Bergman (from Wisconsin) in Minneapolis, and they married in 1961. While Len worked at the Cargill Grain Exchange in Minneapolis, finding his downtown parking spots and walking on crutches some blocks to the offices (especially in winter) sharpened Len’s desire to return to the West. He and Marlene moved to Cody in 1963; I arrived in 1964.
Any list of character traits this son saw in Dad begins with Leonard’s gentleness. Then perseverance (71 years as a paraplegic). Then contentment: no self-pity, living within his means in every way. Patience. A ready smile. A man of few words about himself. Likewise, the texture of his faith in Jesus Christ meant that he was much less at ease speaking in front of a group than he was at being steady, faithful. His legacy is the opposite of flashy. Many knew Len through the CMA church, where he and Marlene were involved 1980-2014.
Leonard is survived by Marlene, near us (Lois and Brad) in Olympia, Wash. Len was an only child and I am an only child, but he now has five grandchildren Kristen and husband Joey in Colorado Springs; Ryan in Colorado Springs; Reagan in Del Rio, Texas and her husband Josh now in Osan, Korea. Recollections of Grandpa Len of course include plaid flannel shirts, his dark wavy hair, fixing amid much stuff in his garage, his riding lawn mower, rifles, the museum, miscellaneous wheelchairs, and stories of any recent bear attacks in Yellowstone.
We hold a 1:30 p.m. celebration of life on Friday, June 14, at Riverside Cemetery’s committal shelter. All are welcome. The sun will shine, and I’m pleased to have Leonard back in Cody.
Donations in Leonard’s name can go to Yellowstone Alliance Adventures (a Bible camp near Bozeman) either online or by calling the Cody CMA Church (307-587-3418). – Brad Underland for the family.