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Jacob Sewall Massey of Meeker, the son of Stuart Massey and Mary Gillespie, passed away on July 25, 2015, from injuries sustained in a fall while hiking in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
Jake was 20 years old. He went to Meeker schools through ninth grade then transferred to Rangely High School, where he was graduated in 2013. He loved sports and played football and basketball in high school.
He was currently enrolled at Colorado Mesa University, where he was entering his third year as an environmental science major with a focus on restoration ecology. It is not the short length of time between his two dates, Oct. 26, 1994—July 25, 2015, but what he packed in between that matters.
From an early age, Jake was interested in nature, calling himself a biologist by age 10 and always choosing field guides over children’s books. He absorbed all facts on whatever topic interested him at the time – in the early years, this was naming all dinosaurs, reptiles and wildlife species; then geography, sports trivia (San Jose Sharks and Broncos were favorites), politics of all countries and music of any type. His intellect and curiosity were well beyond average (as his Trivia Crack record attests to).
As a budding scientist, Jake enjoyed helping his Mom with biologist projects—goshawk surveys, bird banding, owl box checking, breeding bird surveys, snowshoe hare pellet counts and testing chorus frogs for Chytrid fungus. His pets were always reptiles and he currently loved his baby albino corn snake, Emoryi Enoch.
Jake worked through high school at his Dad’s hay farm in Rangely, then, at age 18, became a wilderness intern for the U.S. Forest Service. He worked as a trail crew member for the past two seasons, brandishing a 4-foot cross-cut saw while hiking with his crew, clearing trails, digging water bars and rehabilitating campsites. On weekends he would hike and backpack some more, never getting enough of the wild places. He was very proud of his job and had a strong work ethic.
Most available weekends growing up were spent camping in the mountains along with his little brother, Nick Massey. Favorite spots included all of the White River National Forest, many other mountain ranges in Colorado, Yellowstone and Glacier national parks and the Oregon Coast. He had his fair share of lobster, steamers and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean while visiting family in New England. Angel fish nibbled on his toes in Roatan, Honduras. He rode Connemara ponies on the shores of Ireland and caught banana slugs under the towering redwoods of California. He bagged a nice buck with his Dad at the age of 14 and a very nice bull at 16. Later, he enjoyed guiding elk and deer hunters with his Dad.
Spring and fall were spent in the Utah desert, exploring all points around Moab then onto the San Rafael Swell, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands.
At five years old, Jake found a need to join the campfire conversation, “So I thought to myself, hell, you may as well catch lizards!” His first spring break at college was spent hiking with his Mom in the Needles District of Canyonlands, which include watching the sunrise at Druid Arch.
Spring break sophomore year was spent at the Grand Canyon, where he was happy to dangle his knees from a 1,500-foot precipice while eating lunch. Jake developed a great appreciation for the red rock, blue sky and all life adapted to the harsh desert environment as well as the writings of Edward Abbey. He always kept a tattered version of Desert Solitaire in his backpack.
At college, Jake found the academic challenge he craved, and he enjoyed debating with his professors. He met many like-minded young people there and enjoyed climbing Mount Garfield several times each week with many of them.
Jake never met a stranger and was a best friend to many. As he became more philosophical and a writer in later years, he would often write to friends in their times of need, either quotes from applicable authors or his own unique poems and prose, in an attempt to lift them up.
Jake was kind-hearted, extroverted, exuberant, bearded, opinionated, hard-working, passionate about so many things, but above all was a beloved friend, brother, cousin, boyfriend, grandson and son.
Jake leaves behind his Mom, Dad, little brother Nick, stepdad Lee Gillespie, stepmom Shelley Montgomery Massey, stepsisters Sarah and Kayla Gillespie, stepbrother Justin and grandmother Marilyn Cunningham.
An account has been set up at Mountain Valley Bank under “Jake Massey Memorial Account.” Proceeds from this account will be donated to the National Geographic Educational Foundation to support other passionate young explorers.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” –Edward Abbey