Mick Cheff (Edward Rex Cheff) passed away in his home surrounded by his wife, Karen, his five children, and many of his grandchildren. Mick lived a full and storied life. He was born on July 28, 1945 at the base of the Mission Mountains in a log cabin that his parents, Bud and Adelle, built a few years earlier. Soon after, they moved to Martin City, where he spent ten years, before moving back to the Mission Valley. As a middle child, his six siblings, Viola Mae, Buddy, Kenny, Buck, Roxy, and Happy, always kept him busy. His childhood spent outdoors making forts, riding horses, fishing and hunting helped him develop a strong independent spirit. When Mick was only 9 years old, he volunteered to help with a horse drive from the Remount Station near Perma to the Spotted Bear Ranger Station, a 170 mile ride. He showed up by himself with his saddle and his leather chaps slung over his shoulder and introduced himself. He rode with the wranglers from the Remount Station to Big Arm, where they camped for the night. The next day they rode to Martin City and camped again, and then the following day they made the final push to the Spotted Bear Ranger Station before he returned back home to his family in Martin City. He was the only kid on the ride and it was an adventure that he would never forget. Those same small leather chaps hang in his leather room today and his spirit of adventure and independence continued throughout his life.
When Karen was only 12 years old, she placed Mick's school picture under her pillow and would pray every night that one day he would be her husband. Her prayers were answered, and they were married in 1965. Mick adored Karen and their love was palpable to everyone who knew them. They modeled a rare and deep abiding love for each other; one that has greatly influenced their children and grandchildren. Together they had five children, purchased the Guest Ranch from Bud and Adelle and continued to grow their outfitting business in the Mission Mountain Wilderness and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Their marriage was one of true devotion, love and partnership. They spent years outfitting together in the Bob Marshall, Karen riding ahead, Mick just behind with his string of mules. Any opportunity they had to dance together, they would pick up a beautiful two step, moving in unison with each other. Mick was always patting, touching, gazing and flirting with Karen, just like they were newlyweds.
Mick was capable of riding a wild bronc or leading a packstring along the roughest trails, but it was his humble nature and his quiet tenderness that defined him. He modeled humility and helped teach his children that true manhood did not require a show of strength, but instead, a true man shows tenderness for his wife, children and animals and leads by example, not with words. All the people who worked for Mick, his children included, wanted to please him and live up to his example, simply because he was such a strong model of goodness and excellence in how he lived his life. When he spoke, others listened and took his comments and words under advisement. His clients knew him as one of the most honest and hardworking men they had ever met.
Mick was the true patriarch of the Christian faith for his family. He was the first in the Cheff family to commit to following Jesus's teachings. He and Karen were instrumental in founding the first Baptist church in the area and influenced countless people to follow in their footsteps. Their genuine love of Jesus and belief in their faith has brought peace and the spirit of the Lord to many family members and friends.
Mick's life was defined by hard work: whether it was breaking horses, working cattle, logging as a sawyer, ironworking, or doing what he most loved, working as a wilderness outfitter. He was a master packer and could pack, load and ride down the trail with 12 mules and make it 30 miles to camp in 7 ½ hours. He knew how to set the packs to ensure no mule sored, and if he had to adjust packs along the trail, he was quick and efficient. Every year he rode thousands of miles along the wildflower strewn trails, valleys and mountain passes of the Missions and Bob Marshall Wilderness. He also loved working in his leather room, and spent hours repairing saddles, surrounded by his sewing machines and the smell of fresh leather.
Mick was a true horse whisperer. His hired hands would watch in amazement when he would walk into a corral and speak with a quiet voice to an animal that would otherwise not allow anyone to touch it, and in his calm way, he would just gently put his arm around them. Animals were steadied by his voice and actions and trusted him. He instilled the same feeling of trust and calm with people. If Mick was around, you felt that you were in good hands and that everything was going to be okay.
Mick's truest love was Karen and his family. Their five children (Micky, Mark, Matt, Monty and Katie) will carry the lessons of integrity, strength, faith in God, and hard work with them all of their lives along with his 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his beloved nephew, Billy, who was like a son to him. Mick had many close friendships with cousins and nurtured enduring friendships with many people throughout his life.
Mick was most comfortable riding on the back of one of his faithful horses in the wilderness or moving cattle with Karen on the ranch. We will always remember him singing the gentle songs he sang to his mules on the thousands of miles of trails he traveled over the course of his lifetime. He loved sharing the beauty of nature with others and helped many young people develop confidence in themselves when they worked and learned from him.
Mick was a gentleman, a cowboy, a devoted husband and father, and a man of God. His spirit lives on through the lives he impacted and a part of him will live on in all the places he loved: at the swooping edge of the Chinese Wall, in the glimmer of the firelight on a cold fall night in the cook tent at camp, along the terraces of the Missions, and in the loving work he did to landscape his and Karen's new retirement home.
There will be a celebration of Mick's life on December 4th.
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