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Independent Notes: Remembering Ida, the Freedom Post Office and a trip to Denver.

Ida Hokanson

This column ran in the August 16, 2023 edition of the Star Valley Independent. 

We lost another one of our great Star Valley people this week that gave so much back to the community in so many ways, Ida Hokanson.

Ida ran the Freedom Post Office for many years. Her late husband, Dee was an important part of our schools and giving back to the valley community, serving as the Afton Elementary School Principal for many years.

Both were wonderful people, always taking care of their neighbors in Freedom and beyond.

Back in 2009, the federal government was attempting to trim down postal services in rural areas like Star Valley and there was a proposal for a post office closure in Freedom.

This was a concern. Freedom was growing and postal services are a vital part of any community.

Dan Dockstader recently served as President of the Wyoming Senate (2021-22) and also served as the Senate Majority Floor Leader (2019-20).
He is currently a member of the 2023 Senate Labor, Health & Social Services Committee and Chairman of the 2023 Senate Minerals, Business & Economic Development Committee. Dan and his wife, Kim, have owned and operated the Star Valley Independent for over 35 years.

While the federal government and U.S. Postal Service was above my pay grade as a State Senator, I suggested to Ida, we saddle up and ride to Denver to talk to them about this unexpected proposal. How dare they try to balance their budget on the backs of Freedom and we needed to talk to someone about it!

They had sent some employees over to Star Valley to discuss it with the community, but I suggested we move up the food chain and fly to Denver for a conversation about Freedom!

I handed Dee, Ida and my late colleague in the House, Robert McKim, tickets for a flight from Jackson to Denver. I had called around, and endured the federal government — put you on hold experience — until we found someone that at least made regional postal decisions.

Off we went to Denver and back in one day. Security in Jackson was smooth, but on the return trip in Denver, security worked over Ida, taking her in a separate room for the once-over. We laughed at Ida’s expense, asking how they could cause problems for the Freedom Post Mistress. It was just one more problem with a federal agency. She was good to laugh with us.

Once in Denver at the regional headquarters, we explained the importance of the Freedom Post Office to the area. The gentleman was polite that we spoke with but fell short of locking into a long term agreement to keep everything open and running for the foreseeable future. It’s been a while, but as I recall, they responded with decreased hours but a commitment to try to improve and maintain services.

Now, here was what I was impressed with regarding the whole matter. Dee and Ida were quick to agree with my offer to make the trek over to the big city to plead our cause. They cared for their community and wanted to find a solution.

I was very impressed with both of them. They were willing to travel and go into a face-to-face government conversation for Freedom.

I make several trips to D.C., pleading the causes of Star Valley, Kemmerer and Wyoming, before our D.C. delegation and others. It’s never easy and it’s expensive as I pay for my own travels, but it’s always, and I mean always, better to sit and have a direct conversation with key people. I make a lot of trips to Cheyenne based on that standard.

Dee and Ida understood this. Yes, I was very impressed with the Hokansons. Freedom to Denver and back in one day — all trying to help our neighbors.

Do we still have people like the Hokansons in Star Valley? I hope so because that is what makes a successful community.

A few weeks later Ida dropped a nice little handmade quilt by the SVI offices as a “Thank You” for our Denver run. I used that quilt to stay warm in my car when I would stop for 20-minute naps on my countless trips between Star Valley and Cheyenne over the years.

These are wonderful memories about great Star Valley people!

And, one other note on these two great people; the Hokanson’s were people of faith.

When we finished meeting with the postal management, there was still time before catching the flight back to Jackson.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they asked about the Denver Temple.

In those days there was no Star Valley Temple and the Ft. Collins had two more years before it was announced.

We were on the east side of Denver and I knew the route was long to the south side of Denver and then back to the airport, but I said we can make it work.

We drove down to the Temple where these wonderful people stood in front of it, expressed their faith and offered gratitude. Pictures were taken and somewhere in the family album those photos could be found.

These are good people — people of faith, people who loved the Lord and their neighbor!

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