Jon Huss, 64, of Casper, a mountaineer and immigration lawyer, died Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, after a long illness.
Jon summitted Denali in Alaska, Aconcagua in Argentina, and Elbrus in Russia, as well as many smaller peaks. He only rarely hired guides. He spoke excellent Spanish and a little Russian, and made his way on his own with a few chosen companions.
Jon was the first full-time immigration lawyer in Wyoming, offering assistance with green cards (work permits), naturalization, and defense against deportation. As he liked to say: “In 20 years of doing immigration law in Wyoming, I’ve worked with someone from every country on earth. And most people in America don’t even know where Wyoming is!”
Jon Brian Huss was born March 16, 1957, in San Mateo, the second of three sons born to Barbara Springston Huss and Marvin Huss Sr. His father’s job in sales had the family moving many times, to various California locations and then to Kansas City, where Jon attended high school, and finally to the Boulder, Colorado area.
Jon’s mother Barbara saw his talent for languages and made it possible for him to work and study in Mexico and in Ecuador, where he spent a summer giving vaccinations to villagers in the coffee fields. He attended Williams College in Massachusetts; came home to be with his mother after her devastating divorce; and after a day or two working in a Colorado oilfield went back to college at the University of Pennsylvania.
As a freshman at Williams, Jon had been recruited to the rowing team. He went back to school at Penn on an athletic scholarship. An excellent oarsman, he was chosen to represent the U.S. as a member of the eight-man boat at the 1980 Summer Olympics in the USSR; that ended when President Jimmy Carter withdrew the U.S. from the competition in protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Jon was nonetheless a lifelong Jimmy Carter fan.
A close friend from college encouraged Jon to come to Wyoming after graduation to work for the Powder River Basin Resource Council. He liked Wyoming, and has lived here ever since. He met his future wife, Anne MacKinnon, then a reporter for the Casper Star-Tribune, while he was working for Powder River – “For a little while I was news-worthy!,” he said.
Frustrated at having to “stop at the courthouse door” when pursuing natural resource issues for Powder River members, he went to the University of Wyoming College of Law. A fine scholar, he studied classical Greek at UW while attending law school (he explained that he hadn’t had much time for academics when he was on the college crew, so he wanted to make the most of his time at UW). Top of his class, he became editor of the law review and went on to clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Brimmer in Cheyenne. He then took a job with the law firm of Brown, Drew, Massey and Sullivan in Casper, having a few years earlier married MacKinnon, who was based in Casper.
Jon had learned mountaineering while in college, and he made time to take himself up the major mountains. He loved getting to the heights in any place he visited – and on those big mountains, he loved both the challenge and the view: across the clouds, all the way to the Pacific from the top of Aconcagua, for instance.
Not neglecting other sports, he bicycled the roads over mountain passes in Colorado, kayaked the Grand Canyon twice, and raced in local triathlons. On long bicycle rides he memorized poetry he taped to his handlebars.
In 2000 Jon left the law firm, went with his wife and young son to Bolivia for six months, and came back determined to help people, opening up his one-man immigration law firm in Casper. He was known to make house-calls to clients all over the state. He made people laugh when they were scared speechless in immigration processes, and when possible he got them through it all so they could live and work in the U.S. and raise their families here.
Big, strong and thoughtful, Jon went sure-footed through the world. He traveled with his wife and son to many places: Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, China, Nepal, Turkey, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and New Zealand. He tended to be looking for mountains most of the time. His humor, energy and commitment powered his family. He welcomed retirement for more travel, and more fun.
He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Anne MacKinnon of Casper, and his son Ted of Jersey City, NJ; his mother, Barbara Anderson of Longmont, CO; his brothers Ian (Lisa) Huss of Colorado Springs and Marvin “Bif” (Ceil) Huss III of Colorado Springs; his father Marvin (Sally) Huss, Jr. of Colorado Springs; and numerous nieces, a few nephews, many great-nephews and a few great-nieces.
A memorial will be held in Casper at a later date, when friends and family can plan ahead and travel.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Powder River Basin Resource Council (www.powderriverbasin.org) or the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (www.rmian.org).