Patricia Preator Hayes Stanley

Patricia Preator Hayes Stanley

July 21, 1927 – August 25, 2021

If you’ve been around here long enough, you might remember Patsy Preator, a skinny little blonde who grew up in a sod-roofed Burlington cabin with her parents, Joseph and Frances (Hensley) Preator, and older sister, Joan. It was a joyful but humble childhood. Patsy didn’t have indoor plumbing until she entered the University of Wyoming in 1945. Years later, she would entertain friends and family with memories of freezing trips to the outhouse, fetching water from the pump, and her favorite childhood game using sticks to tap out a rhythm while she made up stories and hummed songs only she could hear. Her love of dancing and friendship with Margie (Maller) Pepper both began in Burlington and lasted more than 80 years.

Pat met the love of her life, William Cooper Hayes, at UW in 1946. Bill was an Iowa native and dashing Air Force lieutenant, studying geology on the GI Bill. They married in 1947, posing for a honeymoon portrait on a buckrail fence with the Tetons rising in the background.

Bill began his career in the oil industry, and soon after the birth of their first son, Billy, the family was transferred to Jackson, Miss. – a pendulum swing of climate and culture that somehow only brought them closer. Two more sons, Van and Hal, followed, as did multiple moves, but summer trips to Wyoming were a constant. By the time Bill retired as a vice-president with Pennzoil in 1986, the Hayes family had lived in Shreveport, Louisiana; Corpus Christi, Texas; Calgary, Canada; Midland, Texas; the Hague, Netherlands; and Texas again, this time Houston. Their eight years in the Netherlands were especially memorable – bringing the opportunity for travel across Europe and even to Russia. Still, they chose tiny Granbury, Texas, for their post-retirement home, settling next to a golf course in Pecan Plantation on the Brazos River, not far from their sons and families in Dallas. Alas, Bill’s heart began to fail. He endured many surgeries, but even in weakened health, he and Pat were able to come “home” to their house in Basin each summer. After Bill’s death in 1992, Pat traveled extensively on her own and eventually found a new dance partner, Les Stanley. Their marriage lasted more than a decade, ending when Les suffered a fatal stroke.

Pat and Bill’s enduring love of Wyoming lives on in their sons. Billy and wife Karen live full-time in Shell. Van and wife Tracy spend summers at their cabin in Dubois. Hal and wife Marion live in McKinney, Texas. In addition to giving Pat her “precious darling” grandchild, Zachary, they became her caregivers, living just a few blocks from the memory care facility where she spent her final few years. Holidays and family get-togethers were always spent at their home – Katie the Shih Tzu contentedly curled on Pat’s lap.

Pat was one of the kindest, most upbeat and generous people imaginable. Even as much of her memory faded, she never lost her interior joy, her smile, her love of music, or ability to recognize family members. Where some mothers look upon daughters-in-law as the women who “took their sons away,” Pat viewed her sons as the ones who brought her the daughters she never had. Karen, Tracy and Marion will miss her every bit as much as Billy, Van and Hal will. The six of us and Zach will be together in Wyoming this month to say our final goodbyes and commit her to the Burlington resting place next to her beloved husband, Bill.

We’ll read the same words from “Wapiti Wilderness” by Margaret and Olaus Murie that were read at his memorial:

“At last, the wide sky, the wide land, broken and bare but stretching far to the limitless blue sky of Wyoming. Room to breathe, to stretch one’s soul’s wings again. Here the big country still is. Always a joy to come back, to find it still big, still stretching away, meeting and passing startling buttes which rise here and there, and dry watercourses, drift fences, once in a while a ranch house and corrals nestling under cottonwoods and willows in one of those watercourses; once in a while a few cattle, a band of antelope in the sage, some horses galloping with the wind.

“After the cities, a wave of thankfulness rises in my heart, that the great United States still has some room, some great spaces.

“And I am home.”


Bill and Karen will host a “come and go” open house in celebration of Pat’s life at their home (1470 U.S. Highway 14, one half mile west of Shell) on Thursday, September 9 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.