Luke Flitner Bell

Jan. 27, 1990 – Aug. 26, 2022

Luke Flitner Bell passed away August 26, 2022 in Tuscon, Ariz., after a long and hard-fought battle with severe mental illness.  He was 32 years old.

Born in Lexington, Ky., Jan. 27, 1990, to Carol Flitner Bell and the late David Wayne Bell, he moved with his family at the age of 2 to the Cody, Wyo. area. His mom says he was born talking, and he had a love of stories and bantering from a young age. He liked playing parts in the stories he told, and until he started school, he rarely left the house without a costume — at the least a silk cowboy scarf tied around his neck into a cape.

Luke’s connection to music was undoubtedly nurtured by a home full of the sounds of music playing on the radio or stereo.  When Luke got a guitar for Christmas in seventh grade, he and friends Alex and Tony Browne started their first band. Their guitar instructor Jeff Troxel, a world class finger picker, once pulled Carol aside before a lesson and asked her how she felt about Luke NOT learning classical guitar picking. “He always has a song he wants to learn when he comes to his lesson, something to show me that he’s been working on. I’m having trouble keeping him on track.” Luke’s parents, wanting only to pass on their love and appreciation of music and not expecting him to become a professional musician, gave Jeff their full support in fostering Luke’s enthusiasm, wherever it led him.

From a young age, Luke’s summers were spent on the Flitner family ranch in Shell, Wyo., without cell phone or computer games.  He spent his days working hard in mountain-encircled open spaces, with animals and dedicated family.  One summer, he found his grandfather’s old country western albums in the basement and the country music seed was planted.  

Even in the awkward middle school years when he struggled to fit in, Luke always stuck up for the outcast and downtrodden.  His uncle and boss Tim Flitner wrote of Luke, “For me, the most impressive thing about Luke was his heart and soul. That part of him became so apparent when he got a little older and started working young horses. They, like most of us, respond to kindness. Even though Luke’s kindness was masked briefly at times by bouts of mental illness, it was always just below the surface. That absolute kindness and dignity were never more clearly displayed than in his last days with his family and the choices he quietly made solely for their benefit.”

Luke spent a couple semesters at University of Wyoming where he quickly found his music family. His attentions shifted from his studies to singing and playing with as many artists he could find. His voice and lyrics developed rapidly, but still, his family was completely blind-sided when halfway through his junior year he announced he was dropping out of school to move to Austin, Texas, and become a professional musician. He reunited with his childhood bandmates, who had relocated to Austin a few years earlier, and started the band, Fast Luke and the Lead Heavy. When the band floundered, Luke began his solo career, recording his first album with funds raised in a Kickstarter campaign successfully launched at the Chamberlin Inn in Cody, Wyo. Family friends Brad and Yancy Bonner helped him with the marketing, and he met his fundraising goal at the concert launch with the support of his ever-generous Cody friends and fans.

Luke never met a stranger, and he left an impact on all those that knew him, briefly met him, or simply loved his music. As his family liked to say of him, he sucked all of the oxygen out of the room, he argued and resisted guidance and the worn trail, and he often wore people out with his energy, his creative ideas, and his endless talking. But, also, as is evidenced by the tremendous outpouring of loving messages, stories and photos of the many happy times with Luke Bell, he never failed to make us laugh and feel our connection to the great common thread of our humanity. In a Facebook tribute, friend and one-time band mate Steve Daly wrote, “Here’s to Luke Bell. All he ever really wanted to do was create community by playing music.”

We’ll miss Luke’s joyous laughter and twinkling crinkled eyes.  Luke Bell was kind, goofy, generous, maddening, caring (especially to children and animals), gifted, funny, and in the end, he suffered deeply from severe mental illness. We are grateful he is finally at peace. 

Luke Bell is preceded in death by his father David Bell and grandfather Wayne Bell.  He is survived by his mother Carol Flitner Bell, sisters Jane Bell (Gabe Fancher), Sarah Bell Hellevang (David Hellevang), grandparents Virginia Bell, Stan and Mary Flitner, uncles Tim Flitner (Jamie Flitner), Dan Flitner (Mary Flitner), Ken Bell (Linda Bell), aunts Sara Flitner, Brenda Bell, Marsha Uselton (Terry Uselton), Laura Bell (David Beckett), many loving cousins, and friend and caregiver Matt Kinman.

In honor of Luke Bell, be kind to each person you pass. You never know the struggles they might be having. Donations in honor of Luke Bell to provide awareness of and support to people in rural Wyoming impacted by the diseases of mental illness can be made to:

• Luke Bell Memorial Fund: Christ Episcopal Church in Cody, Wyo. (online donations can be made on the church website and tagged for this fund), or to the 

•, which provides healthcare assistance (including mental health care) to musicians around the nation.

Services for Luke will be held at Christ Episcopal Church in Cody, Wyo., on Friday, Sept. 9, at 10:30 a.m.