Eli Tripp, one of Jackson’s two closest high school friends and a constant presence in our lives during the Bozeman years, died this week of complications of Cystic Fibrosis. He was 37 and fought himself and his disease to remarkably good health for years. CF is still a killer though.
His obit in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle gives a hint of his unique personality and interests.
“Elisha Stetson Tripp passed away Tuesday, May 10, 2011, at his home in Bozeman due to complications from cystic fibrosis. Eli was born in St. Johnsbury, Vt., on Dec. 21, 1974, to Patricia Stetson and Nathaniel Tripp.
“In 1982, Eli moved to Big Timber where he attended Big Timber Grade School and The Bridge School, graduating from Headwaters Academy in Bozeman.
“Eli loved all things outdoors. He thoroughly enjoyed growing up between the Big Timber ranch and the Vermont farm. Exploring, hiking, fishing and hunting were some of his early passions. Springtime would find him with his new hatchlings of goslings, ducklings or chicks, trailing behind him. He especially relished summers, canoeing and camping with his father and his brother, Sam.
“In addition to taking courses at NYU Film School and MSU, Eli was a student of life, backpacking in Europe and the Arizona desert. He filmed, painted, sculpted and chronicled the many challenges of his life through epic poetry. He had a voracious taste for film, literature and a passion for science. He loved opera, riding his motorcycle, dancing, singing, working his bird dogs, gardening and cooking. But most of all he loved spending hours playing with his kids and teaching them all he knew. Huge bonfires, star gazing, rock hunting, studying animal tracks, playing pirates.
“Eli loved to help others. He trained as an EMT, worked in search and rescue, volunteered on the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Posse and was a lieutenant in the Sweet Grass County Sheriff’s Auxiliary. He was an expert shot, a trained sniper for law enforcement, and a founder/partner in Templar Tactical, a Bozeman-based manufacturer of high-quality firearms.
“Eli was a mentor, inspiration and hero to the cystic fibrosis community. He was always on the cutting edge of research with his friend and long-time doctor, Frank Accurso, of Denver Children’s Hospital. Eli was relentless in his CF treatments and self-care. He beat the odds. Despite obstacles that would stop most others, Eli lived each day to the fullest, with memorable humor and few complaints.”
Libby said that in their teens Jack, Eli, and Chris “were a combination of the Three Musketeers and the Three Stooges”. I remember them hunting and camping out and blowing up toy soldiers, grilling Cornish hens and “eating them like dogs”, and catapulting a roadkill gopher in a plastic bag into the trees of a hostile neighbor. I remember Eli’s annoyance when the Crow shaman who cut all of our hair could not figure out how to dye his hair “chrome”. I remember his utter delight at– fourteen?– when he asked me why I kept handguns and I said simply “To shoot bad people with”. He was hip and green but always a fan of the Second Amendment. He was never the slightest bit conventional. I still treasure a predator skull of dubious legality he found on the family ranch and gave us for a wedding present.
His life became difficult but he never gave up. Jack and Chris up in Washington were planning a trip out to see him when his time ran out. We will miss him, but Eli always knew how to live, perhaps in part because he never doubted he would die.