Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of Murray A. Gundmunson Jr. at Cascade Community Church in Monroe on Friday, Dec. 1.
Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Family and friends gathered to celebrate the life of Murray A. Gundmunson Jr. at Cascade Community Church in Monroe on Friday, Dec. 1.

If you knew Murray Gudmundson, you knew his smile, and many, many people knew Murray.

Friday’s celebration of life for the Monroe man drew close to 900 friends and family from throughout the country to the Cascade Community Church. The sanctuary aisles were filled and doorways brimming with onlookers.

Photos of Murray Gudmundson as a boy and posing with the people he loved fiercely framed the doorways. Pastor Al Parsons of Oroville-based Diamond J Cowboy Ministries — the Evangelical ministry in which Murray Gudmundson and his wife served God — led the service.

Jackie Gudmundson was the first to recite stories about her husband that afternoon. If someone had told her she would only have 10 years to be married, she would do it all over again without hesitation.

“I am not angry, I do not feel like a victim,” she said, “I am grateful.”

Grateful to have known her husband for as long as she did. It had felt like a lifetime because of how much they spoke together and how much he shared about the journeys being taken by the people in his life.

She and others who addressed the crowd remember the 47-year-old for his quick humor, being slow to anger, deeply loving those around him and his giving nature.

Murray Gudmundson grew up in Sultan. He graduated from Sultan High School in 1988, where he played baseball and football. His mother runs the Flat Iron Gallery on Main Street, where he worked throughout his adolescence.

When he died on Wednesday, Nov. 22, Gudmundson was moving a mobile home from his property off Old Pipeline Road in Monroe. In its place his family’s dream home was to be built.

He was with his neighbor Marshall Asper. Concrete blocks supporting the structure broke as it was being repositioned; it slipped and slid sideways — he died instantly.

Shortly before, he had called Jackie Gudmundson to let her know he was about to go under the mobile home and could she bring back a pizza. Later that night she noticed he had started a text message to her that wasn’t finished and hadn’t been sent. It read: “I am getting ready to get under the house.” Instead, in his usual fashion, he had picked up the phone and dialed.

If you knew Gudmundson, you also knew he disliked and usually avoided texting. Jackie Gudmundson said she had many talks with her husband about the topic. A few, impersonal lines would never give him information about who was on the other end.

“He likes to talk to people, he liked to know their emotions, good and bad, you know people sometimes hid behind a text message,” she said.

The couple was married 10 years ago, and they had their son Bodee not long after. Gudmundson was a very present father, his wife said. He put no limitations on their child, who was taught about every piece of equipment and tool in the business. The 8-year-old has been strong beyond his years throughout this experience, she said, and she believes that is because of his father.

“They talked about life, they talked about ethics, they talked about God — he shared life with his kid,” she said.  

Sultan’s Crosswater Community Church Pastor Aaron Day, where the Gudmundsons attended services when home, also spoke Friday. He talked about Jesus, someone who had a very real, very large presence in the couple’s lives. He said the last thing Gudmundson was doing before he died was serving like the savior.

“There is still death this side of Heaven,” Day said. “That is what we are grieving today.”

Jackie Gudmundson said the strength she has experienced since her husband’s death is not her own — it is Jesus’s strength. She grew up in Nestelem, Washington believing, but Gudmundson found his spirituality later in life. It didn’t much matter, however.

A week after he died, in the same shop attached to their home where he first wrapped his arms around his future wife — the moment she knew how much she cared about him — Jackie Gudmundson recalls their time in premarital counseling. She knew the origins of every scripture and the passages by heart.

“I know the Bible,” she said, “Murray lives it.”

Longtime friend Jessie Telford also said a few words in front of the large crowd Friday. She was Jackie Gudmundson’s roommate and best friend in Caldwell, Idaho — the two met while rodeoing. Telford met Murray Gudmundson through her husband; the two men showed Reigned Cow Horses.

“He was always up for anything fun, you never had to worry, ‘Well, I don’t know if I can talk Murray into doing that,’ he was always up for a good time,” Telford said.

Telford had tried to set Jackie Gudmundson up before, but with little success. Gudmundson’s sense of humor and excitement for life quickly tipped the scales in his favor. His friend from high school, and the best man at their wedding, Choral Greer, said Gudmundson always had a way of making people feel so special. This time the match proved to last.

The two were a perfect fit, yet had their differences. Jackie Gudmundson is frugal with finances, where Murray Gudmundson gave more freely. She is more impulsive, while her husband preferred to ease into things and was more methodical. Both knew how to have a great time with each other and the people with whom they were close. She said it’s easy now to remember all of her partner’s best qualities, but he could also be stubborn at times.

Over the years, Telford watched as the couple continued to bring out the very best in one another.

The Gudmundsons coached sports, hosted youth camps and traveled the Northwest together while Jackie Gudmundson built her career as a rodeo Barrel Racer. He wholeheartedly supported each and every one of her goals.

Gudmundson taught his wife how to train the horses they bred and sold at their home in Monroe, where she also mentored competitors.

By the time they met, he had started his construction business, Murray Gudmundson Jr. Construction. It was one of his passions. He specialized — because he preferred the work — in equestrian properties. He finally finished and fixed up their outdoor arena earlier this year.

Jackie Gudmundson said there is no doubt the family will continue where Gudmundson left off. Their house will be built, and his company will continue on with the help of friends and their community. They will uphold his honest nature and continue to give when they can. 

One of Murray’s best friends, John Mueller of Snohomish, will be on call whenever Jackie Gudmundson is in need; it is the same agreement he and Gudmundson practiced throughout the years.

Murray told him the week he died he feared the day Mueller retired and no longer answered those phone calls for help. The two men had met in 2002 while working on a ranch down on Woods Creek Road in Monroe, which has since folded.

Despite the age difference they immediately hit it off. Both had a relentless work ethic and often knew what the other needed before they realized it themselves, he said.

Jackie Gudmundson will also continue to go to Red Robin on Feb. 28 each year — the date of the first day they met in 2005 — to order the dinner, a Cobb Salad and BLTA, she shared with her husband. After every meal, Gudmundson would text Telford and tell her how grateful he was for bringing him his wife.