Neil “Cuz” George Cuzner
On the early evening of October 27th, 2018, Neil passed away at home in his log cabin in Clancy, Montana surrounded by his family, his dog Jake, and his mules. Neil’s passing was a result of his courageous three-year battle with cancer. Neil was 66 years old.
Neil was born on March 22, 1952 and raised in Novato, CA to Francis and James Cuzner. He has an older sister, Carol Cuzner.
Neil was a rambunctious and outgoing child, playing baseball with his buddies as often as he could in Novato, CA. He had bright blue eyes and curly hair, and was introduced to the outdoors at a young age, loving to be outside and loving animals.
At age 10, Neil and his family moved to Europe for a year where he attended the male boarding school, La Clairière in Villars, Switzerland. Some of his fondest childhood memories were built there where he learned to ice skate, play hockey, speak French, and “do things the older guys taught him”. Neil looks back on those formative years as being the ones that starting building him into a man.
Upon returning to the states, Neil’s family underwent a lot of changes, and his teen years proved to be some that led to a lot of fun and maybe a little mischief. Apparently his mother never heard the song, “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”. Neil sure did grow up to be a cowboy, and one that was loved, admired, and respected by many – known for his incredibly accurate mule calls, and his tight box hitch. What started as a hobby turned into one of his ultimate gifts from above. He was a real life mule whisperer.
Neil starting working for Pacific Bell Telephone Company at age 17 as a Splicer. He climbed telephone poles for a living and eventually climbed the proverbial corporate ladder, ending his thirty-year loyalty to the company as a fiber optic engineer. He developed great friendships during his tenure there.
At home Neil was the ultimate horseman, always with his horses and mules. He was constantly followed around by a Heeler pup throughout his life, with Skatey and Bo being the two who really had a big place in his heart. Neil’s horses Chopper and Gypsy were unmatched in spirit, and his mules D.L. and Vida were as much a part of the family as anyone else. He rescued many animals, who he felt rescued him right back.
Neil was an avid reader, and an occasional cowboy poet. A self-taught carpenter, blacksmith and craftsman, remodeling both of his homes, and barns, and was even known to garden, with his great Spud Patch being a source of pride.
At age 36 Neil became a father. He describes seeing his daughter Bailey take her first breath as a moment that changed him immediately and indelibly. He was proud to be the first to hold her – a moment that solidified a close relationship and deep friendship for their remaining years together. Neil tells stories of turning away for “just one second” to load a mule into a trailer, leaving Bailey to dip her arms up to her armpits in used motor oil. Or when he would throw her over his shoulder yelling, “sack of potatoes!” He included Bailey in all things from the butchering of their hogs to patching tiles on the roof, and was proud to teach her to change a tire and check her coolant.
Neil was a father not only to Bailey, but also to many men and women who needed his gentle, stable, and reassuring presence. Because of his own personal history, Neil paid if forward many times over within the lives of young men who needed guidance. He was able to showcase what it meant to be a thoughtful man of integrity and strength, but also softness and love.
Neil was a member of many clubs and was the life of many parties with a quick wit and a knack for storytelling. He hosted pig roasts in the back yard, dressed up as the California Grapes, packed with Rock Creek, and was an awarded competitor at Bishop Mule Days. He collected vintage wagons and even won “Unique Antique” with an original oil wagon. He was a part of Rock Creek Pack Station, RSR, The Ten Mile Drivers, Chiloquin Trail Ride, Petaluma Riding & Driving Club, Hondoo River and Trails, and many more.
Neil greatly enjoyed packing his mule D.L. into the backcountry and going out on hunting trips. He had stories that take him up into the mountains of Colorado and down in to the red rock basins of Utah, and was happiest in his bedroll under the stars and beside a campfire. He may even have been known to prank his camp buddies, and always to tell mesmerizing tales that take you from tender tears to big belly laughs that made your ribs ache.
After living over 20 years in Sonoma County, Neil finally fulfilled his dream of buying a log cabin out in the wild. He moved to Clancy, Montana and found his place. He enjoyed walking the property and glassing Wolf Mountain, hosting an annual elk hunt with close friends, hiking and shooting trap with his daughter, and taking round bails out to his big black mules.
It was during the past four years that Neil found his soul mate, RayLynne. They married May 20th, 2016 at the courthouse in Jefferson County, Montana. Neil and RayLynne were inseparable and shared a bond that is timeless. They travelled in canvas tents and campers exploring the west, as well as going between all their children’s homes to see the grandbabies. They talked for hours sharing stories and sharing in their passion for western gear, log cabins, and country culture. When they met they were astounded by how their homes were almost identical from the décor to the antique collector’s items. They were two parts to one whole.
Neil is survived by his wife RayLynne, daughter Bailey, sister Carol, grandson Boyd, and bonus children Joe, Zach, Jessica, Zane, and Chance, as well as bonus grandchildren Enzo, Gunnar, Gracie, Cooper, Kahana, Kingsley, and Charlie. He will be devoutly watching over his animals Jake, Vida, Maggie, Bob, Riata, and Katie Mule.
Neil quietly had a charitable cause called Cuz He Cares where he would perform random acts of kindness, and make charitable donations to support local single mothers, equines, and dogs. He would often buy lunch for local police officers or service men, leaving the restaurant before they knew. You can find the website at www.cuzhecares.org
It’s safe to say in Neil’s passing that he would leave you with a tip of his hat and a “happy trails”. Please remember him riding his paint horse Gypsy with sparkling eyes and a content smile.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.” – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
In lieu of gifts or flowers, if you would like to make a donation to Cuz He Cares please contact Bailey or RayLynne.
The family will be hosting a service. If you would like to be included in the proceedings, please contact Bailey or RayLynne.
Please send family condolences to P.O. Box 263, Clancy, MT 59634.
Special thanks go to The Intermountain Southwest Cancer Center, Dixie Regional Medical Center, Dr. Wilcox, Dr. Manwearing, Dr. Bate, Dr. Pope and Dr. Plate.