Photo by Matt Stensland
Former Steamboat Springs Police Department Sgt. Dale Coyner (front row, center) visited his colleagues Wednesday to judge a mustache competition put on for his benefit. Coyner died Saturday morning after battling esophageal cancer.
Steamboat Springs Wednesday was a good day. Dale Coyner, a Steamboat Springs Police Department officer of more than a decade, was in good spirits despite the pain and weakness caused by his stage 4 esophageal cancer.
He judged a mustache contest among his colleagues and listened as Capt. Joel Rae stood up and commended him for his years of service to the community.
“It was very important that he was surrounded by all his friends and co-workers,” said Nick Bosick, a Steamboat Springs police detective and longtime friend of Coyner’s. “I know it meant a lot to Dale to feel like he was a part of the department, which he is and will always be.
“It was just a good day.”
Coyner died in his sleep early Saturday morning at his Steamboat home after battling the disease for about five months.
Police Sgt. Gerard Geis said the memorial service likely will be next weekend, but details are not finalized.
While the mood among police officers was understandably somber Saturday, there also was a sense of relief that Coyner was no longer in pain.
“I think, you know, everybody’s kind of relieved that it didn’t linger any longer,” Bosick said. “Dale was a pretty proud person, and I know if it would have been up to him … he didn’t want to have people worried about him.
“I guess everybody’s pretty relieved he’s not suffering anymore.”
Geis said he worked with Coyner for 13 years. He always admired his friend for being someone who simply did the right thing, regardless of the situation.
“He did everything with integrity and professionalism, and that’s how he’s always done it,” Geis said. “He taught me that it doesn’t matter how big or small you are. You can always work through a situation without it getting physical.”
Geis said even down to his last hours, Coyner was not particularly fond of being fussed over by friends and family. But that didn’t stop his friends and colleagues from putting on several fundraisers in recent months to help Coyner’s family with medical expenses.
That support continued in the hours after Coyner’s death.
Coyner’s wife, Judy, has “got a lot of support and love from people right now, and that’s really helped her bear down,” Geis said.
Bosick said the support has grown out of the seeds of community Coyner had been sowing throughout his life in the Yampa Valley.
He explained how Coyner’s ties to the county where he grew up ran deep through his work ethic and dedication to Steamboat Springs.
Coyner took great pride in the place where his grandfather homesteaded and where his father worked as a fire chief on and off for 21 years. He and Judy live in the home his father built on River Road in the Brooklyn neighborhood.
“Dale was part of us,” Bosick said. “We’ll obviously have to fill his position, and I don’t know how you do that. Someone’s going to have to step up to the plate, but we’ll never have a Dale Coyner again.”
Coyner is survived by his wife, Judy; a son, Daniel; and a daughter, Rebekah.