Mona Sasser was asked to describe her sister in one word.
Sasser’s reply: “Willing.”
“Like willing to go pick up my daughter from school at a moment’s notice, willing to go to the lake whenever you asked her, willing to be a Boy Scout leader and learn to tie all the knots and set up the tents and all that kind of stuff,” Sasser said. “Whatever you need, she was willing to do it. She was always available for her friends, her family, her kids.”
Sasser’s sister Mary Margaret “Mimi” Bilyeu, 44, of Edmond, had a passion for being with family and creating strong relationships and experiences, some of which took her traveling across the globe to witness the peaks of mountains and to visit Africa to help impoverished orphans.
Bilyeu’s unexpected death Monday after a climbing accident on the Grand Teton Mountain in Wyoming was a major shock to her family, especially because of her reputation for being so safe, smart and skilled when climbing. The climbing community worldwide has even been reaching out with love and sadness, family members said.
“It was unimaginable that this could happen,” said her brother, John Conley. “You could have told me a million things, that is not what I would have thought of. I was floored.
“She was not a novice when climbing mountains,” Conley said. “She was a very advanced climber. She was an all-around fitness buff.”
Bilyeu and Conley were a brother-sister climbing duo. For the last six years, the two of them tackled summits together starting with Mount Rainier in Washington. Bilyeu started climbing before Conley, but when he turned 40, he was ready to accomplish something new. And even better, to team up with his sister.
“Her spirit is going to live through me when I climb,” Conley said. “What I’m going to miss the most about her is her spirit, I’m going to miss her laughter, I’m going to miss the good times that she and I had, I’m going to miss my climbing partner, I’m going to miss my friend.
“That’s probably what I’m going to miss the most. I’m going to miss my friend.”
The accident happened about 8:30 a.m. Monday in the Upper Saddle area of the Grand Teton Mountain. Elevation is about 12,000 feet in the area, said Jackie Skaggs, a spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park. The circumstances leading to the climbing accident are under investigation, Skaggs said.
Conley said his sister traveled to Africa this year. She made a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro and went on a mission trip to Kenya. He said his sister would have continued climbing and helping others around the world because of her great drive and passion for adventure and serving people in need.
“There’s a great cause out there, and she was without a doubt experiencing that with her trip to Africa,” he said. “She had a greater cause in this life and it was cut short.”
Dana Collie, a friend of Bilyeu’s that traveled to Africa with her, posted on Facebook Tuesday to share about her “dear friend.”
“She was doing what she loved to do, she was fearlessly following her passion,” Collie said. “Her heart was kind, loving, spirited, adventuresome, brave and connected to those fortunate enough to have shared part of her journey.
“She was also deeply connected to all the beauty and majesty in this great big world.
I will see you in the ocean, in the mountains, in beautiful sunrises and sunsets, in the fierce storms and peaceful mornings, in the breeze that cools me and the sun that gives me warmth and in the hearts and smiles of those precious children at Maisha International Orphanage who you so lovingly embraced during our time there.”
Bilyeu has two teenage children and a husband in Edmond, Conley said. She was a homemaker and was very involved in her children’s schools and activities.
Collie later said, “The world lost a very bright light and God gained a very special soul.”
In lieu of flowers: mail to:
The Maisha Project
@ Mimi Bilyeu
P.O. Box 570
OKC, OK 73101