Four days after his 86th birthday, Boots went to sleep on Sabbath morning. He went to sleep knowing he had made his peace with his maker and believing he will be a part of the first resurrection.
Boots is what we called him, however, his mother named him Gottlieb. He was born Sept. 4, 1926, at Glen Ullin, N.D., to Jacob and Anna Marie Kraft. He was one of 17 children. After his birth, his family moved to Billings to farm. In 1931 the family moved to the Bridger/Belfry area where they farmed until 1941, At that time they moved to another farm west of Billings. Boots finished eighth grade at Sunny Valley School that year. He didn’t return to school as he was needed on the farm. From the ages of 15 to 25 he worked and “played cowboy” for farmers and ranchers in. eastern Montana. His ability to break and train horses made him a valuable asset when he worked for Virgil Walter who became his life-long friend. In 1945 Boots teamed up with two young men who would also become life-long friends, Solly and Melvin. In 1947 Boots and his friends took out with a team and wagon and it took them 17 days to get to Miles City from Billings. The three of them hired out to several ranchers over the next few years. It has been said that “the boys” would have starved to death, but they knew how to work and pieced out to the Haskel Ranch at Ashland, the Wegner Ranch at Pumpkin Creek, and the 2K Ranch at Volberg. The cook at the 2K said he would always make sure they were fed if the wood box was full. Boots claimed it never got close to empty. The winter of 1947 Boots hired out to Bill Wilson who had gone to Mexico for the winter. The winter of ’47 was one of the coldest ones in history according to Boots. By mid-February he had read everything at the ranch except two books wrapped in plastic. Although he felt it was wrong, he opened them and read them. These two books changed his life. One was “The Desire of Ages” and the other was “The Great Controversy.” The events that occurred that winter are only a part of the 488-page book that he wrote the winter of 1994.
Boots married Frances Thatcher on July 1, 1951. Shortly after their marriage he was called to serve in the Marine Corps. After a few months he received a farm deferment and returned home. They moved 13 times in 10 years. He had his name legally changed in 1955 to Bruce Gottlieb Kraft after getting confused one too many times with a cousin who had the same name. For 61 years they farmed and raised seven children, moving for the last time in 1961 to the property west of Billings which became their home of over 50 years. This time is referred to as “When Boots went to town to support the farm.” He worked a variety of labor jobs for several construction companies in Billings and odd jobs doing custodial work and ticket taking at the Midland Empire Fair. He retired from Great Western Sugar in 1990. He continued farming west of Billings until a few weeks ago when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Boots is survived by his wife Frances of 61 years; son, Dallas (Susan) Kraft of Boise, Idaho, and children, Cherie (Justin) Moore, Jeremiah Kraft of Boise; son, Mark (Deanne) Kraft of Lakewood, Texas, and children, Josh (Michelle) Kraft of Roundup, Derik (Sari) Kraft of Fargo, N.D., Mariah (Josh) Cappel of Palmer, Alaska, TJ (Molly) Sweeney of Rock Springs, Wyo., Richie Sweeney of Garland, Texas, Shane (Brandi) Sweeney of Billings, Chelsea Sweeney of Durango, Colo., Sunshine Kraft of Spokane, Wash., Laci Kraft of Tacoma, Wash.; son, Lester (Debbie) Kraft of Spokane, Wash.; son, Mick Kraft and daughters, Reanna Kraft and Taylor Reitman of Billings; daughter, Naomi Kraft of Billings and children, James Lee Babb of Nampa, Idaho, Adam (Bobbi) Babb of Caldwell, Idaho, Shannette (Becky) Lane of Miles City and Terry (Sarah) Lane of Miles City; daughter Ruth (Russell) Cumin of Billings and children, April (Eric) Svenson of Reed Point, Erin Cumin of Bozeman, Zachary Cumin of Billings and Jeb Cumin of Billings; and daughter Cecil (Martin) Johnson of Billings and children, Michael (Katy) Erickson of Billings, Justin Erickson of Great Falls and Marissa Johnson of Indianola, Neb. There are 29 great-grandchildren and one on the way. He is also survived by his brother Albert Kraft of Billings; brothers-in-law, Wes (Dena) Thatcher of Park City, Uriah (Carla) Thatcher of Billings, John (Anna) Thatcher of Billings; sister-in-law, June (Irvin) Newby of Boise, Idaho, and has more loving nieces and nephews than can be counted.
Boots was a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church since 1953 whose members Boots considered his second family. When Boots was at church, hugs, gum and candy were the order of the day. It has been said about Boots that he never met a stranger. When his name is mentioned to a child, young person or adult, the comment is something like, “Oh that Boots.”
Boots’ family would like to acknowledge Rocky Mountain Hospice and thank Sonia, Nadine and Laurie for their assistance. You allowed us to love him the way he deserved.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 3204 Broadwater Ave. Interment will be in Sunset Memorial Gardens.