PARK CITY - The world is short one great cowboy today, Nov. 9, 2008. Jake Frank, Park City, Mont., rancher, cowboy, statesman, husband, father and friend just plumb "wore out" and to him that was better than "rusting out." Jake spent his entire life working to make the world a better place than how he found it. He pursued life with unparalleled passion and a fierce competitive spirit. Jake was a man of strong convictions and a champion of the less fortunate. He valued his family and friends above all else. He was the last of a rare breed and a cowboy through and through.
Born to German-Russian immigrant farming parents in Fromberg on Sept. 13, 1915, he was destined to be a cowboy. He moved with his family at a young age to the family farm in Park City, which he farmed with his mother and brothers and that he eventually purchased for his own. He grew up knowing horses and was plowing in the fields with teams by the age of 12. He bought a dry-land ranch on Valley Creek to add to his irrigated acres and he built a reputation of raising and training the best Quarter Horses in the country. He married Esther Batt from Laurel on Feb. 7, 1943. They had four children together and celebrated 65 years of marriage this year.
He taught his children to ride, compete and love the life on the ranch. He operated the Rocking J Guest Ranch with his family for several years and entertained many with his colorful stories of his life. He became an AQHA judge, was a PRCA calf roper, a pickup man and a Gold card member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Among his many public roles, he served as field director for the Billings Livestock Commission, president of Yellowstone Valley Electrical Association, and director on the Boards of the Federal Land Bank and the Montana Farmers Union. He served in the House of Representatives in the Montana legislature in 1957 and was a Stillwater County 4-H horse leader. He rode on numerous "March of Dimes" rides and took his horse and went to Washington for the Clinton Inaugural Parade. He worked for several weeks in the movie "Far and Away" with his team of Belgians. He was inducted into the Montana Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2005 and into the Montana Draft Teamsters Hall of Fame in 2008. Jake was a lifelong member of the First Congregational Church in Laurel, where he was baptized, confirmed and married.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Phillip and Katherine (Busch) Frank; his brothers and sisters, Phillip P. Frank, Henry Frank, Alexander Frank, Mollie (John) Rupp, Katherine (Dave) Wagner, Peter Frank, George Frank, Mary (Babe) Yost and Dave Frank. He is survived by his wife, Esther Frank; his children, Sheila (Marvin) Derheim, Leland (Linda Smith) Frank, Kristie (Terry) Lawver, all of Park City, and Karen (George) Yost of Billings; grandchildren, Lori (Randy) Radford, Kurtis (Veronica) Derheim, Eric Frank, Shawna Bonner, Rachel Smith, Brenda Lawver, Teri Lawver, Stacy Lawver, Tanya Lawver, Heather (Larry) Baker, Ty Yost, Katie Yost and Kellie Yost; and 11 great-grandchildren.
Memorials can be given to the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame, PO Box 930, Billings, MT 59103-0930; or the Montana Draft Teamsters Hall of Fame, PO Box 23, Deer Lodge, MT 59722.
Funeral services will be held 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 14, at First Congregational Church in Laurel, with interment in Park City Cemetery. Visitation will be 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, at Smith Funeral Chapel-Laurel.