BIG TIMBER — Dad was a retired rancher from Rapelje who was born on March 24, 1925. The youngest child of Pete and Mabel Gee, he spent the majority of his life on the originally homesteaded Gee ranch south of Rapelje. Upon retirement in 1991, he moved to Big Timber, where he spent his later years. He passed away May 10, 2013, at the Pioneer Medical Center.
Dad graduated from Rapelje High School in 1943 and in early 1945, during the late stages of World War II, began service in the U.S. Army. His unit was sent to Panama to guard the canal during the ensuing year after the war was over. Upon completion of his duty in Panama, he was honorably discharged and then returned to the ranch in Rapelje.
His lifelong friend, Don Hemphill, told the story that Lawrence once informed him that they should go to an upcoming dance in Big Timber … he had heard about several good looking red heads that would be there. Thus began his courtship and subsequent marriage in 1950 to Tookie, his wife and partner for the next 62 years. (Don also married another of the Big Timber redheads.)
Dad’s March madness was not derived from basketball, but from the start of calving season. He was a true rancher who got great enjoyment from seeing his red and white Hereford calves against the backdrop of emerging green grass in the springtime. He also enjoyed the smell of fresh cut hay and almost couldn’t wait for the alfalfa to bloom before starting to cut his crop of hay. He was particular about how haying was done and spent many years with his kids, nephews and brothers-in-law baling and stacking hay for himself and also contracting this work for quite a few others in the area.
Dad did quite a bit of farming work with his brother Vic in earlier years; “breaking sod” on iron-seated tractors with two bottom plows, shrouded in a cloud of dust and dirt — no cabs, no air conditioning, no GPS — perhaps an umbrella for shade. This may have explained his lack of real enthusiasm for farming as he only farmed what was necessary to rotate the land for haying needs.
For a few years after he and Mom were first married, Dad worked as a carpenter in Big Timber. He carried over those skills to the ranch and loved to build things … from toy barns to swing sets to house additions to corrals. Dad always had projects to work on. There were very few things that got thrown away as he could fix most anything (and usually did). In later years, he put together jigsaw puzzles so as to keep “building.”
In addition to Pete and Mabel, Dad’s three elder brothers, Elmer, Vic and George, preceded him in death. Dad and Mom’s son, our brother Jim, also sadly left us some 30+ years ago.
Surviving Dad is his elder sister Florence to whom we wish our best as she is unable to travel the long way to be with us at this time.
Dad leaves wife Tookie, daughter Blondie (Janet) of Lindsay, Mont.; and son Mick of Billings; along with Blondie’s family: her husband Jim; her kids Cory Wolff (wife Jamie), Jenny Kroetch (husband Doug) and Pete Wolff; and Mick’s family: his wife Cheri; his kids Casey and Lindsay Gee. Dad’s great-grandchildren include Kaylynn Wolff, James and Charlie Kroetch.
Rest in Peace Dad, we’ll miss you.
Cremation has taken place and memorial services will be held 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at Stenberg Funeral Home, 215 Anderson, with a reception following at the American Legion Club.
Though flowers are certainly nice, donations to the Hearts & Hands Hospice, Box 1337 Big Timber, MT 59011 or the Special K Ranch, Box 479, Columbus, MT 59019, would have a much more lasting effect. Dad would have been pleased to know that these wonderful organizations were benefited on his behalf.