Donald Elton Abarr
Born 2-15-1923 & Rode Away 8-15-2016
Don was born to Lillian May Jones Abarr and Carl Emmett Abarr February 15, 1923, between Elbowoods and Plaza, North Dakota. His parents had left their home by bobsled and team with a Gros Ventre Indian as a guide. It was a blizzard but all ended well even though he was born prior to getting to the hospital. That event confirms that he came from tough stock. His parents moved to Billings, MT, in 1926 and soon homesteaded about 65 miles south in Dryhead, MT, on the east side of the Pryor Mountains. Don attended school there for eight years.
Over the years, Don worked as a cowboy and farrier for a variety of ranches throughout the west and was honored as a Montana Centennial Cowboy. To this day, people who knew of him comment about what a great cowboy he was. Many tales are recounted in his book, â€œHoofbeats on the Wind â€“ TALES OF A SAGEBRUSH COWBOY.â€
Don was a decorated veteran of WWII. He served his country in the US Navy for five years, four months, and 17 days; a fact that he could state up until the end. He spent ten months on LST 270 in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, where he witnessed one of the mushroom clouds from afar following the bombing of Japan. Don received a letter of commendation from Gen. George C. Marshall for his service.
After returning from the war, Don met his future wife, Annice Belden Somers, while working at her familyâ€™s ranch, the Pitchfork. They were married in Billings, MT on Jan 3, 1948. In doing so, he 'gathered up' step-daughter, Margot Somers, as part of his family. Don and Annice had three children â€“ Lili, Rob, and Kathy â€“ and later bought a ranch together in McCloud, MT. His daughter, Lili, remembers going out to feed with him on the hay wagon and helping â€œdriveâ€ the team.
When they sold the ranch, Don purchased the Belfry Bar. During the following years, he married Betty Greenough and returned to cowboy life. A reflection of past days was shared in his book: â€œPeople were more satisfied then, it seemed, had time to talk or at least nod.â€ â€œThe cement jungle of today about makes a fellow head for the â€œBig Open!â€ But where? The west is still the west. All that has changed are the roads, the people, and the fences. Quite some change. But, Iâ€™ll stay in Montana or Wyoming. Itâ€™s all good, ainâ€™t it?â€
He worked as a wrangler on the film â€œLittle Big Manâ€ and is said to be the one driving the team of horses on wagons in the movie.
Don was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church in 1976 and became a devout believer. He tried to follow Godâ€™s ways â€œnear as a human can.â€ Donâ€™s family meant everything to him, and he always kept them in his prayers.
Don always had an â€œitchâ€ to be on the wide open ranges, which was probably the best description of his true home. Always restless to return to the Montana range, he was known for coming for short visits in Wyoming that always ended with the words, â€œSo long,â€ and accompanied by a wink, a smile, and a wave. Some sage advice he shared in his later years was, â€œNever look back, unless you are gathering cattle or horses.â€
Don spent most of his later years on his place in Grass Range, MT with his wife, Dorothy, whom he married on January 4, 1989, in Worland, WY. He so enjoyed the life he made with Dorothy, as well as gardening, and visiting with his many friends and family during these years. It was during this time that he wrote his book, drawing many of the pictures - which was an unknown talent to his family. One of his daughter Kathyâ€™s fondest memories of him there is of him thanking a Meadowlark for itâ€™s song as it perched on the fence by his home.
Don had the good fortune of having his daughter, Lili, as well as many of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren close by during his last ten years. He had 'set up camp' for 9 years at Absaroka Assisted Living in Cody and then 'layed down his last bedroll' at the Powell Valley Care Center. He received great care and tender handling at both places prior to going to the 'last roundup' as well as meeting new friends and caretakers with whom to share smiles and winks. His caretakers all talk about what a kind gentleman he was and shared that he never complained. Don met his maker peacefully, and with grace, as he surrendered to the many hard miles and rode out to pasture in â€œThe Big Openâ€ with â€œA leg on each side and his mind in the middleâ€.
Son, Brother, Cowboy, Navy Veteran, Husband, Father, Uncle, Grandfather, Great Grandfather,
MOST of all a Cowboy. Friend of Many and Foe of a Few.
He is preceeded in death by his parents, Carl and Lillian, brothers Allen, Robert, Harley, and Lorin, sister Edith Abarr Bentley, wives Annice and Dorothy, brother-in-law Lynn Roan, and his son Robert Louis Abarr. Surviving loved ones are his sister Anna May Abarr Roan, daughter Lili Abarr Turnell (Jack) and their children â€“ Tracy Turnell-Thomas (Joe â€“ and their children â€“ Stormi and Tanner(Payton)), Cindy Turnell Cox (Jeremy and their children â€“ Austin and Kaili), Tammy Turnell Schlenker (Neil and their daughter â€“ Darbi), the children of son Robert Louis Abarr: Donald Hugh Abarr (Jaye and their children â€“ Madison and Graham), Louis Graham Abarr (Rebecca and their children â€“ Ashton, Dalton, and Hadley),
daughter Kathy Abarr and husband Mark J. Madrid, step-daughter Margot Somers Belden, sisters-in-law Doris Abarr and Pauline Abarr, brother-in-law Russell Bentley, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Service will be 10:00 a.m. at St. Andrewâ€™s Episcopal Church, at 1116 Park Ave, Meeteetse, WY, with lunch to follow. Burial will be at 3:00 PM, at the Rockvale Cemetery, near Edgar, MT, as it looks over the Pryors, which was Donald Elton Abarrâ€™s first real home. Don will be missed but heâ€™ll â€œSee ya' on the trail!â€ in â€œThe Big Openâ€ someday. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to the Powell Medical Foundation to support Chrysalis services which â€œenhance the respect, sanctity, dignity and spiritual well being at the end of lifeâ€ at Powell Valley Healthcare 777 Ave H, Powell, WY 82435.
â€œTo all the cowboys Iâ€™ve worked with, itâ€™s been a pleasure.â€
â€œTo all my friends, I've enjoyed it all.â€ â€œSo long!â€
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