John O. Bilbrey
Wed, 01/24/2018 - 4:35pm admin
John Otis Bilbrey, age 64, passed away at his home in Shell, Wyo., Jan. 16, 2018, after a 16-month battle with pancreatic cancer. At his request, a celebration of life will be held at a later date.
John was born Jan. 4, 1954, to Wilbur and Betty Jo Bilbrey in Plainview, Texas. Upon his dad’s return from service in World War II, the family farmed near Childress and Plainview, Texas. Each summer they traveled to South Dakota for custom wheat harvesting, enjoying the country so much they relocated to Mission Ridge, S.D., in 1959.
John attended high school in Philip. He was a skilled heavy equipment operator, truck driver, rodeo pick-up man, AI technician, and a distributor for Vigortone ag products. John was a talented, handy cowboy and worked alongside his father on area ranches including the Sheehan Ranch and Western Cattle Company.
In 1971, John married Rhonda Reuer, and they welcomed their son, John Paul, in December of this same year.
John married Mary Alice Slovek in March of 1975. They lived on a ranch in Milesville and had three sons, Judd, Josh and Jiggs. In 1979, John’s son, Matt Clair, was born.
John and his family moved to the Swope Ranch on Tongue River south of Miles City, Mont., in 1980. They raised their family according to the ranch/cowboy way of life. In following years, John worked at various area ranches and became active in the rodeo world. Along with being a pick-up man for several stock contractors, John helped his sons start their rodeo dreams. Judd, Josh, Jiggs and Matt all rode saddle broncs during high school.
In March of 1998, John married Julie Mobley in Miles City and they resided at the C & C Cattle Company on Pumpkin Creek. When the ranch sold in 1999, John and Julie followed their cattle to pasture at the Bear Creek Ranch near Shell, establishing their own home on Beaver Creek in 2009. With this union, John gained two stepchildren, and his youngest son, Jaden, was born in the year of 2000.
Like many cattlemen, John appreciated tall grass, rain, black cattle and exceptional horses, almost all of which came from bucking pens, which he then retrained. He loved to watch his kids compete in the arena and for 20 years he worked as a professional pick-up man. He attended hundreds of rodeos before worn out shoulders forced his retirement in 2002.
John’s best days were spent riding high ranges and big pastures alongside his wife, kids and friends while checking water, doctoring and admiring all of God’s creation. Like other old cowboys, he developed a love for diesel smoke, shiny Peterbilt trucks and bullracks. He began a trucking business in 2006 and safely logged over a million miles. This fit into his love of cattle and every manner involved, from calving until a good steak was placed on his plate.
In 2014, John purchased the Branding Iron Bar in Greybull, Wyo., and treasured all close friends of his bar, trucking co-workers, business partners, employees and customers.
Thankful for all he taught us and grateful for having had the opportunity to share his life, are his wife, Julie, Shell; five sons, Judd (Trish) Bilbrey, Alzada, Mont., Josh (Jana) Bilbrey, Edgemont, Jiggs (Marlee) Bilbrey, Boyes, Mont., Matt (Misty) Clair, Pierre, and Jaden Bilbrey, Shell; two stepchildren, Jason Madsen (Jeanie Hovermale), Broadus, Mont., and Jackee (Derek) Smith, Corvallis, Mont.; daughter-in-law, Joanna Bilbrey, Myrtle Creek, Ore.; 20 grandchildren; numerous nieces and nephews; and one brother, Jim Bilbrey, Pierre.
John was admittedly toughest on those he loved the most. He was loyal, hardworking and soft-hearted. Gone before he was ready, his greatest regret was being unable to spend as much time as he wished with family. He was proud and loved his family more than life itself.
John was preceded in death by his parents, Wilbur and Betty Jo, son, John Paul, and brother, Charles Bilbrey.