William J. (Bill) Huffman, 87, of Ainsworth, died the evening of June 30, 2012, at the Rock County Long Term Care in Bassett. Bill, second son of Marion and Maude McMullen Huffman, was born Feb.13, 1925, at Sutherland.
His parents resided in the McPherson/Arthur Co. area in Bill's early years. In 1929, his father moved them to Mason City where they lived close to his Aunt Mabel (Quinn) Van Meter. Then, within a year, Bill's family returned to the Huffman ranch, living in what is known as the Soddy. They soon moved to his Uncle Bird Huffman's ranch on the Wright place at Squaw Creek where Bill and his siblings had a happy time working and playing together.
From here they moved north of Hyannis where Bill's family would spend six years on the Dumb-bell Ranch. Bill would always tell that he was 10-years-old at the time and he rode horseback 35 miles to move the cows to their new home. Quoting Bill's dad, Marion, in 1967, "Bill is my cowboy. Even in school, he did much better studying with horses and cows!"
As did many young adults of the Sandhills area, Bill attended high school at Curtis, graduating in 1942 from the Nebraska School of Agriculture. However, the family's herd of cattle had grown, so in 1941, his father had moved the family to Koshopah on the Lovelace place north of Dunning.
Here at Dunning, Bill would meet Odetta M. Fisher of Brewster. They were married June 15, 1944, at St. Anselm's Catholic rectory at Anselmo. January 16, 1945, Bill was inducted into the Army, and spent about 1 1/2 years during World War II serving at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Honolulu, Hawaii. Bill was discharged Aug. 13, 1946.
After Bill returned from the Army, he and Odetta lived at Swan Lake on the Huffman homestead where he had lived as a toddler. In May, 1947, Bill and Odetta moved to the Bud and Billie McGooden ranch south of Dunning until October of that year when they relocated to the McAdam's ranch north of town. They resided on the ranch until their house burned down in June 1952.
Following the house fire, they moved to town, increasing the size of their family to four "living" children. Bill would spend a total of 20 years managing this well known Blaine County ranch. It was said that the owner had to hire three men to replace him when Bill decided to relocate his family to the L.D. Putnam ranch near Vetal, S.D., where they would live for the next seven years fulfilling their dream of raising their children out in the "country".
In 1973, Bill and Odetta returned to the area of the Sandhills near Hyannis, where Bill would work as a ranch hand for Farrar Cattle Co. However, two years later, Bill and Odetta accepted an offer to return to their "old" house at Dunning, where Bill would work again as ranch foreman for Mick McAdams, devoting around 30 years of his life to this Omaha-based family. When the ranch sold in 1987, Bill decided he would "move on" and he and Odetta accepted an offer from Monahan Cattle Co. and moved to the Flick Ranch north of Whitman, where they would live for the next 17 years where Bill would continue being a "cowboy" till he was 78 years of age.
Due to Odetta's failing health, Bill and Odetta retired to Ainsworth in June 2003. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary before her passing April 12, 2005. Bill continued to maintain their apartment until this past January when his health declined and he moved to Cottonwood Villa in Ainsworth, where he renewed old friendships with Sandhills ranch neighbors and friends until complications of a stroke ended his life.
Bill was a member of the Brewster American Legion, Post No. 0323, for 65 years and the Dunning V.F. W., Post No. 8544. He was also very proud to be one of the initial inductees in 2006 to the Nebraska Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame.
He was preceded in death by his parents; wife, Odetta; four babies, including Donald Lee, Linda Lou and Billie Marie; two brothers, Edmund and Gerald Huffman, and one grandson, Jimmy Matteson.
Survivors include two daughters, Mabel Irene Boots (Rodney) of Ashby, and Jo Ann Heath (Larry) of Cody; two sons, William G. (Billy) and wife Bobbie, and Robert Stanley (Bob) and wife Sue, all of Bassett; nine grandchildren, Andrea (Jason) Fanning of Martin, SD, Sheila (Corey) Pourier of Chadron, Steven Huffman and fiancĂ© Julie Thyne of Kearney, Suzanne (John) Neefe II of Alliance, Justin (Kelsy) Boots of Lexington, Brittany (Eric) Kauffman of Omaha, Darin Boots of Ashby, Bridget Kinkaid of Ainsworth, and Kendra (Jace) Rambat of Medicine Lodge, Kan.; 20 and soon to be 22 great-grandchildren; two sisters, Mabel Rodocker of Halsey, and Mary Duryea of Broken Bow; three sisters-in-law, Fern Huffman of Denver, Colo., Donna Smith of Maryville, Mo., and Sharon (Merlyn) Rieber of Griswold, Iowa; and aunt, Betty (the late Edgar) McMullen of Grand Island.
A Rosary/Prayer Service was conducted by Father Jim Heithoff Wednesday, July 4, 2012, at the Hoch Funeral Home in Ainsworth. Funeral services were July 5, 2012, at the St. Pius X Catholic Church in Ainsworth, with Father Jim Heithoff serving as Celebrant. Music was provided by Sharon Connealy, Melanie Daly and Roger McGooden.
Casket bearers were Andrea (Heath) and Jason Fanning, Sheila (Heath) and Corey Pourier, Steven Huffman and Julie Thyne, Suzanne (Heath) and John Neefe II, Brittany (Huffman) and Eric Kauffman, Justin and Kelsey Boots, Darin Boots, Bridget (Huffman) Kinkaid, Kendra (Boots) and Jace Rambat. Honorary bearers were Pat McAdams, Skip Marland, Roger and Billie McGooden, Bill Jensen, Rolly Glause, Clayton Chase, Monahan Cattle Co., & Circle Dot Ranch Crew.
A military graveside was held at the Ft. McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, with Father James Novakowski officiating over the graveside. Hoch Funeral Home of Ainsworth was in charge of the arrangements. Memorials were suggested to the Brown County Ambulance Association, or to the NCDC-Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Published in Custer County Chief, July 12, 2012