And this is when the cowboy rides away………
On January 6, 2018, Grandpa Johnnie, as he was so affectionately known by his loved ones, saddled up and rode home to join his loved ones and friends who had gone before him. Part of his heart stayed behind with his beloved family who will treasure his life and love forever.
Born May 26, 1927, he was one of six children born to Ruth and Lester Rice. He spent his childhood in the rural areas of Hardin, Montana. In November 1949, John married his childhood sweetheart, Elsie Kern. They were blessed with a daughter, Dianne and son, Douglas. They were married 62 years until she passed away in 2011.
They lived in various towns in Montana and Wyoming, moving as the oil fields changed locations. In the early 1950’s, John and Elsie owned the Rice Cafe in St. Xavier, Montana. Farming and ranching is what he loved to do and he worked on ranches in different areas of Montana. His connection with the Soap Creek Cattle Company in Augusta, Montana lasted many years. It was there that he developed lifelong friendships with local cowboys and picked up the nickname “Puddin” which stuck with him the rest of his life. He always enjoyed a good card game. He loved Montana, riding horses, wrangling cattle, gardening, fishing the Smith River and camping. He shared his colorful life stories with friends, family and often with strangers who happened across his path.
John fought and beat cancer twice. When he was 70, he developed an aggressive form of lymphoma. He underwent aggressive chemo treatment and was declared free from this cancer. He later developed prostate cancer for which he underwent radiation treatments and was declared cancer free again. The chronic back pain that he suffered from was very frustrating to him. As his activities became more limited, he began to carve beautiful walking sticks from Diamond Willow. He gave great attention to the unique designs that he created.
He is survived by his brother Jim O’Brien, daughter Dianne (Dick) Dalke and son Doug (Annie) Rice. His grandchildren whom he loved enormously-Ember (Marshall) Arteaga, Rebecca (Bud) Ramsey, Amanda (James) Rusterholtz, Ryan Dalke, Kimberlee(Lance) Boyd and Jeramy (Andrea) Rice. His treasured great grandchildren-Joshua and Nicole Morales, Bridger Ramsey, Emily, Abigail and Olivia Rusterholtz, Hunter, Hanna and Hadlee Boyd, Braylon and Clayton Rice.
The family wishes to thank the staff at the Golden Eagle Plaza for their loving and compassionate care for “The Cowboy”. We will treasure the stories that he shared with us about the girls that he loved.
His cowboy tales and life lessons will remain as the legacy of his love for life. He will be remembered at the sight of the grazing cow, the song of the meadowlark on the prairie, while making coffee around the campfire or fishing at the lake.