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Posted by Stone (+1588) 11 years ago
My condolances go out to the family of Charles McRae. This includes son Jack a long time poster on mc.com. He will be missed.


Charles William McRae, a long time area rancher, died on April 1, 2009 at the age of 86 in Jordan, Montana, at the Garfield County Health Center. His death was a result of pneumonia which he recently contracted after a general decline in health over the past several years.

Charles was born on July 20, 1922 in Miles City, Montana. He was the first of eight children born to his parents Jack and Mary Helen (Kerr) McRae. His first years were spent living in a sheep wagon on the open range or at his grandmother Kerr's homestead on the Big Dry as his parents moved about grazing their sheep. He began his formal education at a country school in the Colstrip area of Montana in the winter of 1929 where his parents were wintering their flock on the Taylor place. He ultimately completed his elementary education at the Van Norman School on the Big Dry near where his parents finally settled on their own property. From a very early age onward, he actively helped his father in caring for the sheep, becoming a respected expert in their breeding and management. As the first grandchild in the Kerr family, he also enjoyed the attention and affection of many of his uncles and aunts, several of whom were not much older than him, while he was growing up.

When his widowed mother moved to Missoula, Montana, in 1949 with her younger children, she sold the family ranch to him and he took over responsibility for operating this business with his wife Hazel. Although his mother had been forced to liquidate much of the family livestock holdings in the late 1940's because of drought, he soon set about rebuilding the ranch into a very progressive business enterprise, including introducing registered Hereford cattle and quarter horses. At about the same time he began systematically constructing water collection reservoirs and wells throughout the property so that the cattle and sheep could be grazed much more widely during the dry summer months. He consolidated the family land holdings into contiguous range by trading property with several neighbors. He also electrified the buildings, first using a wind charger with storage batteries and then connecting to REA service when this became available. In the middle fifties, he completely fenced his land holdings, including boundary and cross fences, with net wire to eliminate the use of herders in tending the sheep. He was the first sheep rancher in the area to invest in this type of infrastructure. This improvement permitted the sheep to forage naturally and one result was typically the heaviest lambs sold in the area each fall. He switched from white faced Herefords as his dominant cattle breed to registered Black Angus cows in 1963. These were acquired from his uncle, Harry B. Ross, who was a nationally acclaimed Angus breeder at the time. By the mid-sixties, he began performance testing of the Angus calves he was producing as well as utilizing artificial insemination techniques. These breed improvement practices are still continued today by his sons. A measure of his skill in cattle breeding was the selection in 1994 of a bull he had produced as the National Western Stock Show Grand Champion in Denver, Colorado.

He was very active in community service, especially while his sons were young. He was a member of the local school board, serving as its chair for a period of time. He served on the County Fair Board and contributed generously in terms of time and materials to the construction and renovation of the local fair ground facilities. He was also very active in the community 4-H chapter. His sons, and now his grandchildren, won many prizes with the livestock they exhibited under his tutelage. He was invited to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the 1st National Bank of Miles City as a consequence of his business accomplishments and knowledge of the ranching industry. He was a member of the Board of Advisors for the Yellowstone Boys Ranch. In recognition of his knowledge of livestock and his reputation for integrity he was appointed a regional brand inspector by the Montana Livestock Commission and served in this capacity for many years until his health no longer permitted him to travel.

Charles, or Charlie as he preferred to be called, easily garnered the respect and affection all who knew him. He will be remembered not only for his accomplishments as a producer of fine livestock and service to the community but more importantly as a committed and caring father and husband, an advisor and role model to many young people and a thoughtful member of his extended family whom he cared for very much. He was a man who loved good humor and took great pleasure in telling or listening to a funny story. He was an avid reader for much of his life, especially accounts of western history. He was also a fine hunter and fisherman who enjoyed hosting many visiting sportsmen on his property over the years. Amongst other hobbies he pursued were leatherworking, wood working and following the athletic endeavors of his grandchildren. Until the very end he had an exceptionally keen mind and excellent memory that resulted in him being called upon regularly in his later years as a source of historical information by younger members of the family. He enjoyed these encounters immensely and was always willing to be helpful. He was truly a link to an earlier era.

Charles is survived by his wife of 62 years Hazel Lavonne (Schultz); six siblings: Mary Clover of Missoula, John of Missoula, Robert (Beverly) of Billings, George (Neva) of Missoula, Bruce (Jackie) of Athens, Georgia, and Jackcee Anderson of Missoula; three sons: Jack (Kathryn) of the Big Dry, Bill of Portland, Oregon, and Brent (Hillari) of the Big Dry; seven grandchildren: Cora (Ryan) Best of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Ian (Zoey) of Billings, Kristin, Malcolm, Charles, John and Benjamin of the Big Dry. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister Catherine.

Visitation will be held on Sunday, April 5, 2009 from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home in Jordan. Funeral services will be held on Monday, April 6, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. at the VFW Hall in Jordan. Interment will be held on Tuesday, April 7, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. at the Custer County Cemetery in Miles City. Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home of Jordan is in charge of the arrangements.
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Posted by Stone (+1588) 11 years ago
Jack, I have one vivid memory of your father before we left our ranch. I was about 5 year old and your Dad was helping us dock our last sheep before we left for Kinsey. He had his hat on back words and was pulling rocky mountain oysters out with his teeth. The speed with witch he did this was amazing. His face was covered with blood like a scene from brave heart. He was always a nice man whom I adored from afar.

My father said he was the best stockman he ever knew. He used to talk a great deal about docking on Charlie's 50th birthday.

Lastly, I remember going to your house Jack, for Uncle Jim's birthday party but for the life of me I can not remember how old he was.

Having lost a father I know what you are feeling. God bless you and yours.

Brady Stone
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Posted by Cindy Stalcup (+590) 11 years ago
Jack,
I'm so sorry for your loss.
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Posted by John Morford (+345) 11 years ago
RIP, Charlie. You earned it.

[This message has been edited by John Morford (4/4/2009)]
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Posted by Nancy Drew (+281) 11 years ago
Charlie is a true authentic SE Montanan. His life story is a history of our area. I am not sure where the 'BIG DRY' is....Could anyone tell me?
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Posted by John Morford (+345) 11 years ago
This is their website. It will give you an idea where they are located.

http://www.bigdry.com/
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Posted by Stone (+1588) 11 years ago
I was present at Charlie's graveside services and I would like to thank Scott Glascock. He is the pipe major for the Miles City Caledonian Pipe Band and he is a world class piper. When Amazing Grace is let loose from his pipes, I can guarantee you that there is not a dry eye in the house.
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