February 10, 1935 – July 18, 2022
Leet E. Fowler, 87, of Belle Fourche, SD, passed away on July 18, 2022 at the Spearfish Regional Medical Center in Spearfish.
Funeral Services for Leet will be on Friday, July 22,2022 at 11:00 a.m. at the St. James Lutheran Church in Belle Fourche. Pastor Kari Webb will officiate the funeral services. Visitation for Leet will be at the church from 9-11 on Friday. Burial will be held at the Buffalo Cemetery, Buffalo, SD, at 3:00 p.m. with Pastor Jean Helmer officiating the burial.
Leet Ellsworth Fowler was born February 10, 1935 in Camp Crook, South Dakota, to Bertha and Charles Fowler. He was the youngest of their five children, though he never got to know his father, who passed away when Leet was 14 months old.
Leet spent the first years of his life living in Buffalo. When he was five his mother married Ted Matson and the family moved to the ranch. His brother, James Matson, was born in 1941. Leet worked hard at a very young age, and was given responsibilities beyond his years.
He attended a one-room schoolhouse with several neighboring children, including his future wife, Maurine Brengle. He completed high school in Brookings, South Dakota, an agriculture-based school, and attended some college there. He also attended Black Hills College. He won the saddle bronc riding at the Buffalo Labor Day Rodeo in 1954. He served four years in the U.S. Navy. He was stationed on the USS Oriskany and then the USS Lexington in several locations around the Pacific.
A pivotal point in his life came when he married Maurine Brengle on June 18, 1961. They celebrated 61 years together and were excellent partners. Early on, he worked for Lloyd andHelga Gilbert. Later he had a trucking business for several years.
In 1972, the Fowlers moved back to the family ranch. In 1976 they formed Grubbing Hoe Ranch, Inc., with Matsons and Fowlers as shareholders. Ranching was Leetâ€™s life work and legacy, and he proved himself an astute businessman. He worked extremely hard, he thought constantly about ways to improve the operation, and strategically grew the ranch.
Due to his brother, Chuckâ€™s influence, he was an early adopter of computers. Leet admired Chuck greatly. Beginning in the early 1980s, Leet used the computer for ranch bookkeeping. He embraced technology whenever he could, from weather radars, to live camera feeds monitoring calving heifers, to smart phones and online banking.
In 2006 Leet and Maurine began spending part of their time â€œsemi-retired.â€ They split their time between their home in Belle Fourche and on the ranch.
Leet was a lifelong learner. If he wanted to know how to do something, he learned how. He was naturally ingenuitive. He was a cowboy; he was a carpenter; he was a plumber; he was an electrician; he was a heavy equipment operator; he was a trucker; he was a barber; he was woodworker; he was a pilot; he did much of his own veterinary work. He played cards and cribbage. He was a self-taught musician, playing piano, accordion, and guitar. He collected clocks, and built a grandfather clock. He liked to get all the clocks wound and ticking, creating a cacophony of noise that he enjoyed immensely.
He respected people who knew and did things, and as much as he liked talking about cattle, he was happy to learn about othersâ€™ area of expertise. He loved to laugh and tell stories; he loved to tease. He loved hitting various coffee stops around Belle, and going to the sale barn on Thursdays. He also enjoyed naps in front of the tv â€œwatchingâ€ Gunsmoke and rodeos. He could be a little intense; he wasnâ€™t shy about saying what he thought. When the rubber met the road, he had a remarkable ability to tap into a reserve of calm and patience. He could sleep through a calf-killing blizzard so he was rested and ready to work the next day. He had a rough exterior but could also express his love and affection.
He loved Maurine. He loved his family and was proud of them. He loved his friends and continued to make new ones his entire life. He was a 59-year member of the Masonic Lodge, serving asMaster of the Cedar Branch Lodge Number 179 in 1985, and was a Naja Shriner. He was a member of St. James Lutheran Church. He was a member of Harding County Stockgrowers and served as a director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association.
He is preceded in death by his parents; sisters Marion, Eleanor and Kay; brothers Charles and James; and his dear friend Pat Coffield. Heâ€™s survived by his wife, Maurine; sons Ty (Melissa) and Aaron (Tricia), and daughter Teddi; four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, several nieces, nephews, and friends.