Jewell Rayford Thurlo Horton: 1928-2014 |

Jewell Rayford Thurlo Horton: 1928-2014

Jewell Rayford Thurlo Horton took his final trail ride on December 15, 2014. Rayford was born July 15, 1928 to Alva Oline Bekken and John Raymond (Ray) Horton at Lodgepole South Dakota. Rayford grew up around the Slim Buttes and Zeona areas until his parents bought a ranch north of Redelm, South Dakota in 1943. Rayford attended several country schools but only finished the fifth grade. He wanted to ranch and the teacher wanted a student who would show up for school occasionally. Rayford worked the family ranch and took many ranch jobs while the rest of the family moved around with his mother who taught at area rural schools. He enjoyed hunting coyotes all of his life, and in the winter of 1945-1946 with his best friend A.W (Bill) Limpert, they got one of the last prairie (buffalo) wolves taken in South Dakota.

Rayford’s most memorable job as a young man was working for the Diamond A cattle company in the winter of 1944-45. He spent the winter at the Rousseau Place for then foreman Nels Babcock, who he described as one of the last real cowboys.

Rayford was drafted into the Army on April 11, 1951 and took his training at Ft. Hood, Texas. He excelled at driving tanks, but being 100 percent sure he was going to starve to death, he volunteered to be a cook since it couldn’t be any worse than riding around in a steel can. He volunteered to go to Paris but ended up on a troop ship to Korea, where he served as the mess-sergeant for Headquarters Company, 74th Combat Engineers. The war and its aftermath had a profound effect on Rayford, and he had a strong affinity for all veterans who served this country. Rayford earned a Korean Service Medal with One Bronze Service Star, and a United Nations Service Medal.

Rayford returned to the ranch and married Shirley Hillis Eaton on March 11, 1956. Two children were born to this union, Chip in 1957 and Sherry in 1959. Rayford ranched in the Redelm area and worked at the Faith Livestock for many years, first in the yards and eventually as a ring man.

He was a lifelong member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Faith Livestock and Rodeo association. He volunteered for the annual event for many years and served as its president in 1975-1976. He loved rodeo, especially saddle broncs and relay racing. He entered his own team of horses and won the race several times.

In 1992, Rayford and Shirley sold the ranch and moved to Hot Springs where Shirley retired and he discovered the American Bison, which he often described as the most intelligent animal on the prairie. In 2005, Shirley passed away and Rayford spent his days making sure the bison had water, and traveling to visit family and friends, rarely leaving South Dakota.

Rayford is survived by his children Chip (Ann Schrantz) Horton of Volin, SD and Sherry (Alvin) Kraft of Alliance, NE. And grandchildren: Andi Kraft (Mike) Del Gatto of Las Vegas, NV; Joshua Horton of Shenzhen, Guangdong, China; Adam Horton of Providence, RI; Colette Kraft of Corvallis, OR; Kyle Horton (Matt) Lenser of Lodi, CA: and Gabrielle Horton of Manchester, UK; and great-grandsons Miles and Max Del Gatto. He is also survived by his sister Dorothy (Ray) Edwards and brothers Rollis (Rosemarie) Horton and Larry (Paula) Horton along with many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Shirley, his parents Ray and Alva and brothers Marvin and Alvin.

A memorial and internment at Black Hills National Cemetery will be held in July. The family is requesting no flowers or gifts, but if you wish to do something, please direct your contribution to one of these organizations: The March of Dimes; St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital, Intrepid Heroes Fund; or the Fischer House.

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