Obituary for Donald McPherson: 1927-2019
Donald “Don” was born August 29, 1927, to Eugene H. and Ida M. (Thiers) McPherson. Born the seventh of eight children, he was a survivor learning the value of hard work and perseverance. He grew up on the family ranch east of Sturgis on Alkali Creek. He attended country school through 8th grade, graduated high school, and went onto Aggie School in Brookings, SD. He enlisted in the Army in 1946 and proudly served his country during World War II.
Dad spent his entire life on the ranch that his grandfather, George B. McPherson, homesteaded in 1890, working with cattle and horses. He was proud of the fact that his grandfather is believed to have brought the first Hereford cattle west of the Missouri River in 1888. For many, many years, Herefords were the only cattle that grazed on the ranch. Even though Angus and Longhorn eventually showed up, Dad remained head strong that Herefords were the best. Heritage was important to Dad. He bought his brand, Seven Cross Connected, from a cousin and branding is still done today on the prairie with a hot iron. Dad thought the only way to handle livestock was horseback and he spent countless hours in the saddle doing just that. He was a legendary cowboy. The ranch continues to serve as a proud reminder of our family history and remains in the McPherson family with the sixth generation involved in the operation leaving their footprint.
On June 9, 1950, Don married Mabel Keffeler. From that day on, they worked side by side making their home and life together on the prairie. There never was a
better example of what marriage is all about: respect, devotion, and unconditional love. Don loved his wife more than life itself. In Dad’s words, the best thing he ever did was marry the farm girl up the road!!! They lived, laughed and loved for the next 69 years. Two trips to Mayo clinic in Minnesota and seven weeks of radiation/chemo regiment, Dad never missed an appointment and Mom was right there with him each and every time; a testament to their love and devotion to each other. That devotion was demonstrated time and again but never more passionately than in Dad’s final days when Mom said, “I love you Dad” and he responded with “I love you too Mom, always have, always will.”
Don and Mabel had four children, Harvey, Judy, Cheryl, and Ross. The family started out in a one-bedroom home with the bedroom heated with a small propane stove compliments of McPherson Propane. There was electricity but no running water which meant no indoor plumbing! In 1962, a new home was built with the luxury of running water and indoor plumbing! Growing up, we kids spent many, many, many, hours on horseback working cattle with Dad.
Don and Mabel raised their kids with the ranching values of hard work, honesty, perseverance, right from wrong, respect your elders, and no swearing.
If raising their own four was not enough, you would oftentimes find their nephews and nieces at their table and lending a helping hand with the ranch work. Don and Mabel have many, many special memories and stories of those escapades!
Family and friends were always welcome in their home. You never left hungry no matter what time of day you showed up. You may have come to their home as a stranger but left as a friend.
Don was a longtime supporter of the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association. He served as a director of the Sturgis Region of SDHSR Association for several years and furnished the roping and cutting stock many times. Don was awarded the Stockman of the Year award in 1993. This award recognizes an individual who has achieved success in beef production. In his acceptance speech, Dad was quick to point out that he had a good woman beside him for which he was very thankful. In 2006, The South Dakota Hereford Association presented the McPherson Ranch with their Commercial Producer of the Year award.
On the rare occasion Don took time off from ranch work, he enjoyed team roping. He built an indoor arena and hosted team roping events for several years. He and his roping partner, Jim Sigman, qualified for the National Old Timers Team Roping Association championships.
Dad’s church was on the back of a horse. He especially liked his morning rides during calving season. He thought mornings were the best part of the day.
Don always had a smile on his face, a twinkle in his eye, and a story to tell. Don was one of those people that never required any recognition for his contributions and successes. He worked behind the scenes, believed in honest values, good livestock, and the future of ranching.
His long, hard fought battle with cancer brought many unknowns and challenges but did not affect his unwavering sense of humor. He made countless trips for medical treatment and when asked if he was allergic to anything the answer was always “work.” When the medical staff reminded him of upcoming appointments Dad would respond with “Thanks for the warning.” On one trip for medical attention, Ross asked if Judy had gassed the car up and Dad replied that he didn’t remember if she did or not. Ross then asked if he had paid Judy for the gas. Dad’s reply, with that slight smile on his face, “How am I to know if I paid for the gas when I don’t remember if she filled up.” During his final battle, his granddaughter told him he looked good and Dad responded with “Think you need glasses.” He never complained nor felt sorry for himself during his cancer journey. His only concern was making sure Mom was taken care of.
This chapter of life on earth comes to an end but the story lives on forever in our hearts. Donald “Don” Richard McPherson rode off into the sunset on Sunday, September 29, 2019.
He is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Mabel; his brother, Dale and Dorothy McPherson, Rapid City, SD; sister-in-law, Rosalind McPherson, Piedmont, SD; son, Harvey and KT McPherson, Rapid City, SD; daughter, Judy and Alan Morris, Rapid City, SD; daughter, Cheryl and Burt Cross, Sturgis, SD; son, Ross and Kathi McPherson, Hereford, SD; seven grandchildren, Brian and Jody McPherson, Mountain Home, TX, Brad McPherson, Boise, ID, Justin and Lyndsee Cross, Chadron, NE, Megan (Derek) Murphy, Pierre, SD, Jayme and Dusty Hatch, Hereford, SD, Cody and Brooke McPherson, Rapid City, SD, and Nicole (Joe) McPherson, Hereford, SD; twelve great-grandchildren, Bradyn McPherson and Molly McPherson, Mountain Home, TX, Brady McPherson and Breckin McPherson, Boise, ID, Hudson Cross, Holden Cross, and Hayes Cross, Chadron, NE, Madison Murphy, Macie Murphy and Maverick Mentele, Pierre, SD, Tenleigh Hatch, Hereford, SD, and Braxtyn McPherson, Rapid City, SD; and the Keffeler clan that he thought so much of: brother-in-law, Murrin, and sisters-in-law, Darliene Keffeler, Rose Marie Van Sickel, Irene Long, and Betty Keffeler. He is also survived by daughter-in-law, Nancy McPherson; and numerous nephews, nieces, cousins, and his “special kids,” Mark Black and Ninu Brink Spring.
Don was preceded in death by his parents, Eugene and Ida; his brothers and their spouses, Earl & Celeste, Arnold & Maxine, Joe & Elma, and Glenn McPherson; his sisters and their spouses, Edna & Vernon Watkins and Mae & Charles (Bud) Keffeler; and in-laws, John & Mary Keffeler, Laura & George May, Bernice & Fae Hanks, Mae & Dan Dingeman, Art Keffeler, Marion & Jim Clinch, Maurice Keffeler, Kenny Van Sickel, Ben Long, Shirley Keffeler, and Ralph Keffeler; and several nephews, nieces, and cousins.
We want to thank Dr. Eastmo and his staff at the Cancer Center for the care, respect and devotion they gave Dad during his cancer journey. We also want to thank the staff at Sturgis Regional Hospital for making his final time much easier.
In lieu of flowers, memorials have been established for the Hereford Volunteer Fire Department, the Sturgis High School Rodeo Club, and the Lippold Hospice Suite.
So, until we meet again, Dad, we will ride with our eyes peeled and our head on a swivel. Happy Trails!
Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, October 5, at Kinkade Funeral Chapel in Sturgis.
Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, October 6, 2019, at the Sturgis Armory with Pastor Harold Delbridge officiating. Burial will be at the 7 Cross Ranch Cemetery.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News