Ron Reed remembered for humility, hard work
Ron Reed lived a life of generosity, and because of it, was inducted into the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame on Jan. 25.
The Billings, Montana, man spent his life giving to his family, his friends, and the cattle, race horse, and rodeo industries.
Reed died January 2, 2019.
Born in 1937 in Miles City, Mont., the son of Melvin and Marcella (McFarland) Reed, he and his family moved to Billings when he was two years old, and the city became one of his many loves.
Ron tagged along with his dad, a cattle buyer, and he and his brother, Rudy, rode horses all over Billings. “They were always busy doing something,” his wife Judy said.
He married Judy Redding in 1961. He had been working in the stockyards, and a year after marriage, he started his career as a Montana brand inspector. Daughter, Kellie and son Shawn both tagged along with him just as he had accompanied his dad. “I was his sidekick,” Kellie remembered. “I was the one dressed in cowboy boots and a hat.” Kellie was always willing to go when her dad’s coworkers offered to take her to the cafe. “They were cowboys, and there might be the opportunity for me to ride a horse.”
His son, Shawn, loved his dad’s keen mind and memory. He remembers riding with his dad as he was a brand inspector. “One of my favorite things was to ride with him to ranches, and meet all the people,” Shawn said. “It was fun being with him because he’d give me the details about different things around the countryside that he would point out. He knew everything about the country.”
Never idle, Ron helped train horses at the Beaumont Race Track in Belgrade. He worked in a variety of roles in the racing industry for over fifty years: from track positions throughout the state, to official’s positions, and, lastly, as State Steward, supervising all racing officials and enforcing racing rules.
He spent part of his spare time at Bill’s Custom Saddle Shop, cleaning and repairing old saddles and tack. His pay was the camaraderie and visiting with customers. “He liked being there, and he enjoyed doing the work,” Judy said.
Reed was a collector of all things cowboy, especially bits, spurs and bridles, and he often had buckles made for friends, as gifts.
One of his projects was working on the set of the 1970 movie Little Big Man, parts of which were filmed in Montana. Reed developed a system to keep track of how many times horses were used, which allowed a fair way for the horse owners to get paid.
He spent much of his life as a Blue Blazer for the Billings Chamber, his beloved town. He would transport dignitaries from the airport to their designation, and also took his stagecoaches and horses to various western parades throughout the area, from Calgary, Alb. to Sacramento, Calif., to promote Billings and the western lifestyle. He judged Little Britches Rodeo across the state.
Judy’s job with a land management agency required her to spend work time in Phoenix, and after Shawn and Kellie graduated high school, the family made Arizona their second home. “He always kept the fires burning in Montana,” Judy said, “and I kept them going down here.” Their generosity allowed family friends to live in their Montana home for thirteen winters, while Judy and Ron were in Phoenix. Ron “would tell them, ‘when we’re gone it’s your house.’ That’s the kind of friends he had, that he could depend on,” Judy said.
Reed was instrumental in the founding of the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame, said Melody Haagenson, treasurer for the Hall and Wall of Fame.
“Without him, this organization wouldn’t be what it is today,” she said. “He was passionate about the whole program, honoring our western heritage, promoting our scholarship recipients and the maintenance of our brand block walls.”
He was a humble man, never with the attitude that jobs might be too menial for him. “He was the first one to jump in when we had a project,” Haaganson said, “to work hard on it. Nothing was beneath him. He’d help set up tables or greet people. He was everywhere. And our organization has a hole with his passing.”
Reed was a giver, not a taker, and would do anything for anybody, his wife and kids said. “He would pretty much give anybody the shirt off his back,” Kellie said. Friends often stayed at their house for as long as they needed to, and Ron did a variety of things for his wife’s family, as well. “All you had to do was ask,” Kellie said.
He was loyal and faithful to his friends, as well. “His friends meant everything to him,” Kellie said. When he made a friend, “they were lifelong friends.”
The Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame annually gives $3,000 scholarships to twelve graduating high school seniors who are members of the Montana High School Rodeo scholarship, and Ron was influential in securing that money. “He helped build that fund,” Haagenson said. “He was very instrumental in growing that fund and being conservative with the spending.” The Hall and Wall of Fame also gives a $1,000 scholarship annual to Miss Montana High School Rodeo and $2,000 annually to Miss Rodeo Montana.
“Everything he did was for the kids, he would say,” Judy said. “He was so giving, and always, always thinking about someone besides himself.”
Kellie represented the family at the awards banquet that was held Jan. 25 in Billings.
Ron was inducted into the Lifetime Achievement category.
For more information on the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame, visit http://www.www.montanaprorodeo.org.