His father was an Irish immigrant rancher in the Miles City area. His mother was raised on an eastern Montana prairie homestead. Dennis Clarke Haughian was born to be a cowboy. But that was just the beginning of his thirst for a life of adventure and knowledge.
Known as “Hawk,” his big life ended on Dec. 13, Friday the 13th, in Billings. He died from natural causes. He was 76.
Born in Terry in April 1943, he spent much of his youth on ranches in Garfield, Custer and Prairie counties. He was breaking ornery horses before most kids got their driver’s license.
Dennis was extremely proud of his family Heritage — both Haughian and Clarke sides. His middle name came from his grandfather, Charles G. Clarke, who had a homestead on Cherry Creek, north of Terry, from 1915 to 1939. Before WWI broke out, he rounded up 500 horses near the Terry Badlands and sold them to the U.S. military. Many ended up as “warhorses” for the European battlefields.
As a Haughian, he knew that he came from ranching royalty. His Irish grandparents, Daniel and Susan Haughian, built one of the most successful cattle ranches in Montana, starting with a two-room shack and eventually growing their ranch to 240,000+ acres.
Dennis’ grandmother, Susan became the Haughian matriarch in 1931 when her husband, Daniel, died, leaving behind five sons and five daughters. The Haughians’ sprawling Big Sheep Mountain-based ranch operation expanded to the Missouri Breaks near Jordan. Susan and her husband, Daniel, were inducted into the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2009 as Legacy winners.
In 1952, Collier’s Magazine did a cover story on Susan Haughian, proclaiming her Montana’s favorite redhead and titled the story “The Cattle Queen of Montana.” It became a movie two years later, starring Barbara Stanwyck and a guy named Ronald Reagan.
Dennis was Susan’s first grandchild, from the union of Alexander “Nander” Haughian and Jane Clarke, who taught rural schools in eastern Montana. Dennis loved to read and learn; he devoured every book he could get his hands on.
When Dennis dropped out of Terry High at the age of 17 to better himself; it went against his mother’s wishes. Dennis bypassed school and elected to serve his country just as his Father Alexander had served in the Army Air Corps as an aerial gunner during WWII.
Before Jane was stricken with health issues in the 1980s, Dennis had begun to make amends. Dennis made her immensely proud by not merely getting his GED, but rather earning highest academic credentials. He eventually graduated summa cumlaude with a Master’s Degree, and was all but a dissertation away from a PhD.
At his core, he was always a cowboy. He never got rodeo out his blood. “Seldom in the winner’s circle,” he wrote. Nonetheless, he rode bulls and bareback broncs for nearly 20 years from Alaska to Tennessee, and states in between. During summers he worked as a rodeo announcer. He dabbled in singing.Although his first true profession was the Armed Service (both as both sailor and a soldier), serving cowboys, rancher and farmers became his longest-lasting and final profession. His love of the land that he called home and the ranchers that worked that land eventually led to a career move with the Department of Agriculture. When his son, Shane Clarke Haughian, was accepted to the United States Air Force Academy, Dennis transferred his civil service duty location from Montana to Colorado to provide his son emotional support and to be nearby when limited military leave was made available. “He strived and sacrificed to be a good father to me. He ensured that I only knew unconditional family love and support; something I fear that he never truly felt himself. Much of my accomplishments happened because he made sure I had more and better opportunities and love than he ever had,” said Shane, now a USAF Colonel and the Commander of the 19th Operations at Little Rock AFB, AR.
Fun-loving and straight-talking, he had strong opinions. Late in life, he owned a home in Terry next door to the old jail. “I asked him if that was just a coincidence,” said his cousin Norm Clarke of Las Vegas. In the end, the profession Dennis took the most pride in was that of being both Dad and Granddad. Dennis married Lois Scanlan of Miles City in 1966. They remain married until 1983. In 1972 they became the proud parents of Shane Haughian. In 1985 Dennis was blessed with another child. He and Linda Hummel welcomed their little girl, Elizabeth Hummel who grew up in Kokomo, Indiana. When you look at Dennis’s gravestone there is written only one profession, “Father of Shane and Elizabeth”; in the end that is the one job that mattered most. Dennis’ mother died in 1988 and his father “Nander” in 1996. Stepsister Bette Jane Harwood of Miles City died in 2014 and his sister Shannon as an infant. Survivors include his sisters, Sharon Lash of Brainerd, MN; Cynde, Mary Bobbi and Kellye; his stepbrother Nelson Walla of Billings. He is also survived by his son Shane, daughter Elizabeth and his four grandchildren (Isabella, Alexandra, Luke and Rowen).
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Miles City on Saturday, December 21, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. Rite of Committal will follow in family plot of the Old Calvary Cemetery in Miles City with full military honors provided by VFW Post #1579. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.stevensonandsons.com.