Eldon E. Rice Passed away January 1, 2017 at Rosebud Healthcare Center surrounded by his family.
Once upon a time, there along the banks of the lower Yellowstone Valley near Savage, Montana, arrived a toe head on October 30, 1933. He was born to George and Ottoni Rice following their arrival from Oklahoma in a Model-T, joining four siblings; Loraine, George Jr., Virginia and Eloise. Grandpa Pedersen and Uncle Albert Pedersen were on a sugar beet farm, where everyone worked on the small diversified farm raising crops and cattle during the ”Dirty Thirties” until they acquired their own farm near the intake diversion. Things started to prosper after WWII started and agriculture became more favorable. Eldon graduated from Savage High School in 1952.
He attended Montana State from 1952-1956 receiving a degree in General Agriculture and Commission in the US Army, Armor Branch, serving in Fort Knox, Kentucky, Korea, and Fort Lewis, Washington, before starting his Extension Career in Rosebud-Treasure Counties on February 1, 1960. He returned to Montana State and received a Master’s Degree in Range Science in 1965.
Eldon served on many boards and committees over the years, serving as secretary for several. Eldon made acquaintances easy and, until coal development started to expand open-pit mining, he knew about every family in Rosebud and Treasure Counties. Early in Extension Career, he met Morla Cole and they married in June 1962. From this marriage Morla Elizabeth was born, a beautiful toe head little girl just like her dad.
Eldon and family purchased the old OZ Ranch on Armells Creek in 1970. A variety of animals were always on the place, keeping the work ethic going along with career work. Due to coal development and rapid growth forecast for the area, the County Commissioners requested that Eldon coordinate planning board activities. He said he didn’t know anything about planning, but the Commissioners responded with “You know the people!”
The planning commission carried out activities from 1974-1985, when budgets were down sized, resulting in job termination. Eldon sought new employment and landed in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, in another county agent role. Morla Elizabeth was in college first at Dawson Community College and later Dickenson State University where the love of her life, Mike Moser, had a full scholarship to play basketball.
Retirement was in the picture for Eldon in late 1988, thus returning to Rosebud County, where he became involved in the County Fair. 1985 was perhaps one of the most eventful years, he sought new employment early, lost his father to death in June, went through divorce in October, and married Velma G. Thomas in December. This expanded family brought two step-children; Jess Owen Bardon and Jerette Lynne Bardon.
Eldon was always drawn to the farm environment where he worked on various farms, particularly helping with sugar beet harvest, driving truck in the Howard Valley for nearly 50 years.
Eldon was a member of several organizations: the MSU Alumni Board for two terms, Rosebud-Treasure Wildlife Association, and Rocky Mountain Association of Fairs, serving as president in 1999 and receiving fair manager of the year Kermit Fleming Award, thus a life member. He also is a life member of Hiram Lodge #52, serving as Master of the Lodge five times, and also an active in York Rite. He is a 55 year Lions Club Member and served in several offices. Eldon’s hobbies included harmonica playing, bird watching, hunting the Montana moss agate, and working on farms. He volunteered a lot too!
Eldon is survived by his wife, Velma; daughter, Morla E. (Mike) Moser; step-son Jess ( Robin) Bardone; Jerette (Derick) Mitzkus; siblings: George (Jinny) Rice, Virginia Rahr, Eloise Edwards, Buford ( Darlyne) Rice, Bert (Deanna) Rice, Steven (Judy) Rice, Emery (Jody) Rice, and Jim (Barb) Rice; grandchildren: Mallori Moser, Brady Mitzkus, Gwendolyn Mitzkus, Shannon Duede, and Sara Camp; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; sister Loraine Carter; and grandson Mikray George Morris Moser.