Graveside services for Richard “Dick” O’Connor, 94 of Wolf Point, MT and more recently of Sidney, MT will be held on Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.at the Custer County Cemetery in Miles City, MT. The Navy Honor Guard will provided military honors. All friends and relatives are invited to come. A no-host lunch will follow the graveside services with a get-together in Miles City. In lieu of flowers, please spend time riding a good horse and enjoying God’s country, or reading to a child. Please share your remembrances and condolences at www.fulkersons.com.
Richard Keith O’Connor, 94, a rancher from Wolf Point, and later Sidney, MT passed away Monday, January 8, 2018, at the Eastern Montana Veteran’s Home, Glendive, Montana, with his daughter, Dawn, holding his hand. Cremation has taken place, and his remains will be buried in June with his wife, Jeanne (Berry) O’Connor, in the Custer County Cemetery, Miles City.
Richard was born August 11, 1923 in Fairview, MT, one of 11 children. When he was 2 years old his family moved north of Poplar, MT, and that’s where he grew up. At 15 he bought his first horse for $8.00, which he earned collecting and selling horsehair. Dick broke Flash to ride and had him so well broke that his Dad made Dick sell him when a gentleman later offered $40.00 for him. That was the beginning of a lifetime career training horses.
Dick graduated in 1941 from Poplar High School and joined the Navy in 1942. He spent most of WWII in New Guinea and the Philippines. He fixed rangefinders on naval ships and calibrated them out to 10,000 yards. One of his favorite memories was of a day when he was boxing and a guy walking by asked to get in the ring with him. Dick thought himself a pretty good boxer so he said sure. He was surprised when he couldn’t get a punch in, until he later learned he had been boxing Freddie Cochran, the 1941 World Welterweight Champion!
Dick got out of the service in 1945 as a Machinist, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class. He went to college in Missoula and Seattle and later eloped with Jeanne Berry and her son Jerry, from Jordan to Osceola, Missouri, in 1949. There he bought feeder hogs, fed them out and sold them, bought and sold cattle, and broke and sold horses until they had a little nest egg. They returned to Montana in 1952 and purchased the land that they built into a beautiful ranch, north of Poplar and Wolf Point.
Dick’s daughter, Dawn, was born in 1958. Jeanne was sick in the hospital shortly after, and the nurses were concerned about how he was caring for the new baby. He told them not to worry. When Dawn needed a bath he just held her by the hair and dunked her up and down in the water tank and she cleaned up just fine! Dick shared his sense of humor, a string of good horses, and his love of reading and learning with his family.
In 1969 Jeanne lost her battle with cancer, and Dick was left to raise an 11 year old daughter by himself. He worked hard on his ranch, cooked for and cleaned up after numerous hired men over the years, and you could eat off his floors, they were so clean. He had a special way with animals and continued to train good horses. Dick could reach up and take his horse’s bridle off and he would work just as good without it.
In 1982 Dick married Wava Lee, and after years of doing everything himself, he had a new partner to share his life with. They had fun working on the ranch together, and dancing wherever they went. They were quite the pair and people would often comment how much they enjoyed watching them dance. On their anniversary one year, they surprised the cows by jumping out of the pickup and dancing in the grass as the radio played their favorite song, “Look at Us” by Vince Gill.
They sold the ranch in 1999, and “retired” to a small place east of Sidney where he could raise his horses and run yearlings during the summer. Dick owned a great stud, Winning Little Leo, and raised many colts that he trained and sold all over the country. Not one to just give his horses away, Dick ultimately gave his favorite horse, Hallmark Smoke, to his granddaughter Megan. Smoky turned out to be that once-in-a-lifetime horse for her. Dick trained his last horse at age 90, when he could no longer see.
Even though the going was not always easy for Dick, his inherited Scotch thriftiness, coupled with his Irish tenacity and a good sense of humor, carried him through much adversity and hardship. He talked to “Baby Jesus” a lot, and I think God appreciated his humor and positive outlook, too.
Dick was preceded in death by his parents, Daniel Joseph and Margaret Keith O’Connor, brothers Dan, John, Chris, James, baby Charles, and Lawrence O’Connor, sisters Birdie Paris, Margaret Jones and Rosemary Mills, first wife, Jeanne Berry O’Connor, and second wife, Wava O’Connor.
Dick is survived by his sister, Betty Jane Snyder, daughter, Dawn (Scott) Greenwood of Sidney, stepson, Dallas O’Connor, and grandchildren, Megan Greenwood and Tracy O’Connor.