Gerald “Red” Hartford, 96, of Winner, SD passed away on Wednesday, May 17, 2023 at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital in Rapid City, SD.
Funeral service were held on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 at 11 a.m. at the Winner United Methodist Church in Winner, SD. Burial followed in the Rosebud Cemetery in Bonesteel, SD.
Gerald D. (“Red”) Hartford, loving and caring husband, dedicated father, entrepreneur, builder, businessman, Marine, and racer ascended to heaven May 17, 2023 at the age of 96. His was a life lived full pursuing his various interests and realizing his vision through hard work and perseverance.
He was born April 6, 1927 into a humble depression-era environment in Ewing, NE to Otto and Addie (Wilson) Hartford, the third of three children, his older brother Floyd and sister Norma, both deceased. The family moved to a site near Bonesteel, SD during his early high school years where he would board in town during the week. This meant, of course, that he had access to an automobile at a time when most students did not. Although thin as a rail, he excelled at running track while at Bonesteel HS.
Although they knew of each other, he didn’t get close to the love of his life, Alice Ruth Jons until she had graduated high school a year before he did. Alice was attending the State Normal School in Springfield, SD pursuing her teaching degree, and they met through mutual friends.
Their romance was put on hold for thirteen months while Gerald fulfilled his voluntary enlistment in the Marine Corps at the end of WWII. Once honorably discharged at age 19, they continued their courtship to the eventual decision to get married. However, he had promised his mother that he would not marry as a teenager. Thus, they were wed the day after he turned twenty years old April 6, 1947 at Alice’s parent’s farmhouse (Emil and Lydia Jons) south of Bonesteel.
Gerald was a gifted mechanical wizard, and his first steady job was with Rozum Ford in Mitchell, SD where they set up residence. He did side auto/mechanical work for a number of people from around the Mitchell area, plus built a number of items for his own enjoyment, one being a V8 powered hydroplane racing boat. This exposure led to his becoming involved in the local auto racing scene, first as a co-promoter of the Mitchell Speedway, then a race car/engine builder, and then a driver. Although there were a couple short periods where he didn’t race during the summers, his very successful race career in eastern SD and western MN spanned from the mid-1950’s through 1972, earning several track championships along the way. He is also a member of the Huset’s Speedway Hall Of Fame, in Brandon, SD.
A move in 1966 brought the family to Winner, SD where he worked as sales manager for Miller Bros. Chevrolet/Oldsmobile for the next 18 years. In 1976, he and Alice purchased the rough lumber yard (Hiway Lumber) and set out building it up to a full-service lumber/hardware/appliance business. He was elected President of the SD Lumberman’s Association. Also during this time, he built/started Hiway Hardware in Hill City, SD along with a mini-strip mall on the same lot. He then built the building that currently houses Krull’s grocery.
Throughout this period, he built over 30 homes in the Winner area and served as a city commissioner.
These businesses and buildings were sold over time, and at age 65 he and Alice started their last enterprise, Hartford Cabinet Shop, which manufactured commercial and residential cabinets until he turned 85, when he finally “retired”. But he kept both a small wood shop and metal shop to keep him busy.
Gerald is survived by his wife of 76 years, Alice, as well as his children Barbara Tracy (Rapid City, SD), Jerry and wife Leslie (San Diego, CA), Lynn Jacobs and husband Pete (Rochester, MN), and Rick and wife Twila (Hickory, NC). Also, six grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
We’ll dearly miss this man of many talents, but just as much, we’ll miss his witty sense of humor, his understated but always present caring, and his strength of character. There were still many projects he would have liked to initiate and complete. He just ran out of time.