Kenneth Ward Miner, 85

Kenneth Ward Miner passed away Sept. 3, 2020, in Independence, MO, from complications of myasthenia gravis and dementia.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be Aug. 30, 2021, 1 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Gregory, SD. Visitation will be at noon at the church before the Mass.  Burial will be August 30, 2021, 10:30 a.m. at St. John’s Catholic Church, Paxton, SD.

Kenny was born Aug. 31, 1935, in Gregory, SD, to Harlow and Helen (Young) Miner. He grew up on the Miner farm 13 ½ miles south of Gregory, living there the next 63 years. He was an active 4-H member and showed prize-winning registered Hereford cattle. During high school, he continued in 4-H, attending the SD State Fair with his cattle, and adding FFA and Gregory Gorilla football to his life. Kenny remained close friends with his high school football coach and generally made a visit with Glen Burgess part of family vacations and hunting trips to Wyoming.  The best part of high school, according to Kenny, was meeting Doris Putnam, “a pretty girl with curly black hair who laughed and smiled a lot.” Gorilla football, however, remained a close second.

After high school graduation in 1953, Kenny planned on accepting an appointment to West Point Military Academy and serving in the Korean War. The war’s end made his decision to attend South Dakota State College on an engineering scholarship a better choice. That autumn, Kenny and Doris married Oct. 14, 1953, at St. John’s Catholic Church at Paxton. They moved to Minneapolis where Kenny worked for Doris’s aunt, Mildred Putnam Frevel, at her company that made aluminum windows. His second job was working with ice skates at Pierce Ski and Skate, a long-time Minneapolis institution, where he learned to build, sharpen, and restore skates. Many years later, when his granddaughter Timmi Lunsford told him about buying her new figure skates at a place in Minneapolis, they were delighted to discover she had been at Pierce Ski and Skate.

Kenny and Doris moved back to South Dakota in 1954 to help run the farm. Kenny soon ran his own herd of Angus cattle and a flock of Suffolk sheep. Over the many years on the Miner Sheep Ranch, he raised Suffolk rams for sale and taught his kids how to wash sheep, clip them for show, and earn purple ribbons at 4-H and regional stock shows. When the kids were bowled over by the hard-nosed rams and old, feisty ewes, he had no sympathy. Kenny encouraged all the kids to be 4-H members, with livestock, garden, and other projects. At one point, Kenny bought a Shetland pony named Flossie to teach the kids how to ride. After Jana was promptly thrown from the pony, the Shetland became Kate’s horse and Flossie’s colt Frosty became a longtime family member and an excellent little horse 4-H project.

Growing up, Kenny worked hard on the farm and his kids were expected to do the same. Kevin and Kate became his outside workers, tending cattle and herding sheep. Kate learned how to drive the hay sweep when she was 8 years old; Kevin and Kate spent many long summer days on horseback, herding sheep as they grazed ditches and pastures. He decided early on that Jana should stay in the house and work, because as he noted “she was a bad driver.” While Lorrie did her share of chores, she was allowed to work “in town” and not spend days stomping wool, docking sheep, and moving cows, or being ordered into the chicken coop full of cantankerous laying hens.

Kenny was an active member of the community, serving as a 4-H leader for many years and helping with Gregory County Achievement Days. He served on the school boards for Carlock, Pleasant Hill, and Gregory school districts. Kenny was elected to leadership positions with the South Dakota Farmers Union, the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association, the National Sheep Board, and the board of the American Sheep Industry association. For 32 years, he was a school bus driver for the Gregory and Colome, SD schools. He worked as a bartender for the Hill Crest Inn in Burke, SD, where he excelled in making the perfect martini. 

Kenny enjoyed hunting elk and moose in Wyoming and Colorado with Ray Stukel and other friends. Deer hunting, pheasant hunting, and hosting breakfasts for the annual Senator Tom Daschle pheasant hunts were events he enjoyed. Kenny was an excellent cook and grilled hundreds of pounds of pork loins, beef, and lamb to serve at 4-H events in Gregory and Tripp counties, Farmers Union meetings at the State Fair, weddings, and graduations. He researched and tried new recipes and loved to plan what he would serve. There were those Christmases where more of the wine went into Kenny and Doris than made it into the roaster with the turkey.

While Kenny made sure work was done, there were days when he would take the kids and gather mulberries, chokecherries, and wild plums. Hot summer afternoons, he would dam up the creek south of the place and wade with the kids while catching minnows. Driving to Carlock for a bottle of pop, hauling the kids on the snow mobile up the Big Hill to sled down onto the frozen creek in the west pasture, churning ice cream on the front step, or bringing huge watermelons up from the potato patch to eat on the picnic table are all good memories.

The true highlight of his life was his unconditional love for his three granddaughters. “They are so smart,” was the accolade he used to describe the girls. He talked about Courtney’s work with satellites, Kristi flying “big planes” for the Air Force, and Timmi becoming an emergency room  doctor. For each girl, there was a special time: Courtney’s canned ham surprises and loving his nickname “Kenbo” coined by her at an early age, watching Kristi’s ball games, and surprising Timmi with the quarter horse, Classi. Learning to understand figure skating, volleyball, and soccer was an example of the lengths he would go for his granddaughters.

Dementia clouded the last years of Kenny’s life.  The one person he always knew was Doris. The last two years of their life together were some of their best times. When Doris passed away, Kenny was there and held her hand, telling her he loved her and that she was a good mother and a good wife. During those few hours, he had a period of lucidity and understanding he had not had for several years. When she was gone, he retreated into himself.

Surviving Kenneth are his children: Jana Miner, Fort Pierre, SD; Kevin Miner (Judy Ingold), Bonesteel, SD; Kate Miner (Linda Watson), Kansas City, MO; Lorrie Miner Brannan (Lee Brannan), Presho, SD, and grandchildren: Courtney Brannan Ewell (Todd Ewell), Bismarck, ND; Kristi Miner (Chris Ramler Miner), Wichita, KS, and Timmi Lunsford Hutchison (Jesse Hutchison), Englewood, OH. He is survived also by brothers-in-law, Joe (Julie) Putnam and Pat (Linda) Putnam, CA, and Jim Putnam (Texas), and many nieces and nephews. He also is survived by his good friends Ray and Melba Stukel, and Larry and Carol Shepherd, and his Kansas City friends Kathy Timmerman and Tina Spallo.

Preceding  him was his wife of 66 years, Doris Putnam Miner; his parents, his brother Harlow Jr. and his wife Carol, his sister Madeline; in-laws, Francis and Bertha Putnam; nephews Greg Miner and Brian Putnam; brothers-in-law Bob Putnam and Morris Marwede; sisters-in law Margaret Putnam Marwede, Judy Putnam, Mary Lou Putnam, Mary Jane Putnam; and his great friends Ray Clemens, Robert Jappert, Glen Burgess, Kenny Messick, and Sonny Dolezal.

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