David Arthur Dodge, 83, of Wheatland, Wyoming, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, uncle, and unwavering friend to many, passed away on Friday, May 21, 2021, at North Shore Health & Rehab Facility in Loveland, Colorado, with family members at his side.
He was the last of a direct line of Dodges descending from Richard, who emigrated from England in 1638 to join his younger brother, William, and the Old Planters of Massachusetts (founders of both Salem and Beverly), thus establishing the Dodge Family in America.
He was also the last of the Dodges raised on land his great-grandparents, John Tyler (Tyl) and Mary Elizabeth (Libby) settled after moving to the Laramie Plains in Albany County, Wyoming Territory in 1885. His first home was the hand-hewn log cabin built by Tyler decades earlier.
David, a 4th generation Wyoming rancher, was born on June 23, 1937, to George Walter and Beulah Ingibjörg (Needham) Dodge at Wheatland General Hospital, Wheatland, Wyoming. He was raised with his brothers, Tyler, and Jimmy, on their parents’ Half-Box-Six/River Ranch and their grandparents’ 96 Ranch (later collectively known as the Dodge Ranch) east of Rock River, Wyoming.
As a child growing up against the backdrop of the Great Depression and then World War II, he lived in a time when hard work, self-sufficiency, and neighborliness were commonplace. In addition to raising horses (as a supplier to the US Army), sheep, and cattle, his family worked with other families to build area homes, roads, ditches, and dams, as well as to bring their own power and phone systems to the Laramie Plains. Years later, his Aunt June (Dodge) Akers said, “Everyone worked hard in those days, but the Dodge boys REALLY worked hard.”
Family was vital. David grew up with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby, and holidays and other special occasions were usually celebrated with them. He told many stories of trips to Parshall, North Dakota to visit Beulah’s Irish (Needham) family, and to Riverton, Manitoba, Canada, to visit her Icelandic (Johnson) family.
When he was five years old, David was bored because Jimmy was too young to be a good playmate, and Tyler was at school across the ranch yard where half the bunkhouse had been converted into a school. The teacher, Miss Ruth Lunde (Beulah’s childhood friend who had moved to Wyoming to teach Tyler), noticed David’s boredom. She told him that if he could count to 100, he could start school. He stood on a chair in the dining room and, with a little coaching from his parents, recited to 100 and entered first grade! This began David’s journey as a voracious reader and lifelong learner.
It was difficult to find teachers during the War, so Beulah began teaching her sons and all the hired hands’ children. She was David’s teacher for six years, until he entered high school. Education also came from extended relatives: his Grandma Eva (Dover) Dodge taught him to count by playing Cribbage and insisted that the boys always use proper grammar.
His knowledge, abilities, and work ethic served David well after Beulah tragically passed away two months after his high school graduation. Suddenly, he and Jimmy had to take on most of the management of their 26,000-acre ranch while gratefully relying on help and advice from Jack and Gertie Sedman and neighboring ranchers and friends like Bill and Dorothy Kennedy, and Will and Rose Palmer. In spite of the tremendous difficulties during this time, David was able to honor his mother’s wish that he attend college, graduating June 1, 1959 from the University of Wyoming’s College of Agriculture, and as a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.
David chose jobs and activities that reflected his love for both ranching and family. In the decade after college, he not only worked at home, but also gave a hand to family members including Donald and Florence Needham on their North Dakota farm, Leo and Nedalyn Wilhelm on their 31 Bar Ranch in Wheatland, and helping his brother, Jimmy, with various jobs like hauling grain across the northern tier of the US.
He promoted agriculture overseas. In 1960-61, David spent 7 months in Pakistan with International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE), learning about the Pakistani’s agricultural practices, and teaching them about his. He made a second overseas trip with IFYE in August 1965, during which he traveled through eleven European countries and attended IFYE’s first World Conference.
He also joined the Peace Corps and spent two years (1962-63) with the 4-H Club Peace Corps Project in Brazil. This pilot group assisted Brazil’s agricultural extension service in training leaders and expanding their counterpart youth program, 4-S, throughout the country. The partnership was so successful it was emulated by rural youth programs in several other countries.
David spent most of his adult life in Granby, Colorado, where he worked and raised his family. In 1969 David helped his brother, Tyler, develop the roads and homesites for the Columbine Lake subdivision. He managed C Lazy U’s East Ranch for a decade, working from sunup to sundown during haying season and becoming well known as one of the top hay producers in Colorado. After leaving C Lazy U, he worked for Big A Auto Parts and then Mountain Parks Electric before retiring to Wheatland.
David married Minnie Alice (Griffin) Bach on July 8, 1970, in Laramie Wyoming, and became “Pop” to his beloved daughter, Tani. He taught Tani how to play cards at a young age, and she tagged along when her parents went to the Granby bowling alley for their twice-a-week Pinochle games. David continued to travel, this time to multiple U.S. states with his family, to attend Alice’s bowling tournaments. Later, as much as work allowed, he proudly watched his grandson, Chris, play sports.
He married Elizabeth ‘Betty” Ann (Morrison) Marsh Rutherford on Oct 10, 1987, in Granby, and they lived there until their retirement and subsequent move to Wheatland in 2004. Many of their dates before they married included playing Cribbage, and they continued playing almost nightly after supper for almost 30 years. They also joined several Pinochle groups in Wheatland, making close friends in each.
David supported his community in unique and meaningful ways. He firmly rejected the belief that the only good ranchers were those who grew up in agriculture. Instead, he hired many inexperienced young men and mentored them by teaching them practical and life skills. Years later, after experiencing successful careers in ag-related businesses, some of those men returned to thank him.
For 63 years, David was a Mason. He was a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason and member and past Chapter President of Wheatland Lodge #16, and one Lodge in Colorado (High Country Lodge #181). He was a member of both the Korein Shrine of Southern Wyoming and Laramie Peak Shrine. He was also a member of Chapter #1 Order of Eastern Star in Laramie and Chapter #11 of Wheatland and was a past Bethel Guardian for the Wheatland Job's Daughters Chapter. He looked forward every year to the outdoor Masonic Meeting held at the Kennedy Ranch
David genuinely cared for people, was a gracious host, and loved to receive visitors and share stories about family and local history. Friends and family always left his home encouraged and looking forward to their next visit.
David is survived by his daughter, Tani Lance (Andre Baines), grandson Christopher (Kelby) Lance, great-granddaughters Kynzlie and Isla Lance, stepsons Jim (Barbara) Rutherford, David (Pearl) Rutherford, Jeff (Denice) Rutherford and their families.
He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Nettie Dodge, and nieces Cee Ann (Ed) Vaughan, Nina (Tim) Bookout, Carolyn (Chris) Gdowski, and Andi (Dave) Bush and their families.
David was pre-deceased by his mother, Beulah, in 1954, his brother, Jimmy, in 1984, his father, George, in 1995, and his brother, Tyler, in 2017.
Services were conducted on June 4, 2021, at Wheatland Bible Church, with Pastor Danny Fredericks officiating. David is buried next to Beulah in Greenhill Cemetery in Laramie. Masonic Gravesite Rites were conducted by the Wheatland and Laramie Masonic Lodges. Pallbearers were Ed Vaughan, Andre Baines, Chris Lance, Dave Bush, Ryan Bush, Travis Bush, and Michael Bush.
Betty, his beloved wife of 33 years, passed away several weeks after David, on July 10, 2021, and was laid to rest with him on July 28, 2021.
A memorial to the Shriners Hospital for Children, 1275 Fairfax Road, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103 would be appreciated by the family.
Gorman Funeral Homes – Platte Chapel of Wheatland oversaw the arrangements.