Bill Ruby, 88, of Lander Wyoming passed away on February 15, 2017. A Visitation will be held from 5:00pm-8:00pm on Tuesday, February 21st at the Chapel of Mount Hope in Hudson's Funeral Home. Funeral Services will begin at 10:00am on Wednesday, February 22nd at the Lander Community and Convention Center; with a burial to follow at Mount Hope Cemetery in Lander.
Bill Ruby has always been a cowboy and lived by cowboy ethics. His cowboy and ranching experience has spanned more than 75 years. He prided himself on raising, breaking, and training, quality using horses and raising high quality cattle. A man of his word, he lived with honesty, integrity, and by the "cowboy way".
The youngest of 3 children Willis "Bill" Ruby was born in Stapleton Nebraska on August 8, 1928 to Guy and Mabel Ruby. He grew up on the family farm west of Stapleton, raising cattle, corn, and oats. He attended a one room country school house, riding by horseback along with his sisters, to school each day. He graduated from high school in Stapleton in 1946. In 1947 he married his high school sweetheart Ramona Hanna. Together they had two children Mike and Debbie.
Upon graduation he continued to work on the family farm for 2 years, but the thrill of competition beckoned him, and so he tried his hand as a rodeo cowboy off and on. He had all of his gear and a change of clothes in a gunny sack, and would hitch hike to the rodeos getting there however he could. He competed in Bull Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding and Bareback Riding. One of his more colorful adventures included his short stint as a jockey in California. He jumped a train from North Platte to Los Alamitos and experienced flat track racing as an exercise boy and jockey for a few months. But he returned to Nebraska because he was a cowboy.
After returning, he was offered a foreman position on a ranch in the sand hills of Nebraska owned by Harold Orr which was later purchased by Tom and Betty Morrison. Tom and Betty grew fond of Bill and kept him as their foreman until 1965.
In 1965 he decided to try it on his own and rented a ranch outside of Stapleton Nebraska. He ranched there for 2 years until he was contacted once again by Tom and Betty to manage a new place for them. Bill agreed. He couldn't turn the offer down and in February of 1967 he and his wife moved to Wyoming to manage the Morrison's place north of Lander. They were allowed to run a few cows of their own, and thus began his Wyoming experience.
Competition once again enticed Bill to have some fun in his off time. In 1968-69 he enjoyed running chariot horses on the weekends. Good horses, and healthy competition were always a staple in his world. In 1978 he along with several other local cowboys, started up the local membership of the National Old Timers Rodeo Association. Bill was also on the Board of Directors for the Lander Old Timer's Rodeo Assoc. and was instrumental in getting the indoor arena built. It was at this time that he started rodeoing again. At the age of 40 he decided to add a new experience to his plate. Now he would not only ride bulls, and bucking horses, but added Steer Wrestling to his resume. Bill was a "true cowboy", always up for a challenge.
In 1972 he and Ramona bought their own place on Snavely Lane from Shorty Veach. He ran about 300 head of black cattle, put up hay, and labored at a job he truly loved. He summered cows with Benny Iterian on the Sweetwater. Ramona passed away in 1976 and In 1980 Bill remarried his longtime friend from Nebraska, Lois Neisen. He and Lois continued to ranch on Snavely Lane.
In 1979 upon completion of Vet School, his son Mike moved home to Lander. Together they purchased summer pasture on South Pass. The allotment would run 600 pair and he and his son would work together to continue the cowboy way of life. In 1983 he sold his portion to Mike and bought a summer allotment on Beaver Creek. Bill continued ranching separately as Mike grew his operation. Bill ran a traditional 300 head cow/calf operation until 1995 when he switched to running yearlings. During this time he had the privilege to serve as President of the Fremont County Stockgrowers Assoc. for 2 years starting in 1986, and also served on the advisory board for the BLM for approximately 10 years. This was an honor for the cowboy turned rancher.
In 2003 at the age of 74 he was still priding himself on breaking and riding colts. In May of that year, he was moving bulls to another pasture. The bulls started fighting with each other and hit his horse, his horse slipped while jumping a ditch and fell on top of him. He was a mangled mess with terrible head trauma, 2 broken vertebras and a broken sternum. He was life flighted to Casper and spent 2 weeks in intensive care in the Casper hospital. The doctors told him he would never walk again. They were wrong and didn't know that Bill was cowboy tough. He made it home and continued to run cattle, put up hay, and enjoy the Cowboy way of life, with a few minor aches and pains and rightly so.
In 2007 he retired from ranching and leased his ranch to his good neighbor Steve Hovendick. In 2008, Lois passed away leaving Bill alone, however his son Mike (wife Kathy) and daughter Debbie (husband Doug) lived close by. His step children Diane Polzin (husband Bill), Dana Jedrzejczyk (husband Ted), Blake Neisen (wife Theresa) checked on him often. Bill was also proud of his 5 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, 8 step grandchildren and 4 step great grandchildren.
Bill still lived in the house on his ranch on Snavely Lane up until his death on February 15, 2017. He enjoyed sharing his knowledge of cattle, horses, and ranching. These conversations were best appreciated over a short glass of bourbon whiskey. His grandchildren believe he was a true cowboy legend. Others agreed, and in 2016 he was inducted into both the Sandhills Cowboy Hall of Fame, and the Wyoming Cowboy Hall of Fame.
He was preceded in death by his parents Guy and Mabel, his wife Ramona (1977) wife Lois (2008), and sister Pat Glahn. The family would like to thank Steve Hovendick and John Keller for checking in on Bill everyday. Donations can be made in Bills memory to a charity of your choice, Lander Oldtimers Rodeo Association or the Lander Senior Center.