Frank Willis Page, 87, passed away on May 1, 2021, at the Bennett County Nursing Home.
Frank was born in Martin on January 31, 1934 to parents Dan and Juanita Page.
As the first boy in the family, he started doing a man’s work from the age of 10. He developed his acumen as a rancher through early years of on-the-job training.
After high school he attended a year at the South Dakota School of Mines, commuting between Rapid and the ranch in a small aircraft.
For a time in his young adulthood, he worked itinerant jobs in the Western states.
Construction in Wyoming, molybdenum mining in Colorado, and cherry picking in Utah. After a bit he caught on with a crew that sold magazine subscriptions all around the nation. He went door-to-door as a sincere, naive country kid.
After the magazine gig, the magnetism of home brought him back to the Great State, where he worked as a hired man north of the Cheyenne. By this time he had married his wife Carolyn and had baby Iris and little Ivy. Times were tough to start, and they weathered them best they could.
Before you know it, he was back on the ranch, entering his career as a stockman. Even as a young rancher he showed a rare knack for working cattle. He was acknowledged in the area as a pre-eminent handler of cattle. “He could walk into a corral full of cattle and make them do what he wanted, without them even knowing it,” said one of his neighbors.
Frank had a fine eye for developing a herd of cattle, year after year producing fine calves and systematically culling and refining the herd. He had no fear of innovation but was also cautious and methodical about his ways. Here was a rancher who in his 40s and 50s worked cattle in running shoes, gathered the summer pasture on foot (!) and finished up a day of haying Northwest of Guptill’s by running 15 miles home. We may never see another one like him in Bennett County.
He was a people person, too, seemingly knowing everyone in Western South Dakota and talking to them at length at least once. Many times he got people safely to their destination by pulling them out of a snowdrift, stuck beyond hope. He didn’t care about peoples’ station in life; if they were rich or poor. He sincerely enjoyed everyone without needing to know their back story. He was cheerful, helpful, trustworthy and talkative.
He was always about community, serving as chief of the Green Valley Fire Department for years.
Frank enjoyed the zest of life, never moping around a day at work. He was a digger of the prairie turnip; an outstanding vegetable gardener; a fisher of the mighty bluegill and bullhead; a hunter of the fearsome prairie dog.
In his 40s, he quit the cancer sticks and took up running. Unorthodox, but he relished it and started running longer and longer. He participated in dozens of 10K’s, 13 Black Hills Marathons and a fair handful of 50-mile races.
On the exotic side, he climbed Mt. Ranier in 1983. He trekked from the rim of the Grand Canyon to the river and back up - at age 63. For years he participated in the South Dakota Senior Olympics and was the Senior Athlete of the year in 1993.
He put 3 kids through college and was always a family man. Those who felt his family love can attest to that.
In later years he married his second wife Lois Odien and lived in Hermosa and later in Rapid City.
He is survived by his first wife Carolyn Page; daughters Ivy Griffiths, Portland, Ore.; Iris Page, Sacramento, Calif.; son Dan, Boulder, Colo.; three grandchildren Greg Griffiths, Redwood City, Calif.; Angie Griffiths, Portland, Ore.; Coral Abbott, Sacramento, Calif.; eight siblings Betty Leach, McCook, Neb; Bonnie Risse, Martin; Dennis Page, Hisle; Verna Lines, Topeka, Kan.; Jerry Fanning, Hayes, Kan; Shirley Kingsbury, Rapid City; George Page, Mud Butte; and Kathy Beech, Retirement City, Fla.
He was preceded in death by his parents; sister Pearl Wilsey; and grandson Forrest Abbott.