Heaven needed a wrangler so Jim Wempner was called home Sept. 26, 2015 at the age of 88. He passed away peacefully of natural causes on his beloved Eagle Cliff Ranch.
Jim’s life started as the second oldest in a Minnesota family of six children. He was born in Plainview, Minn., where he attended Plainview High School and graduated from the University of Minnesota in agricultural economics. As a child, Jim had fond memories of working on his grandparents’ farm, helping with the draft horses and stacking hay. Later he worked for his father at the bank, for the generous salary of 10 cents a day.
Jim grew up in interesting times with one claim to fame; walking back from the farm, he hitched a ride with John Dillinger, at the ripe age of six years old.
Later in life, his interest turned to raising Appaloosa horses on his ranch east of Billings. His career as Senior Vice-President and head of the Agricultural Lending Division for Midland Bank (First Bank), introduced him to ranchers across the state. He developed a rapport with them that resulted in his participation at their annual brandings.
With the impending Montana Centennial, Jim conceived of and orchestrated the “Great Montana Cattle Drive of 1989” with his lifelong friend, Stan Lynde.
Jim had a wonderful land ethic, which was evidenced by his home ranch being the first ranch in Yellowstone County having a “conservation easement” placed on it, and he also donated 100 acres for a church retreat and sanctuary.
Jim was a veteran and worked for Midland Bank for 30 years. He is preceded in death by his parents, Art and Florence Wempner, and his sister Gena Lindor. He is survived by his wife, Mary Lou; brothers and sisters, Jo Albin, Jon (Alice) Wempner, Betsy (Dick) Harano and Bob Wempner; three daughters, Barbara (Steve) Hopkins, Mary Kay (Wayne) Rottrup, Shirle (Tom) English; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be announced at a later date. Donations, in lieu of flowers, may be given to Eagle Rock Sanctuary, PO Box 20416, Billings, MT 59104.