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Joseph Anthony DeSarro

September 25, 2023 (age 78) 78 Years Old

Joseph DeSarro Obituary

Joseph Anthony DeSarro passed away peacefully from kidney failure on Sept. 25, 2023, at his home in Roberts, Montana.

Born in 1944 to Louis and Isabelle DeSarro, Joe grew up in northern Indiana. He graduated from Chesterton High School and then went to the University of Wyoming with a full athletic scholarship. Joe played in the 1967 Sun Bowl and the 1968 Sugar Bowl. His love of football continued with a year of teaching Health and Safety, and coaching high school football in Rock Springs, Wyoming. He attended over 40 Super Bowls, supported the UW Cowboy Joe Club, helped start the Little Guy Football program in Cody, Wyoming, and continued coaching it in Billings, Montana. Over the years, Joe enthusiastically coached his multitude of protégés from the sidelines.

Joe loved going on horseback pack trips, fishing, and hunting. In 1971, Joe managed the historic Valley Ranch along the South Fork of the Shoshone River outside Cody. He ran several hunting camps and served on the board of Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association. Over his career, he managed a variety of ranches and properties in Wyoming, Colorado and Montana before purchasing his ranch in Roberts. There, he reared cattle, goats, sheep, waterfowl, as well as an occasional exotic pet. He also orchestrated a local game bird shooting preserve.

Since childhood, Joe was intrigued with animals, and to his mother’s dismay, brought home raccoons, ducklings, a monkey, and an array of other critters. He even rented turtles to people for the annual turtle derby, then released them back into the wild. In the 1970s, Joe joined in the efforts to restore declining wild waterfowl populations by rearing in captivity wild waterfowl, including Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes, and nearly extinct Nene Geese. A proud member of the International Wild Waterfowl Association, Joe was the first to successfully breed Bewick Swans in captivity. He also kept a small menagerie of wild animals, including primates and otters, while living near Billings. Joe was instrumental in establishing and generously donated time and animals to ZooMontana.

True to his Italian heritage, Joe delighted in sharing meals with friends and family. He traveled the world for work and pleasure, enjoyed movies, and periodically dabbled in mischief for a good laugh.

Joe loved people and lived to connect them. He cherished lifelong friendships while always making new friends. One could expect a phone call or drop-in from Joe at any hour, 360 days of the year. His last purchase was a new cell phone this August. As he departs, we remember the infamous voice of Harvey, the family parrot, “Joe telephone!” 

He is survived by his loving wife of 49 years, Sally; children Candace, Jenny (Mayor Matt Hall), Matt (Amanda) and Amy; grandchildren Dominic, Cecilia (Brandon) Bartz, Remington, Bella, Hadassah, Gideon and Benjamin; sisters Carol (Lawrence) Burke, Francine (Fernando) D’Urso, Gina (Mike) Quant; Aunt Masie; many cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, in-laws and a few outlaws. Joe will truly be missed by all who had the privilege of meeting him.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Cornerstone Community Church, 4525 Grand Ave., Billings.

Memorials may be made to the University of Wyoming Foundation noting the “Cowboy Joe Club in Memory of Joe DeSarro,” or to WJH Bird Resources in Billings or Hope Ranch International.

UW Cowboy Joe Club Gifts made via checks can be made payable to  “University of Wyoming Foundation.” On the memo line of the check, please note “Cowboy Joe Club in Memory of Joe DeSarro.”  Checks can be mailed to:  University of Wyoming Foundation, 222 S. 22nd St., Laramie, WY 82070. Gifts can be made online via a secure portal at this link:; (Note: in the “Giving Priorities” pull down menu hit the plus button next to “other”).

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Memorial Service
October 7, 2023

11:00 AM
Cornerstone Community Church
4525 Grand Avenue
Billings, MT 59106


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