William O. Fender (Bill)
William O. Fender (Bill) died early Thanksgiving morning at his home in Carbondale, Colorado. Born Aug. 25, 1926, on the family ranch south of Carbondale, Bill and his brother Ray grew up raising sheep on Missouri Heights and up the Crystal River with his parents and aunt and uncle. He was a lifetime Roaring Fork Valley rancher with the memory of an elephant who made an impact wherever he went, whether it was with his stories, his lively, sarcastic wit or his ability with a rope. He and his long- time friend Bob Perry team-roped together for years. He and Bob were founding members of the Carbondale Roping Club. Bill’s knowledge and experience with cattle and horses were well-known and respected up and down the valley.
Bill quit high school in Glenwood Springs to join the Army during the Korean War. He was honorably discharged as a Sergeant.
A blind date to the Garfield County Fair (set up by Bob and Ditty Perry) led to a courtship that ended in the July 1954 marriage of Bill to Patricia O’Neil, the new school teacher in town. They were married for 59 years and raised two children, Susan and Willie. Bill and Pat took many wonderful trips together, including places on the Western Slope and in the Yampa River Valley, to many national parks, Canada, Wales, New Zealand and Australia.
In 1960, Bill and Pat moved to Emma, Colorado, and started the Sopris Creek Hereford Ranch. They raised registered Hereford bulls and beef cattle. Bill also raised quarter horses — his favorites were buckskins. In December 2005, Bill and Pat retired from ranching and moved to Carbondale.
Bill was preceded in death by both parents (Earl and Viola); his brother Ray, his sister Mae Louise, assorted other family members and many good friends.
He is survived by his wife Patricia (Pat), his daughter Susan Fender Handwerk (Jeff) of Salt Lake City, Utah, and his son William O’Neil Fender (Francesca) of Basalt, Colorado. He is also survived by two grandchildren: Derek Ross Handwerk and Lauren Vagneur Burtard (Ty). Other surviving family members include two sisters-in-law, Barbara O. Ross and Anne O. Dauer, both of California; nieces Willa Fender Holgate (Jim), Kathy Fender, both of Texas, and Lesley Dauer of California; nephews Marlan Fender, D.V.M. (Paula) of Arizona and Christopher Dauer (Stephanie) and family, also of California.
Bill donated his body to ScienceCare of Colorado.
In place of flowers, donations in honor of Bill should be made to the Mt. Sopris Historical Society, P.O. Box 2, Carbondale, Colorado 81623 or the Holy Cross Cattlemen’s Association, c/o Carol Dodo, 7719 County Road 245, New Castle, Colorado 81647.
A memorial service will be held Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014, at 2 p.m. at The Orchard/Gathering Center, 110 Snowmass Drive, Carbondale, Colorado. If you wish, bring a small plate of cookies to share over hot drinks after the service. Other gatherings to celebrate Bill’s life may follow in the coming months. Watch papers for details.
We will all greatly miss our tender-hearted cowboy with the gruff exterior!
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