Kenneth Homer Wheatley was born at home on the Wheatley Place 6 miles up the Muddy from Kremmling, March 22, 1921 to George R. and Bessie (Sampson) Wheatley. Ken passed into the loving arms of Jesus on February 5, 2017 at Middle Park Medical Center, Kremmling, Colorado. Ken and closest brother, Doug, wandered the countryside on the west side of Big Wolford as barefoot boys. Bessie would move into Kremmling during the winter months so that Cecile, George, Maidie, Doug, and Ken could attend school. Ken went to first and second grades at Kremmling Elementary School.
The family then moved to the east side of Wolford, to the home place, where Alan now lives. He attended country school third through eighth grades at Piermont, up the Troublesome Creek, riding a horse to and from school, each day, sometimes with 3 on the horse. Ken and Doug would reminisce about their school days at Piermont whenever they were together in later years.
There were stories about bringing water from Troublesome Creek, which was quite a trek down the hill and back up, losing their only ball down the privy, (that only happened once, after that the door was kept closed), and how difficult it was to keep their minds on school work when the gophers would start whistling in the spring, to the consternation of Old Lady Olsen, as they called her. Gladys Olsen Ritschard was probably in her late teens or early twenties when she was teaching at Piermont, but to boys of 10 to 14, she seemed ancient. Ken graduated eighth grade with the honor of attaining the highest score on the countywide exam and received a medal. At the end of the year picnic, on the Lone Cow Guest Ranch, this side of Gore Pass, a rock was dislodged from the trail above him and landed in the middle of his back. He had to be carried out and was paralyzed for a period of time.
After eighth grade, Ken made the decision to go to work for his parents on the ranch. On August 29, 1943, Ken and Stella Marie Smith/Edmondson were married. They lived on the Carlson Place up the lane and the home place, then moved into the house on County Road 22, the back Troublesome Road, where they raised Alan, Leah, Bill, and Twila. Ken lived there for the remainder of his life. Ken worked the W Diamond Ranch, raising Hereford and Angus cattle, and even some sheep along the way. Stella was his helpmate building miles of fence on the BLM and raising grass hay, baling and stacking. He had figured how many miles of ditch banks he walked a day to irrigate the meadows, more than the requisite 10,000 steps.
The work on the ranch progressed, during Ken’s life, from horse drawn equipment and hay crews of a dozen or so to 2 or 3 workers running a swather and bale stacker. Ken added to the acreage begun by his father. Alan and Ken worked side by side for the last 50 to 60 years, until Ken “retired.” Besides working on the ranch, he loved to ride horses and hunt. One of the most fun things he did when not feeding cattle in the winter, was ride his snowmobile all over the countryside, most winters being able to ride over the top wire of the barbed wire fences. His claim to fame in 2004, at age 83, was that he had made his own fence stays and put in 1500, by himself, that summer. In his later years he spent the summers riding his Ranger up and down the Troublesome Road keeping an eye on the goings on, from irrigating to haying to cattle grazing.
He would call on his trusty cell phone occasionally and when asked where he was, it might likely be Little Wolford or Horse or Cow Gulch or at the T. During the war, Ken volunteered for the service. At boot camp, it was discovered that there was too much damage from the broken back, years earlier, and Ken was sent home with the task, “Feed the Nation.” Ken was the Secretary/Treasurer of the Kirtz Ditch Association for many years and treasurer of the Piermont/Primrose School District. His uncle Floyd Sampson was the first treasurer of the district, and he was the last before consolidation. He served on the Colorado River Water Board for several years, and he and Stella enjoyed the annual convention in Las Vegas every year. On one such trip he got on the elevator with Wilt Chamberlain.
Ken said he was about eye level with his belt buckle, and his feet were huge! Through the years Ken was a member of the Grand County Sheriff’s Patrol, Cattlemen’s Association, USDA Board, and BLM Advisory Board. He was a member of the Kremmling Kiwanis Club and the International Order of Odd Fellows. Ken was honored at the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo as Citizen of the Year in 1987 and Pioneer of the Year in 1996. Ken and Stella were honored by the West Grand School District with the Chet Hunter fan award. Ken was lucky enough to have all of his grandchildren living close. He and Stella would attend as many sporting/ musical/rodeo events, that they could, traveling out of town as well.
Among many other things, Ken particularly enjoyed Mandy being honored as Miss Rodeo Colorado, listening to Chad play his guitar and sing, he wore belt buckles Scot won as a bull rider, and Jerri worked on making him more healthy. Ken and Stella traveled to see Mike when he was in the army. They also traveled all over the state the year Dominique and Joetta became state volleyball champions. Christopher called him the Kodiak whisperer, and the smile on his face was huge when he received the antlerhandled knife for his 95th birthday with the W Diamond brand etched into it. Grandma Stella said Tammy was like Ken, she didn’t say much. Tammy took that as a compliment, because there needed to be some quiet in the Wheatley family. Ken would always ask Tammy about her horse, Smokum. When Audrey was born, Alan and Marcy lived with Ken and Stella for a couple of years. Ken liked having his youngest grandchildren living there. It kept him young. In 2006, Leah moved in with Ken and Stella, and cared for them until her passing.
They had lived in Cliffview Assisted Living Center for a period of time, but Ken wanted to be on his beloved ranch. Bill and Irene often took Ken on trips and fed him innumerable meals through the years. When Bill and Irene added the new living room onto their house, Ken would carry his oxygen with him up and down the ladder and worked every day. In later years Ken traveled with Twila, visiting Texas, California, and Alaska for 49 days. That was the longest time Ken had been away from home in his life. Ken was preceded in death by his parents, George R. and Bessie Wheatley, wife, Stella, daughter, Leah and sonin- law, George F. (Buddy) Gore IV, grandson George F. Gore V, grandson, Rope Ryan Wheatley, brothers, George W. Wheatley and Eugene Wheatley, sisters, Cecile Brolin and Maidie Kilker.
Ken is survived by his brother, Douglas Wheatley of Hotchkiss, CO, son Alan (Marcy), son Bill (Irene), and daughter Twila O’Hotto, of Kremmling, CO. Grandchildren, Mandy (Dave) Wolfe, Wellington, CO, Scot (Bonnie) Wheatley, Calhan, CO, Tammy (Ted) Nieslanik, Carbondale, CO, Jerri Wheatley, Grand Junction, CO, Mike (Shawn) Wheatley, Littleton, CO, Joetta (Eric) Nieslanik, Glenwood Springs, CO, Christopher O’Hotto, San Francisco, CA, Bailey Monnahan, Carbondale, CO, Chad (Laura) Gore, Dominique (Jeremy) Jones, and Audrey Wheatley, all of Kremmling, CO. Great Grandchildren, Racheal Gore, Hayden Fay, Colton, Hugh and Josy Wheatley, Travis, Casey, and Brady Gore, Logan, Kason, and Jaden Wolfe, Regan and Sage Wheatley, Emmit Nieslanik, Jerrika, Mykaela, Morgan, and Faris Jones, Avery, Logan, and Wheatley Nieslanik, Great Great Grandchildren, Alexis and Gauge Gore, numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews. Internment was by private family burial on the W Diamond Ranch.