Gene Ennis Hunt

Gene Ennis Hunt

Longtime American Quarter Horse breeder Gene Ennis Hunt passed away on September 2.

Gene Hunt on horse

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Gene Ennis Hunt, known as “Geno” to family and friends, passed away suddenly and peacefully at age 87, on Wednesday, September 2, 2020, at his son Jim’s home near Faith, South Dakota.

Hunt was born March 22, 1933, the second child of Jack Ennis Hunt and Jennie Elizabeth Annis Hunt, at the midwife’s house in Philip, South Dakota. The young family was living on the Hunt homestead at Ottumwa, north of Philip, for a few years before they moved to the place on Dupris Creek, south of Eagle Butte, where they raised their family. Hunt grew up helping on the ranch and with his nine younger siblings, riding several miles to country school and later driving 25 miles to high school in Eagle Butte. He started working for the Diamond A’s wagon boss, Albert Lopez, who later became his father-in-law, when he was 14 years old, breaking horses and working cattle. He finished high school a year early in 1950, at age 17. He attended South Dakota State University for a year, then returned home to work as a cowboy; he received a draft notice and joined the U.S. Army. Hunt served in Germany with the Allies peacekeeping forces and got to see a little of Europe.

Hunt married his high school sweetheart, Effie Rebecca Lopez, on December 27, 1953, while home on leave. After his discharge from the Army, he enrolled in Black Hills State College, taking a full load of classes, while working full time to support his family, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1958, with a Business Education degree. He and Effie moved with their young son Jeff to Meteetse, Wyoming, where he taught high school business and history. Two years later they moved to Plevna, Montana, where he was principal and business teacher; Jim was born during this time. Hunt enjoyed teaching high school and was honored by the senior class, when they dedicated their yearbook to him. He stayed in touch with many of those folks from Plevna to this day.

In 1962, Hunt returned to South Dakota for a working partnership on Cottonwood Ranch with Bill Ullmann; he jumped at the chance to return to ranching and the life he loved; later, he was able to buy the ranch from the Ullmanns. He moved Effie and their boys back to the ranch, just seven miles west of where he grew up, and that is where he lived for the remainder of his life, raising cattle and registered American Quarter Horses, two sons and lots of nephews, nieces, grandkids, hired men and whoever needed a job, a meal or a bed. He hung on through down cattle markets, high interest rates, blizzards, droughts, grasshoppers and prairie fires.

Hunt lost his beloved wife, Effie, in a car accident in 2006, just when they were ready to travel and enjoy retirement. He continued to ranch, and when his health began to fail, his grandkids took turns staying with him. For the last few years, he was cared for by sons, Jeff and Jim, and their families. He continued to share his advice, stories and instructions, and direct his own affairs; he passed away still owning a good set of cows, a stud and a quality set of AQHA mares.

He was a member of Emmanuel Free Lutheran Church in Eagle Butte. One of the highlights of his later years was when he traveled to Amarillo, Texas, in 2017 to receive the AQHA 50-Year Breeder award from the American Quarter Horse Association. He bred more than 1,000 registered American Quarter Horses in his lifetime. His stallions included sons of Jet Threat and Rocket Wrangler, and grandsons of King, Sugar Bars, Leo, Bar Nothing Springer, Skipper, W, San Siemon and more. His sons and their families continue to breed, raise and use the American Quarter Horse.

Hunt was like a force of nature, larger than life. He was an old school cowboy, but he liked modern conveniences, like the telephone and television. He took good care of his cows, but was hard on equipment. Generous to a fault, but stubborn, tenacious and tough. He was a natural athlete, good with numbers and could carry his checkbook balance in his head. He did taxes for the neighbors for many years. He loved good horses, playing cards, watching rodeos, estate auctions, horse sales and calcuttas. He enjoyed his grandkids and was very proud of their accomplishments.

Hunt is survived by his sons Jeff (Mitzi), Jim (Joni); his grandchildren: Jody, J.J.(Laura), Jakki (Jay Longbrake); Tom (Sage), Jessica, Justin (Erica), Joshua, Jordan, Jeb, Jana, J.T., Jimmie; and great-grandchildren Daycen, Travis, McKenzie, Kayclynn, Kali, Kanton, Koy, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Hannah, Jackson, and Kayzlie; 7 sisters: Sharon Hannum, Shirley Adkison , Midge Tiokasin, Joni Nelson, Betsy Ducheneaux, Janice Eberhard, Janet Campbell; one brother, Everett Hunt; and a sister-in-law, AnnaBelle Mortenson (Sam); many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife Effie; his parents Jack and Jennie Hunt; two sisters Lurene Rabern and Joan Webb; brothers-in-law Martin Webb, Dave Nelson, Carl Kaiser, and Lee Lopez; an infant son.

Arrangements in the care of Kesling Funeral Home, Mobridge, South Dakota.