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William Jerald Tanner

William Jerald Tanner
William Jerald Tanner
- June 21, 2017

William Jerald Tanner, 78, passed away on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, at his home in Rapid City, SD after battling lung problems for several years.  He was home with his wife, Eris Tanner, at the time.

Jerald was born on May 27, 1939 in Hot Springs, SD to Isaac and Edith Tanner (Danks).  He was the fourth of six children.  His early life was full of hard times and hard work.  The family moved to Ohio for several years when he was very young, and then moved back to Edgemont where the children were divided between several other family members, and Jerald was raised by his grandfather, John Tanner and uncle Laurance Danks, on the family ranches southwest of Edgemont and in Pringle, SD.   In the years following, he learned his horse and ranching skills, as the work was all done by horses at that time, and there was not electricity at the ranch.  He often spoke about wrangling, capturing, breaking and then selling wild horses that ran in the southern hills.  Edgemont had a sale barn, and they would have cattle drives to town in order to sell the cattle. 

Jerald attended the Cold Springs School, Pringle, and graduated from the 8th grade in Edgemont.  He was unable to move to Edgemont to attend school, so he went to work for the Pfister ranch at the age of 15, living in a sheep wagon and later a small house. 

In July, 1957, Jerald left the ranch and went to Sioux Falls, and enlisted in the Army for a two year hitch.  He was stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, where was a supply clerk.  He returned to the ranch in 1959.   On November 20, 1961 he married Linda Hathaway, and they had one daughter, Vicki Jane Tanner.  They later divorced.  In December of 1979, he married Hattie Wallace and helped raise her five children.  They had moved to Box Elder, SD, where they purchased a roping arena.  During this time he also took in his nephew, Tully Jackson.  He and Hattie divorced and Jerald moved the Ft. Collins, Colorado.

Jerald attended and graduated from the Oklahoma Horse Shoeing School, and also a welding school in Ft. Collins.  While in Ft. Collins he worked at a tack/feed store and was a farrier.  He moved back to Box Elder in the early ‘90’s and met his future wife, Eris (Marzluf) Johnson in 1993, they later married in 1998 and lived in Rapid City, SD.   (Eris said the good horseshoers were hard to find, so she married hers!) They own their own roping arena, EJ Arena, where their friends came to rope/ride and have a good time.

During his lifetime, Jerald worked on several ranches in Nebraska and South Dakota.  He worked in the oil fields for a while, was a farrier, horse trainer, cutting horse trainer and roper.  He worked for a cutting horse trainer for several years, and they traveled around the US showing cutting horses. 

Jerald loved to rope, whether for fun, rodeos/jackpots, candy bars or coffee.  There was always a “coffee steer” among his roping cattle. He had a lot of fond memories of roping with his daughter Vicki while she was growing up.  He also loved to riding and judging cutting horses, and coached a contestant that competed at a National High School Rodeo.  In later years, he started showing paint horses and won a number of local, regional and national awards in the roping events.  His favorite buckle was the one he received in 2000 for winning the Ranch Horse Competition at the Wyoming State Fair.  He was so excited when he got to go on roping trips with his good friend, Ora Taton.  His favorite was attending the Pendleton Rodeo and getting to be with all the cowboys and seeing the territory.

Jerald had been suffering from lung problem since he was in his late 20’s, but he tried not to let it slow him down. When he had to go on liquid oxygen several years ago, his wife figured out a way for them to attach his oxygen tank to his saddle so that he could still ride and rope.  He went on to win at several rodeos while wearing his oxygen.  He even won an AQHA Regional Championship and the 2011 Grit and Perseverance  Award at the Region 2 AQHA Championship Show in Rapid City.  He had shown and won in several roping events, and the judges had not realized he was carrying oxygen until the award was presented. They were seriously impressed with his ability and desire.  He was a real inspiration to other ropers that had similar lung problems, and had quit roping.  After seeing him rope, they wanted to do the same thing!  Even when his breathing was bad, he wanted to ride.  When he couldn’t saddle his horse, others did it for him, so he could be outside and active.  It just wasn’t the same if Jerald wasn’t at the arena.

After having raised his own daughter, stepchildren and nephew, Jerald said he wanted nothing to do with any more kids.  However, his wife, Eris, is a 4-H leader, and is active in the horse and rodeo projects with her 4-H members.  So it wasn’t long before he was active in helping out with training young people and loved it as much as they loved him. Even though he still liked to grumble (while smiling), he was always ready to help anyone who asked.   He helped with all phases of horse training (having trained several of his own) rodeo events and horse showing.  Jerald’s favorite saying to everyone was “Sit up and Ride Your Horse!”  The rodeo queens will certainly remember his favorite saying to them, as they still laugh about it, and follow it.  Most of the youth have gone on the win, both locally and nationally.  In addition to training, he loaned out his good horses to youth, queens and PRCA ropers, as he wanted to see them succeed.    He started training all his horses to be able to carry a flag, so that the queens had something safe to ride.  They knew they could call and he would have a horse for them to ride, and carry the flags proudly. 

Jerald is survived by his wife, Eris; daughter Vicki Tanner, Scottsdale, AZ; his favorite nephew and grand-nephews, Tully Jackson, Cody and Colton Jackson; brother and sisters and numerous additional nieces and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his parents, an older brother, and several good friends. 

Jerald had a tough start in life, but had mellowed considerably in the last twenty years. He finally started to have fun and enjoy life.  He was thankful for his many good friends and was so happy.  He even learned to cook more than beans & weenies, and could make some terrific brownies!  He was one of the last old-time cowboys.  God must have needed a good cowboy and has called him home.

A  Jerald Tanner Scholarship Fund has been established at Pioneer Bank & Trust, Rapid City, SD.  The family requests no flowers. 

Visitation will be Wednesday, June 21, 2017 from 5:00-7:00pm at Kirk Funeral Home.

Funeral services will be Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 10:00am at Kirk Funeral Home.  Burial will follow at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, SD at 1:00pm.

Family and friends may sign Jerald’s guestbook at Kirk Funeral Home.   



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