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For almost four decades Dean Strong was at the helm of Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange, establishing the business as a strong marketing presence in the region. (Courtesy Photo)

Former Belle Fourche auction owner Dean Strong dies

BELLE FOURCHE, S.D. – A well-known, former livestock auction market owner has passed away. Dean Strong, who operated Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange for 36 years, passed away March 24, 2024 in Golden Canyon, AZ.

Dean was born in New Underwood, SD, on September 16, 1939, to Robert and Jessie (Cress) Strong.  He attended rural Meade County Schools and Sturgis High School.  In 1959 he enlisted in the US Army where he served two years active duty and four years in the US Army Reserves, with an honorable discharge in 1965.

Dean returned from the Army to work with his father to build a baseball field for the Basin League Titans in Sturgis.  The field was later renamed Strong Field in honor of his father, Robert Strong.  He worked with his dad at Strong Construction until his dad’s passing.  Dean spent much of his time team roping, operating heavy equipment and driving truck.

In 1977 Dean, and Bob Petra, purchased Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange and in 1981 Dean became the sole owner. On July 23, 1982, Dean married Eileen Whiting Brickman in Buffalo, SD. Dean would often say that when he bought the sale barn,  Eileen (who worked there at the time) was included in the purchase so she became his.  Dean and Eileen continued to own and operate the livestock auction until 2013, while also managing St. Onge Livestock from 2007 to 2008.

Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange was originally built in 1935. Strong and Petra bought the company from Bob Ehrich, who owned it for 10 years. Prior to that Dean Maranville owned it.

From a historical perspective, the success of the livestock exchange has been attributed to its location in Belle Fourche. The Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railway system are also located in Belle, and during the late 1890’s, the city became a hub for cattle sales, as more than 2,500 carloads of cattle were shipped via railroad per month during the peak season.

Belle Fourche Livestock Exchange has been filled with ranchers and farmers from Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota, since it opened. It remains a well-regarded location to buy and trade cattle and is now owned by Baxter Anders who purchased the business in 2018 from Thor Roseth and Jeff Long who had purchased the auction market from the Strongs in 2013.

Strong was one of the largest employers in Belle Fourche during his time as owner. He not only was a supporter of the Belle Fourche community but was also involved in a number of agricultural events, for both youth and adults, that brought support and encouragement to many in the surrounding region.

Complete Obituary Here

Dean was awarded Agri-Business Man of the Year in 1991 by the Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce and Agri-Business Man of the Year in 1993 by the Black Hills Stock Show Foundation. He was on the board of the South Dakota State Brand Board and the Central States Fair Board. He was a member of the American Legion and the Black Hills Scottish Rite and a lifetime member of the Western South Dakota Buckaroos

At the time of his retirement, Strong said that after cultivating many new relationships with “the salt of the earth”—ranchers—and establishing a stellar business reputation, he decided the time had come to retire. Strong said the highlight of his career at the livestock exchange were the friendships he built with customers and employees, many from multi-generational families.

Visitation will be 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm on Sunday April 7, 2024 at Kinkade Funeral Chapel in Sturgis, S.D. Funeral Services will 10:30 am Monday April 8, 2024 at the Belle Fourche Rec Center, 1111 National St in Belle Fourche. Burial will be at Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis.

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