Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Julie Sutton loved her family and rodeo, making friends along the way

ONIDA, SD – A family that has been a part of the South Dakota landscape for close to 131 years has lost its matriarch.  Julie Sutton, who was a fixture at rodeos across the country for over half a century, passed away July 21 in Onida following a courageous battle with cancer.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at the Sully Buttes Gymnasium , Onida, Mon. July 26th at 6:00 pm (CT).  Burial will be held at the Onida Cemetery with dinner and fellowship to follow at the gymnasium.

Julie celebrated her 85th birthday with family and friends (including the four-legged kind!) this past March. She married her high school sweetheart Jim Sutton 66 years ago and went on to be a part of raising a family, ranching, and producing award-winning rodeo’s across the country. (Courtesy Photo)

Born in 1936 in Onida, Julie (Nelson) would go on to marry her high school sweetheart in 1953. Jim Sutton shares they spent their honeymoon going to a rodeo. Together, she and Jim welcomed three children; Teri who was the 1973–74 Miss Rodeo South Dakota, succumbed to Hodgkin’s disease in 1978,  Tanya (Todd) Yackley and Steve (Kim) Sutton.

Julie was a professional rodeo secretary for 35 years and timed for 40 years. Her talents also included marketing, sponsorships and organizing support services. Kim (Steve) Sutton would go on to work as a rodeo timer winning the PRCA Timer of the Year Award in 2019.   Her and Steve’s daughter, Amy Sutton-Mueller (Julie’s granddaughter) is following in the tradition of her grandmother and mother, and is recognized for her professional skills as a top PRCA timer nominee.

The fourth and fifth generations of the Sutton family now produce and manage the well-known Sutton Rodeos and the ranching and farming enterprises that stretch back to the late 1800’s.  In an earlier interview with the Onida Watchman, family was front and center in Julie’s life. “It’s amazing that our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids all live here,” said Julie. “The kids, grandkids and great-grandkids are all involved. The whole family is involved. Tanya and her husband Todd do the farming, Steve and family do livestock, and we try to stay out of the way.”

A rewarding part of Julie’s lifes-work was the personal relationships she and Jim and the family have developed over the years. She would look forward to returning to the rodeos they produced around the country to see old friends and make a whole collection of new ones.

The Suttons have produced rodeos at every level – 4-H, high school, college, Indian National Finals, Circuit Finals, South Dakota Rodeo Association and the PRCA. They are recognized inside and outside of the arena for producing top-ranked bucking stock and award-winning rodeo events.

In that same hometown newspaper interview Julie revealed what – in her mind – meant living a life well-lived.  “Rodeo and traveling … keeps you young.”

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