The horses are watered and the hay’s in the barn. Martin Joseph Briggeman, 90, passed away Aug. 22, 2011, in Missoula, MT, after a life well lived.
He was born Jan. 18, 1921, in Deer Lodge, MT, to Martin and Catherine (Blessinger) Briggeman and raised on the family ranch in Jens, along with siblings Bernard, Carmel (Perkins), Frances (Duff) and Don. Their families enjoyed many reunions at “the ranch” through the decades.
Martin’s passions in life were family, horses and horse people, though some of his best friends weren’t any of those. He never met a stranger, and while he suffered from a crippling childhood ailment, he didn’t see himself as impaired.
His father took Martin on a cattle roundup on the Wallace Ranch in Jens, when he was six, and Martin rode Gyp, a small roan mare, renowned for her cow savvy.
“I felt pretty big,” he remembered in later years. “When we came back, Billy Wallace paid me the same as he did Dad, and I felt real big. But Gyp was that good. All I had to do was hold onto the horn.”
Martin attended schools at Jens, Drummond and Deer Lodge, graduating from Powell County High in 1939. He had the highest exam score in the county among boys graduating from eighth grade in 1935, and led the Future Farmers of Deer Lodge to first place in the state poultry judging in 1938.
After high school Martin worked for the state extension service, testing dairy cattle for Cascade, Lewis and Clark counties. He taught Vo-Ag in Fromberg and worked at the Interstate Lumber Co. in Deer Lodge. Con Warren hired him as a herdsman at what’s now the Grant-Kohrs Ranch, but an allergy ended that job.
In 1947, Martin drove with friends to Butte for a football game. Among the group was his future wife, Dale Thompson, a first-year school teacher in Deer Lodge. They were married in Lewistown on June 25, 1949, and lived in Drummond, before Ted Farley hired Martin as foreman of the Two Creek Ranch in Ovando.
In 1957, Martin launched a long career with the State Highway Department and he and Dale made their home and raised their family at Marshall Grade, east of Missoula, for the next 50 years.
Martin was as a founding member of the Western Montana Quarter Horse Association, and served on the Bonner and Missoula County High school boards. He was also active in the Western Montana Fair, and supported his children’s 4-H activities, while working as stall superintendent for many years.
Martin is survived by Dale, his wife of 62 years; brother Don (Georgia) Briggeman of Deer Lodge; children Kathy (Sam) Milodragovich of Butte; Lynne (Stewart) Thomson of Kremmling, Colorado, Tom (Tomi) Briggeman of Kalispell; Kim (Linda) Briggeman of Missoula; Mary (Milt) Bradford of Weatherford, Texas; and grandchildren Sam (Kelly) Milodragovich; Mary Lynne Milodragovich; Pat (Liza) Thomson; Tim (Nellie) Thomson; Adrianne (Mike) Taylor; Malarie Briggeman; Kaci, Kara, Nicole and Molly Briggeman; and Garrett Bradford; as well as 5 ½ great grandchildren.
Funeral mass is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at St. Ann Catholic Church in Bonner, where Martin and Dale were long-time parishioners. Interment will take place Sept. 24 at 11 a.m. at Hillcrest Cemetery in Deer Lodge, followed by a reunion of Martin’s friends and family. Memorials may be made in Martin’s name to the Bonner School Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 1004, Bonner, MT 59823.