George Paul Estes, formerly of Deaver, passed away at his home outside Powell, early Sunday morning, March 7, 2021, just a few weeks shy of his 83rd birthday.
George was born to Glenn and Cleta (Wilson) Estes on March 23, 1938, in Shattuck, Oklahoma. He was the eldest of their five children and was raised on the family farm outside Durham in the Oklahoma hills south of the Panhandle. Growing up, George developed a strong work ethic helping his family run their dairy farm. He was the “man of the family” while his father was away working in the Oklahoma State Legislature. He attended Durham schools, where he enjoyed playing basketball, and graduated from Durham High School in 1956. He served a short time in the Oklahoma National Guard.
George’s parents appreciated the value of education and desired that their eldest son should further his education at college, so his father dutifully drove him to the college campus and bade him a fond farewell. George had other ideas and plans of his own at the time, so without bothering to unpack his suitcase, he hitched a ride and beat his father back home.
He took up work as a carpenter, which served him well in various projects throughout his life. Eventually, he decided that a college education might be a good idea after all, and he earned his college degree the hard way while also working to support a wife and four young children. He graduated from Central State College in Edmond, Oklahoma, with a degree in elementary education and a minor in mathematics.
While visiting the home of a friend one day, a beautiful young redhead caught George’s eye, and on May 27, 1960, he was united in marriage to Cleo Leona Lagaly at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Union City, Oklahoma. They were married for nearly 61 years. To this union were born four children, Dale, Dani, Denise and Dan. After George completed his college education, he taught for a year at Pleasant Hill Elementary School in Oklahoma City. The following year, he moved his young family to Grand Junction, Colorado, where he had secured a job teaching math.
As a young man, George shared a dream with his little brother, Glenn, of owning a cattle ranch in Wyoming. Consequently, when a colleague told him of a job opening in the tiny town of Frannie, Wyoming, he took his family north on a road trip in their pickup truck and homemade camper, and went to interview for the job. Having been offered the position, George and Cleo loaded up their worldly possessions in his pickup truck and horse trailer and headed north for good, making a second trip later to bring his five horses to Wyoming after he had gotten his family settled.
George taught and coached in the area schools for 27 years, first as a sixth grade teacher in Frannie, then high school math in Deaver, and finally in Byron after the consolidation of schools. He coached basketball, volleyball, and track at both the middle school and high school levels. He formed and coached the first girls’ junior high basketball and track teams in the area with the all-girl class of sixth graders he taught in 1973-1974. He earned the Five Rivers Conference Coach of the Year award for his accomplishments as the head volleyball coach at Rocky Mountain High School in Byron. In his early years in Colorado and Wyoming, George spent his summers working in the oilfields and doing carpentry jobs to supplement his teaching income and provide for his family.
As he worked to raise and support his family, he began to realize his long-held dream of owning a cattle operation. George and Cleo bought a small acreage on the outskirts of Deaver, and George used his carpentry skills to transform the tiny dwelling on the property into a comfortable home large enough to house his family. He harvested poles from the forests of the surrounding mountains to build corrals, and over time, he began to purchase a few cows as money would allow. He eventually grew one of the best looking herds of Red Angus in the area. After many years of simultaneous teaching, coaching and night calving throughout the school year, and long, busy summer days of raising cattle and making hay, George retired from teaching in 1996 and pursued his lifelong dream of full-time ranching.
Family get-togethers often centered around brandings and cattle drives, followed by suppers of homegrown beef cooked on the grill. During these years, George also put many miles on his pickup truck while serving as a brand inspector. He continued to build and care for his fine herd of cattle until he was disabled by a stroke in 2008. He served on the North Big Horn Hospital Board of Trustees and the Shoshone Conservation District.
George loved to take his family (and any visiting Okie friends or relatives) on adventures in Yellowstone and the surrounding hills and mountains, hunting expeditions, camping and fishing trips, and fossil and arrowhead hunting outings. He knew of many obscure area attractions and was an informative and entertaining tour guide.
George had an outgoing personality and a positive outlook on life, an infectious grin, and a wonderful sense of humor. He loved to tease and play practical jokes on unsuspecting friends. George was a lifelong Christian, and he and Cleo raised their family to know and love the Lord. George loved the Lord, his beautiful, devoted wife of nearly 61 years, his children, grandchildren and all his family, and they loved him in return.
George is survived by his wife Cleo; sons Dale Estes (Michelle) of Deaver, Wyoming, and Fr. Dan Estes of Queretaro, Mexico; daughters Dani Higgins (Mike) of Deaver, and Denise Flowers (Jim) of Powell; 20 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren (and another one on the way). He is also survived by his sisters, Jane Weaver (Harold) and Shelia Weistner, sister-in-law, Rita Estes, all of Oklahoma, several cousins, and many nieces and nephews.
George was preceded in death by his parents, Glenn and Cleta Estes, his brother Glenn Wilson Estes, sister Jean Magers, brother-in-law Dwayne Magers, grandsons, Joseph Higgins and Anthony and Caleb Estes, and nephew Jesse Estes.
A rosary vigil will be held for George at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church in Powell, at 7:30 p.m., on Friday, March 12. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, March 13, at 10 a.m. Burial will follow at the Deaver Cemetery.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.