Johnie Waddle

Johnie Waddle

Johnie Waddle

81, had a quick wit and contagious laugh.

Johnie Edwin Waddle died Nov. 9, 2017, at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida.

Johnie Edwin Waddle was born Sept. 13, 1936, in Fowler, to Clifford Edwin and Ruth Lorene (White) Waddle. A sister, Mary Jane, joined the family 3 years later.

He was born to be a cowboy! Book learning wasn’t his cup of tea, so he chose to quit school and started his career at the age of 15 as a working cowboy.

He was married to Mary Lou Colletti and was living in Pueblo by 1958. His son, Johnie Edwin Waddle, Jr., was born in 1959. The marriage ended in divorce.

He moved to Buena Vista in 1959 with his cousin, Larry Russell. He worked at Climax for 2 years. Deciding he needed to do something different, he chose to go to work for Every Ready Freight owned by Shirley Avery. He moved on to Avery Construction after 2 years. His boss was Irving W. Avery. The company became what is known today as ASI. Driving semi-trucks and heavy equipment filled his career for the next 35 years. He couldn’t give up being a cowboy, so he would help move cows for the Cogan Ranch.

He married Anne Jeanette Brizendine in the 1960s. Eric Reed was born in 1969, and Reean Ruth was adopted. This marriage ended in divorce in 1975.

Sherrill Ann Sturtevant became his third wife. They brought Jeffrie Eugene and Jacob Edwin “Jake” Waddle into the world. This marriage ended in divorce.

During his career with ASI, he was transferred to Walden. When he returned to Buena Vista, he arrived with three llamas that turned into 25 that he leased for packing trips. For 5 years, he also showed llamas in California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Oregon. A photograph was taken in 1980 of him and a team of six harnessed llamas at the Colorado Stock Show, which hangs at the arena.

Johnie’s final marriage was to Rena Sue “Susie” (Stout) Heiman. She brought two sons, D.J. and James D. Heiman, to the marriage. This marriage ended in divorce.

Johnie had years of hard living. He decided that drinking a gallon or two of beer a day was not helpful in his relationship. He was quoted in an article in The Chaffee County Times, Jan. 30, 2016, by Kathy Keidel, Times correspondent, as saying, “One day I decided to quit. I set the can of beer down and never had another one. You just have to make up your mind to do something and do it.”

Not being ready for retirement after working at ASI, he took a job with Steve Miles for 5 years, followed by 5 years with Scott Pelino. He helped Albert Eggleston with his 400 head of cattle during his free time, then continued there bucking bales, irrigating, feeding, inoculating and driving cattle and semi-trucks until he retired at the age of 80.

Johnie was proud of having Donna Cox, an artist from Morrison, use a photo she took of him while he was working his horse, “Freckles,” moving cattle across some of the Cox’s property.  He had stopped to visit when she captured him, thinking she would use the photo for a future drawing or painting. (Donna was honored to give permission for the use of this drawing to be used for this obituary.)

A colored map called Loose Livestock on the Road, created by Andrea (Andreas) Bellhouse in 2016, lists John as a cow contact person for cattle crazed on E E Hill Estates beside Quail Mountain.

Johnie never knew a stranger and often had many stories to tell, with a great smile and twinkle in his eye.  You could find him in the morning at Rooster’s Crow or in the afternoon in his truck with his dog, Jake, parked at Jan’s or inside having a bite to eat. He would find excuses to meet up with people to get in a visit. He loved people. And yet, he was a private, independent person. He was very organized with his boots lined up and hats on display. He had a quick wit and contagious laugh. He lived life to the fullest. He was more than happy to share his knowledge of how to drive semi’s and heavy equipment, get horses in trailers using a coat over their eyes, find shortcuts in the many miles of ground covered by the cattle he cared for, and the endless other pieces of information he gained through experience. He had a generous heart.

In the last month, words became difficult to find and a new language was created. His eyes, expressions and hands served well in getting thoughts across. Johnie didn’t give up. He did his best to get his thoughts conveyed. He was a fighter, but he declined going to the doctors or taking medicine. A fall made it mandatory to take an ambulance ride to the hospital. There he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Nov. 9, Johnie passed away at Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida, at the age of 81 years, 1 month, and 26 days. An icon of Buena Vista, one of the last great cowboys has left a hole and will be missed by many.

He is survived by his dog Jake, his faithful buddy; his children, John, Eric, Reean, Jeff, Jake; stepsons, D.J and James Heiman; one sister and husband, Mary Jane and Roger Maddux of La Junta; nieces, Cheryl, Jennifer and Janet; and many friends.

A special “Thank You” to the people at Jan’s and Rooster’s Crow who kept an eye out to make sure Johnie was fed and okay as well as the too many to list, but you know who you are, that were there to support and encourage him. 

Johnie requested that his body be cremated and floated down the river with no services. Lewis & Glenn Funeral Home in Salida were in charge of final arrangements.

As he has been quoted as saying, “Never look back,” Johnie’s ashes will be spread at the bridge over the Arkansas River at the end of Main Street in Buena Vista, Sunday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m. (It’s not a funeral, but the family invites you to join them.) “The Gathering,” sponsored by Rooster’s Crow and Jan’s restaurants, will be held at Jan’s Restaurant from 3-5 to share pictures and memories of Johnie.