Richard “Dick” Joseph Thunder died August 1, 2019, at the Wind River Rehabilitation and Wellness nursing home in Riverton, Wyo. His Arapaho name was Ho3o’ Nooh’koseiht (Shining Star), given to him by his aunt Mabel Yellowbear in honor of the Christmas Star.
A wake with an Episcopalian Litany took place from 7 to 10 p.m. on August 4, at Blue Sky Hall in Ethete, Wyo. Afterward, he lay in state overnight at the Church of the Morning Star.
A funeral with traditional services began at 10 a.m. on Monday, August 5, at Blue Sky Hall. Pallbearers were Tyson Smith, Torry Burson, Richard Thunder, Aaron Brannan, William K. Carpenter and Dodi Carpenter.
After the funeral, relatives, and friends on horseback, accompanied by a riderless horse, led the procession of mourners to the Friday Cemetery. According to his wishes, he was buried near his mother’s grave.
He was born on May 16, 1936, in Fort Washakie, Wyo., to William “Bill” C. Thunder Sr. and Cleone (Iron) Thunder. He was a cowboy all his life.
He grew up in Ethete, where he learned ranching and expert horsemanship from his parents. He had one brother, William Jr., and two sisters, Grace and Clara. When he died, he was the last one left of his family.
He greatly loved and admired his parents, who he said gave him an extraordinarily happy childhood. They taught him hard work and the Arapaho ways and traditions. He said they always encouraged him to do his best, allowed him to make decisions, and always supported him.
As a child, he knew Arapaho elders who were born before the Northern Arapaho Tribe settled on the Wind River Indian Reservation in 1878.
His father, Bill, passed down the family tradition of raising horses to his children. This tradition was passed down from Bill’s grandfather Lumpmouth and his father Joseph Calling Thunder. By the time he was three years old, Dick was riding horseback to help take care of his family’s livestock on the rangeland north of Ethete. It was his favorite place to be.
When he was a teenager, he was a champion jockey for his father’s Indian relay horse racing team. His father’s team held the title at the Lander Pioneer Days Rodeo for three years.
He also helped take care of his family’s horses, sheep, and other animals; helped train the family’s racehorses; and participated in 4-H and sports.
He attended school at St. Michael’s Mission School in Ethete through the eighth grade. He was on the school’s basketball team, led by Coach C.E. Wilson. The team also included James Oldman, Albert Quiver, Stanford Trumbull, Alfred Buckman, Norman Shakespeare, George Shakespeare, Reuben Quiver, Hubert Friday, Wilbur Hanway, Dwight SunRhodes and Alfred Redman, according to a newspaper article.
Many of them, including Dick, went on to play for the state championship basketball team at Fremont County Vocational High School in Lander, Wyo. The team was coached by Jack King.
At FCVHS, he participated in football, basketball, and track and field. He was on the varsity basketball team beginning as a freshman and lettered all four years.
As a teenager and young man, he won All-Around titles at different rodeos. His favorite events were team roping, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding.
He earned a full-ride basketball scholarship to Sheridan Community College in Sheridan, Wyo., where he studied marketing. During his college years, he missed ranching, so he traveled to the nearby Crow Indian Reservation on the weekends to help out at Crow family ranches.
He married Alice “Sally” Miller after they met at the Lander Pioneer Days Rodeo on the Fourth of July. He said he was proud he married into the Stoll/Miller Family of Crowheart, Wyo. because they are a tough, hardworking family.
He and Sally had three daughters: Dawn, Debra, and Robin. They later divorced.
He was a rancher and owned a ranch in Ethete along the Little Wind River, where he raised registered Quarterhorses and Paints, and racehorses. His land was precious to him because it is the place where his mother was born in 1903. He bought the land back after it had been lost to her family.
He also owned cattle.
Several horses raised by him participated as bucking horses at the National Finals Rodeo. One of the horses was named Thunder and Lightening in his honor.
His racehorses ran at the track in Cheyenne, Wyo.
He enjoyed all things horse – visiting with other horse people; going to rodeos, horse races, chariot races, and cutter races; traveling to horse auctions; learning about horses’ bloodlines; subscribing to horse magazines, and offering encouragement and support to people starting out in the ranching or horse business.
He also enjoyed visiting with friends and relatives, making new friends, attending powwows, going out to restaurants, and work of any kind.
He was a construction worker, worked on road construction, and was a shovel operator at the U.S. Steel iron mine in Atlantic City, Wyo., for 20 years until it closed in the 1980s. He made many good friends at the mine.
He also worked for the Wyoming Indian Schools.
He served a term on the school board at Mill Creek School.
He is survived by daughters, Dawn Thunder, Debra CallingThunder, Robin Thunder-Tophia and Linda Edmunds; son-in-law, William Tophia; and grandchildren, Benjamin CallingThunder and Eternity Thunder-Tophia.
He is survived by the following nephews and their families: Lydell Thunder, William K. Carpenter, Richard Brannan, Charles Chavis, Travis Thayer, Tremayne Thunder Sr., Crow Chief Thunder, Justin LaJeunesse and Eric Miller.
He is survived by the following nieces and their families: Marvene Thunder, Clarinda C. Thunder, Janell C. Thunder, Rhonda Glenmore, Sherry C’Bearing, Lisa Sailors, Tammi Pongah and Patsy Miller Sanders.
He is also survived by the Lumpmouth Family descendants of Geary, Okla., including the Lumpmouth, Oldbear, Yellow Hair, Black and Rowlodge Families.
On the Wind River Indian Reservation, he is survived by the Iron, Revere, Hungary, Wanstall, Whiteman, Brown and Stoll/Miller Families and their descendants.
He was preceded in death by his parents, William C. Thunder Sr. and Cleone (Iron) Thunder; grandparents, Joseph Calling Thunder and Lump Forehead, and Elmer Iron and Grace Black Coal; brother, William Thunder Jr.; sisters, Grace Thunder and Clara Thayer; uncles, Jim Iron, Otto Revere, Victor Revere Sr., Otto Hungary and Richard Wanstall; aunts, Cynthia Iron, Fatima Hungary and Ione Wanstall; ex-wife, Alice “Sally” Thunder; mother-in-law, Martha (Stoll) Miller; brother-in-law, Arvin Miller; sisters-in-law, Verna Thunder and Shirley Miller; nephews, William Thunder III, Preston “Tony” Brannan, Thane Thunder and William “Booey” Thunder; and grandchildren, Dodi Harris, Evan Smith, Markus Thunder, Bryne Friday, Billie Carpenter and Taylor Harris.
Online guestbook: www.HudsonsFuneralHome.com
“God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses.”
~R.B. Cunningham Graham