Conrad Lyle (Connie) Cox, 87, of South Havre passed away peacefully at his home November 8, 2020.
Connie was born on March 21, 1933 in Havre, Montana. The first child of Art and Bertha (Sargent) Cox, he was raised on the family ranch forty-two miles north of Havre near Wildhorse Lake next to the Canadian Border. Connie spent his whole life as a cattle rancher. In 1968 he purchased the ZN Ranch in Whitewater, MT. In addition to cattle, Connie raised bucking horses and was a champion rodeo competitor. For twenty years Connie did it all in the rodeo arena and did it well. He competed in Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc, Bulldogging and Calf Roping. Specializing in Bareback and Saddle Bronc, he led the state for many years in addition to winning all-around titles. In 1959 Connie won the Saddle Bronc at what is now known as Cheyenne Frontier Days. Piloting his own plane, he would fly in and fly out to rodeo after rodeo. One special memory was flying to Indianapolis three years in a row with Merle Boyce. The two won multiple Bareback and Saddle Bronc titles bringing home a total of six saddles between them. In 2019, Connie made the trip to Billings, MT to be inducted into the Montana Pro Rodeo Wall and Hall of Fame.
Throughout two decades of rodeo competition in the United States and Canada, Connie acquired a long list of great friends. He always liked to bring people together. For twenty years he held an annual Team Roping clinic at his ranch on Frenchman Creek north of Whitewater, near the Canadian border. The past seventeen years he hosted a Cowboy Reunion in Havre for his friends in the Bear Paws and from around the state and Canada. Everyone who attended looked forward to an enjoyable evening of food, drinks, stories and dancing which Connie loved to see. In addition, for twenty-three years Connie and his daughter Charlene hosted a fun tour group for people to attend the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV. The bus was always full of people who laughed themselves silly and could not wait to go back the next year.
Connie was a real cowboy. He never believed in using 4-wheelers to round up and trail cattle. When horse trailers pulled up, only to see 4-wheelers being unloaded instead of horses, he would say “Boys you will never get a good horse broke that way”. Notably, Connie initially was never a fan of the cell phone, but it eventually became his best friend!
Connie was instrumental in seeing that the Great Montana Centennial Cattle Drive of 1989 became a reality. On August 11, 1989, he and a handful of drovers began trailing over 100 head of longhorns from his ZN Ranch on Frenchman Creek to Roundup, MT. There they met up with other participants and more longhorn cattle, totaling over 2800 head. The cattle drive continued to Billings where the event concluded. September 9, 1989 an incredible parade took place with thousands of people lining the streets. Many still talk about it today. Connie kept a daily diary during the cattle drive and his diary was eventually published in a book titled “Epic Trails”. Years later a tribute book about Connie was written by David Horsey and was aptly named “Connie, Lessons from a Life in the Saddle”.
In the spring of 1994 Connie and a friend, Penny Nicholls, formed a partnership and created Epic Trails Cattle Drives. They hosted many guests from around the world for many years. Some coming as far as Spain, Germany and France. Their days were spent in the saddle working cattle on various ranches. From atop his horse he would overlook the countryside and say, “God’s Creation is my Cathedral”. He loved that life until the end. One week before his death he was proud to hear that his niece, Crystal Kinsella, had come home and borrowed his horse “Bear” to gather cattle off Beaver Creek Park, taking one last ride for Connie.
Connie loved to dance. Especially to the music of the popular local band “South Country” which consisted of stepson Jerry Nystrom, sister-in-law Judy Kinsella, friends Brady Skramstad, Val Barnett and Ed Nystrom. Most of all, Connie was so proud of his children and grandchildren’s superb athletic abilities in Team Roping, Barrel Racing and Basketball. His son Casey was a qualifier to the National Finals Rodeo in Team Roping and although not a big fan of basketball, he loved to watch his granddaughters Calli, Macey and Kaylee Jo play.
Connie married Margie Sivertsen on June 1, 1957. Together they ranched and had two sons, Casey and Clinton and a daughter Charlene. Their marriage ended in divorce. On May 31, 1997 Connie married Linda Kallenberger Nystrom. Connie and Linda enjoyed many adventures together. Linda lovingly cared for Connie for the past several years as he battled ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at their home in the Bear Paw Mountains south of Havre. Connie also had wonderful Hospice caregivers, Sharon, Lauren, Jory, Reese, Pam and Jessica. They gave him the most compassionate care and attention.
Connie was preceded in death by his parents and his brother Larry.
Connie is survived by his wife Linda, brother Robert (Audrey) Cox of Chinook and sister Norma Dell (Wayne) Brown of Great Falls, sons Casey of Georgia and Clinton (Denise) on the family ranch in Whitewater and daughter Charlene (Scott) Aberg of Sand Coulee. Grandchildren Tia (Zach) Murphy, Cash (Randi) Coleman, Cassidy Cox, Cayla (Ryan) Ledford, Calli (Derek) Lear and Macey (Ryan) Ferguson. Great-Grandchildren Brinli and Kortlan Murphy, Parker and Krue Lear and Lane Ledford. He is also survived by stepsons Jerry (Ashlie) Nystrom and Shawn (Heidi) Nystrom. Step-Grandchildren Tessa (Bobby Bradshaw) Nystrom, Trent (Rachel) Nystrom, Brock and Carter Nystrom, BeauDee and Prestyn Nystrom and Kaleb, Kody, Kaitlin, Kaylee and Kollin Nystrom. Step-Great-Grandchildren Tim and Brad Nystrom. All these grandchildren meant the world to Connie. He is survived as well by many special cousins, nieces, nephews and in-laws.
Recalled by his Aunt Rowena Sargent, “Cowboys are a Romantic Lot and Connie was the best”.
There will be a celebration of life for Connie in the Spring. Until then, as Connie always said, “Don’t Forget to Check Your Cinch”.
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