Leslie A. “Les” Bennett, 84, of Livingston, Montana, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. A graveside memorial will be held on Saturday, January 25. Please meet at Franzen-Davis Funeral Home by 1:30 to proceed to Mountain View cemetery with his son-in-law, Richard Eggar of the Church of Christ in Miles City as the officiant. The service will begin at 2:00 P.M. Reception will follow at the Church of Christ Fellowship Hall.
Les was born on May 30, 1935 in Wilsall, Montana. He was raised by his mother, Mayda (Oates) and her husband, Lyle Burns. Les was a graduate of the Park County High School. Following school Les was involved with the Rodeo Circuit. He competed in bareback, saddle bronking, bull riding, roping and was named best “All Around Cowboy” for Park County. In the early days of the Livingston Roundup, known as the Park County Ranch Hands Association, Les worked as a clown, and helped behind the shoots and working the stock.
He was introduced to a lovely young lady through his cousin and on August 29, 1958, Les was united in marriage to Shirley J. Dummer, they have shared 61 years of marriage. He was still rodeoing at the time and had decided to skip a trip to the national championship to take Shirley’s hand in marriage.
Les started his working career on a road construction crew. He was a part of constructing the I90 “Bozeman Pass,” the “Springdale Pass,” the 9th Street Bridge and countless other projects including some in Yellowstone Park. He worked a Jack-leg Drill and was on the blasting team, he had the dangerous job of dropping the dynamite in the drilled-out holes.
Les began his career as a Leatherman building, repairing and decorating saddles and doing shoe and boot repair. He and Shirley started the shop in Big Timber in about 1963. It was the Bennett Saddlery and Shoe Service. In 1969 they moved to Livingston and brought the operation to Livingston as well. It was a family business to the heart. The kids would help clean, they learned to run the till and Tim and DeeDee would help dad tear down boots and with the saddle work; his brother, Jack could often be found lending a hand as well. He operated that business at 123 South 2nd Street for 33 years. Les never truly retired, he kept a shop at home and did special projects and gifts for his family and friends.
Les had a genuine western look, it was this attribute that led to his being a “movie star.” He was an extra in a few movies filmed in the area. One was, “A River Runs Through It,” “Amazing Grace and Chuck,” and Keep the Change.” This may have served his business well too, as he had repaired saddles for the likes of Slim Pickens and Warren Oats. For the movie A river runs through, it he made and repaired the creels (the fishing baskets) used for the movie.
Les was an advocate for the disabled, he worked with Counterpoint giving lessons in leather work to their disabled clients.
Les very much enjoyed the outdoors. The family would go on camping trips and he liked hunting and fishing in his younger days. He was also gifted with the toughness to break horses. He broke horses for each one of his kids, some of the lineage still exists in the horses that his daughter Debbie has to this day.
Les was a true family man. He adored his children and Shirley. He taught them his skills in life and put forth a true example of how to live life in a meaningful way. He worked hard to provide for his family and would have done anything for anyone of them. We are proud of you dad; you will be missed forever.
Les is survived by his wife of 61 years, Shirley; his daughter, Debbie (Richard) Eggar of Miles City, their children, Bennett (Chelsea) Eggar, Jeremiah (Sarah) Eggar, Deberlena (Kirk) Hinebaugh, Teresa (Cooper) Spotts, and Christian Eggar; son, Timothy Bennett’s (deceased) children, Allen (Casey) Bennett, Danielle (Jono) DeRudder, Josiah (Agnieszka, “Ania”) Bennett; daughter, Diana “DeeDee” (Kenneth) White of Three Forks, and daughter, Cheryl (Jake) Fladager of Plentywood and their children, Holly, Justin, Brianna and Chance Fladager; 13 great-grandchildren; his brother, Jack (Rainalda) Burns of Beulah, ND and sister-in-law, Bertha “Squirt” (Dave) Jones of Livingston.
Les was preceded in death by his parents, Mayda and Lyle Burns; parents-in-law, Clarence and Annie Dummer; his son, Timothy Bennett and half-brother, Leo Bowen.
Memorials are preferred to Meals on Wheels, 206 South Main St. - Livingston or Stafford Animal Shelter, 3 Business Park Rd. – Livingston, MT 59047
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