Ernest and Edna Kirk were blessed with a son, born March 28, 1931, and they named him Billy Joe. Billy Joe was born in Cody, Neb., but while he was a toddler, the family moved in a team and wagon to a ranch in Bennett County, S.D. Billy Joe passed away October 29, at Rapid City Regional Hospital; he was 85.
As a young boy, Billy Joe remembers his father trading three hounds for his very first horse. A very happy boy received that horse and learned to ride and worked with it for many years. Billy Joe’s childhood consisted of working cows, caring for horses, and using their hounds to chase jack rabbits and coyotes. Billy Joe attended grade school at Cedar Lake School, one mile from the Kirk home. He then graduated from Bennett County High School in 1949.
During his high school years, the war was raging and supplies were limited. The Kirk boys would camp out on a lake six miles from their ranch and run trap lines to catch muskrats, mink, skunks, and coons. They would run the trap line in the morning, cook their dinner of fried taters and bacon over an open fire; run the lines again, then skin, scrape, and secure the pelts on shingles to dry. He remembers each belt bringing $1. This was part of their income during those lean years.
After graduating from high school, Billy Joe remained on the ranch a couple of years before joining the Army in 1952. He rode to Chicago on the train, then flew to Camp Chaffee, Ark. where he took his Basic Training. After Basic, Billy Joe attended Cook and Baker’s School for three weeks, then flew to Seattle where he joined other servicemen on a ship headed for Japan. About three days out, a terrific storm started. The ship was lifted up on the waves about 40 feet, then dropped with a jolt. All the men were ordered below deck, and most became terribly seasick. They finally arrived at Tokyo and to camp at Mt. Fuji. The men were re-outfitted with all new gear, including helmets and weapons. Two weeks later, while in full battle gear, the young men arrived in Korea joining the 24th Division, 52nd Field Artillery to replace those who had been killed or were sent home at the ending of the Korean War. Billy Joe and his kitchen crew were serving meals out in the open for a few weeks, as the men lived in squad tents until barracks were available for them to move into. Billy Joe was in Korea for two Christmases, then honorably discharged at Fort Carson, Colo. in the spring of 1954.
He spent the next year back working on the family ranch, and then married Vlasta Buresh from Batesland in 1955. Their three boys, Lonnie, Rod and Joe all grew up on the ranch which Billy Joe and Vlasta built up from nothing; there were no buildings or fences. Over the years they established a grove of trees along with their home and out buildings. The saddest time of their life was when son Lonnie perished in a blizzard during 1977, while trying to make it home.
Billy Joe and Vlasta moved on the Slattery place north of Martin in 1984, and resided there until his death.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Ernest and Edna (Wallingford) Kirk, brother Donald Kirk and son Lonnie Kirk.
Billy Joe is survived by his wife Vlasta, sons; Rod (Beverly) Kirk, Cody, and Joe (Rosanna) Kirk, Gordon, a sister Rowena Clark, Rapid City, and granddaughters; Chaney Kirk, Laci (Scott) Varilek and Charlsee Kirk and great-grandchildren; Dyson, Chayson, Tyan, Ryder, Nash and Ridley.
Funeral services are held Wednesday, Nov. 2, 10 a.m. at the Legion Auditorium in Martin. Burial with Military Honors was held in the Martin Community Cemetery.
A memorial has been established for the Sheridan County Veterans Aid Fund and donations may be sent in care of Bennett County Funeral Service, PO Box 65 Martin, SD 57551.