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Lester Kirkham

August 3, 1914 - January 20, 2011

Service Date January 24, 2011

Graveside services will be 10:00 a.m., Monday Jan. 24, 2011 at Mt. View Cemetery, Rapid City.

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Lester D Kirkham, 96, New Underwood, ‘Les’ as he was known to friends and neighbors died Thursday Jan. 20, 2011 at the New Underwood Good Samaritan Nursing Home. The youngest of Mary and Henry Kirkham’s five children, Les was born on a ranch near Elm Springs on Aug. 3, 1914. He spent his boyhood on the Kirkham horse ranch where he enjoyed the rich prairie life centered around the Kirkham Springs, an oasis near the Belle Fourche River where wild life, grasses and flowers were in abundance. After his father’s death in 1929, Les began working as a hired man on various ranches in the region. In 1932, he began dating a school teacher, Catherine E. Arbuckle. They were married on June 12, 1935 at Albion, Montana; in the depths of the Great Depression. They later moved to Akron, Ohio and Les attended Barber School. Following the birth of their son Daniel H. Kirkham, Ft. Worth, TX, on February 28, 1937, they returned to Rapid City to be near family. Twin daughters, Dr. Nancy Forderhase, Richmond, Kentucky and Shirley McDermott, Rapid City, were born on May 3, 1940. Les spent his working years at the Montana-Dakota Utilities Company. After his retirement, he and Catherine thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Black Hills and became avid bottle hunters, collecting hundreds of bottles. Les enjoyed his activities at the Senior Citizens Center, regularly attending its events, singing in choruses, acting in play productions and serving on its board for several terms. Always interested in clean water preservation, he was president of the Cleghorn Springs Water Association. He and Catherine also enjoyed traveling to visit children and grandchildren in Kentucky, Colorado and as far away as Germany. After retirement Les became an avid woodworker and later enjoyed restoring dozens of old trunks for friends and acquaintances. His children and grandchildren were grateful recipients of several antique trunks. His most important legacy for his family and the people of the western region of South Dakota was the publication of two books, Les’s Life: A Prairie Boyhood, (1914-1929) and Les’s Life, A Prairie Manhood (1929-1940). His daughter, Shirley McDermott, made this legacy possible by helping to prepare the manuscript for publication. Les’s books can be found in many libraries throughout the state. Les is survived by his three children, seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren and special friend Elaine Novak, Rapid City.

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