Howard “Sonny” Linger, age 85, of Miles City, cowboy - family man - friend - went home to his Creator/Savior, Jesus on April 23rd, 2013.
Sonny was born on April 9th, 1928 to Howard Key and Doris Hames Linger in Alamosa Colo. He joined two sisters, Betty, (John Shawcroft) and Elinor (Bill Votaw). He grew up on the family ranch and graduated from Hooper High School. Rodeo called Sonny early and he was riding cows and bulls at the Monte Vista “Sky High Stampede” when he was 14 years old.
After a stint serving his country in the Navy, during the occupation period of South Korea in the late 40’s and an honorable discharge, Sonny continued to follow his rodeo dream. Competing in bareback, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, and bull riding, Sonny competed in the RCA, which is today’s PRCA, from 1947 to 1961, primarily competing in saddle bronc and steer wrestling. Sonny won many awards and buckles and had the highest marked ride (under the Rodeo Cowboys Assoc. old system of marking) of 194 points in the saddle bronc riding at the prestigious Denver Co’s National Western Stockshow and Rodeo on a horse named “Ten Below”, a mark that was never equaled nor beat.
Sonny knew rodeo from both sides of the arena fence, also serving as stock foreman, chute boss and arena director for Beutler Brothers in Elk City, Ok from 1949-66. When the National Finals Rodeo was created in 1959 his natural talent for handling livestock got him hired as chute boss, a position he held through 1968, following the NFR from Dallas to Los Angeles to Oklahoma City. He was the Finals’ livestock superintendent from 1985-2003. Sonny began his own stock contracting firm in 1971, Linger Rodeo Co., a family owned concern, producing rodeos in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Texas, and Kansas, as well as providing stock for the National Western Rodeo in Denver, Pendleton Round-Up, Rodeo Houston, San Antonio, and Ft Worth. His experience as a contestant, livestock producer, chute boss and PRCA rodeo judge, gave him knowledge in every aspect of rodeo. But it was Sonny’s great ability with animals that is his legacy. His peers credit him with knowing and handling rough stock better and easier than anyone in rodeo.
Highlights of Sonny’s rodeo life was crowned with his induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 1998, and his induction into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 2011. Sonny resumed his ranch cowboy life after he and partner/son Pat sold the rodeo company to Bruce Ford in 1984. Working for and with Fred Wacker’s +4 Ranches: calving, branding, chasing yearlings, and enjoying what he called his “playground” consisting of some 200,000 acres of ‘freedom’.
A hard worker, man of his word, but his family will remember him most, as just ‘dad’, who took the time to shower his affection on the ladies in his life and to spend the quality time hunting, sports, and fishing with his sons.
Sonny was married to Ramadine (Gott) in 1948 and to this union, a daughter, Vicki Rae Wheeler was born. Sonny married Bess (Turner) in 1952 and to this union was born two sons: Larry (Ann) and Pat (Lori), and a daughter, Amber (Tom Hope). Bess went home to be with her Savior Jesus in 1999. Sonny married Betty Lancaster in Columbus NM on February 19th, 2009.
Sonny is survived by his wife Betty; son: Larry Linger (Ann); grandson Matt Linger (wife Arlene and Mason, Bailey); grandson Will Linger (wife Ivy and Bailey, Josslyn); grandson Brad Linger (wife Emilee); son Pat Linger (wife Lori); granddaughter Teal Lind (husband Jon and Logan); grandson Ty Linger (wife Rosalie and Dec and Uriah); daughter: Vicki Rae Wheeler; granddaughter: Toyah Rae Nastanovich (husband Mike); granddaughter: Tinah Elizabeth Strausbaugh (husband Dan and Hayden); daughter: Amber Hope (husband Tom); grandson: JT Hope (wife Joani and Lynsie, Trystyn, Cecily); granddaughter: Sonni Beth Hope, (friend, Stan Wells)
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 at Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home with family receiving friends from 4:00-6:00 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 10:30 a.m. at Grace Bible Church in Miles City. Interment will follow in the Eastern Montana State Veteran’s Cemetery with full military honors provided by VFW Post 1579. Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home of Miles City is in charge of the arrangements. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting: www.stevensonandsons.com.
Should friends desire, memorials may be made to the VFW Hall or the charity of one’s choice.