Clarence Mortenson was born in Pierre, South Dakota on August 3, 1929 to Hans B. and Margaret (Claymore) Mortenson. He passed away on March 3, 2018 at his home in Sun City, Arizona at the age of 88.
Clarence spent his childhood growing up in Eagle Butte, South Dakota where he attended school. His father, Hans, passed away when Clarence was ten years old. Clarence attended grade school in Eagle Butte, 8th Grade in Fort Pierre, but returned the next year to Eagle Butte High School where he graduated in 1947. After high school, Clarence attended the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Clarence’s mother, Margaret, had remarried to Ben Young, and they were operating Ben’s ranch until Ben’s health made that work too strenuous. In 1949, Clarence left the School of Mines and took over the ranch owned by Ben and Margaret in northwestern Stanley County.
On June 23, 1950, Clarence married Jean Halliday Wydeen in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They returned to the ranch where they raised seven children. They ranched until the late 1970’s when Clarence and Jean moved to Pierre, South Dakota. In the late 1970’s Clarence also served as a Counselor for River Park and helped counsel many people with alcohol addiction issues.
Clarence served as a lobbyist and director for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association in the 1960’s, served on the South Dakota Water Resources Commission under Governor Nels Boe, and served on several local boards. Clarence served on the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Advisory Board from 1994 to 1996. Clarence was very active in several Masonic organizations, including being a member of the Hiram Masonic Lodge in Fort Pierre for 62 years, a member of the Naja Shrine in Deadwood, enjoying participation in the Najacks Unit, and a proud Thirty-Third Degree Scottish Right Mason in the Valley of Yankton for nearly 50 years.
Clarence was a conservationist on his ranch before it became widely acknowledged. His work in stopping erosion, water conservation, and tree planting earned him multiple awards, including Outstanding Young Farmer/Rancher from Pierre Chamber in 1959, Rangeman of the Year in 1979 from the Society for Range Management, Forest Stewardship Recognition Award, Environmental Stewardship Award from South Dakota
Stockgrowers in 1994, George S. Mickelson Environmental Excellence Award, South Dakota Conservationist of the Year in 1995, and National Wetlands Award in Land Stewardship in 2002. Clarence received an Honorary Doctorate from South Dakota State University in 2003 for his conservation work.
In 1981, Clarence married Rosemarie Tedesco. Clarence and Rose lived in Omaha, Nebraska for a time, then moved to Pierre. Clarence began a land appraisal business which he operated for a time with his sons Jeff and Doug, as well as Tipp Hamilton. Clarence testified as an expert witness in a number of cases, many with longtime friend, Warren May. In 1995, Clarence and Rose moved to Sun City, Arizona, where Clarence lived until his death, raising fruit and avoiding the snow. Rose preceded him in death in 2012.
Clarence will be remembered as an extremely well read and engaged person. He had opinions he was eager to share on any topic and was proud to be a lifelong learner and knowledge seeker. Clarence loved history and enjoyed researching local and family history and sharing that heritage with others. Clarence left a legacy of true caring for the prairie.
Clarence is survived by his seven children: Pamela (Jeff) Patterson, Frederick, Colorado; Curtis (Kimberley) Mortenson, Fort Pierre, South Dakota; Jeffrey Mortenson, Sun City, Arizona; Douglas Mortenson, West Hollywood, California; Wendy Prost, Scottsdale, Arizona; Lynne Mortenson, Broomfield, Colorado; and Todd (Debra) Mortenson, Hayes, South Dakota; by eight grandchildren: John (Ashley) Patterson and Melanie Patterson; Jacob (Liz) Mortenson and Will (Shuree) Mortenson; Spencer and Aaron Prost; and Quinn and Jack Mortenson; and by five great-grandchildren: Tristan and Emma Patterson; Cecilia and Leo Mortenson; and August Mortenson. He is also survived by his sister, Audrey (Ken) Borsch, San Marcos, California and his niece, Debbie (Dennis) Stafford, and nephew, Kent (Heidi) Borsch, and several nieces and nephews, and extended family. Clarence is also survived by his stepchildren: Tim Parks and daughter, Bailey; Dan (Jennifer) Parks and daughters Sidney and Sedona; and Jennifer Parks.
Clarence was preceded in death by his parents and stepfather, nephew, Bruce Wydeen, and great-grandson, Jackson Patterson.
A private service will be held at a later date to celebrate Clarence’s long life and scatter his ashes on the ranch he loved. Any memorials should be directed to Naja Shrine Hospital Travel Fund.