Saturday, January 23, 2021


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Orville Verdell LaPlante

Orville was born to Elaine Miner and Archie Blue Coat on September 26,1943, in a log house, on the banks of the Moreau River, south of White Horse.

His mom died of T.B. in his infancy.  His mom’s sister Fern and her husband William LaPlante adopted him and raised him as their own.  Orville listened and learned from his dad Bill (affectionately now called ‘the old man’).  He was taught to be honest and hard working.  He had a wonderful life on the Moreau.  He graduated 8th grade from White Horse, went to Cheyenne River Boarding School at the Old Agency, and graduated from C-EB.  He went to college in Aberdeen, SD, where he met and married Diane Allery.  They had three children, Dana John, Anne Marie, and William Allen.

They moved to California in 1965 where Orville served an apprenticeship as a carpenter, then moved to North Dakota to work on missile sites during the Cold War. In Conrad, MT he saw that carpenters weren’t as needed or liked so he became a pipefitter welder.

During this time he married Mary Marshall and they had Kristy Ann and Lisa Jean. He moved around the west working and building power and nuclear power plants in Sedro Wooley, WA., Point of Rocks, WY, Gillette, WY, Wheatland, WY, Coal Strip, MN, Glenrock, WY, the Alaskan Pipeline and oil rigs in Wyoming and offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. He fought in bars but learned to bring those skills to the ring. His trainer was a crop duster so they flew to many states and Canada for fights. 

He rodeoed all over the western part of the United States. But he found his true talent behind the lens of a Mamiya Sekor 35 mm camera. Orville had a unique advantage of knowing how rodeos, livestock, and cowboys worked. He would position himself to get the best shot of the rides, ropings, doggings and barrels. He also captured amazing buckoffs and wrecks. His camera has some proof of the close calls- being thrown, dropped or kicked!! He could name every arena, bull, bronc, cowboy, and cowgirl of thousands of his photos. Since rodeo photography wasn’t yet in existence he was in a unique position. He has some of the first photographs of some of the greats. A book is in the making and hopefully finished in the near future. 

Orville served on the council from 1990-1998. He chaired the education committee working on future plans of the school system of Cheyenne River. He traveled and met many lifelong friends as well. When Habitat For Humanity came to town with Jimmy Carter, Orville continued to participate in builds all over the US and Canada. More friends were made. He soon discovered running and ran 5Ks, 10Ks and half marathons. Playing basketball was the central part of his active life, staying in shape through his 40s, 50s,60s, and 70s just to organize, play in or coach basketball tournaments. One fond memory are the games he’d organize for family gatherings at Christmas, graduations, and other holidays…… sooooo….one of the first things he built at the homeplace was a basketball court. Another first build was a round pen. He was always training or breaking a new horse hopefully for his kids and later grandkids to ride. The quonset he had built was his dream place where he used his carpentry and welding skills to create something old into something new and different. His wife would tease him about being a junk collector but in reality, that junk turned into planters for her, roping dummies for the kids and saddle racks on wheels and many other inventions. A ‘critter proof’ chicken coop was soon built and was always full of chickens, ducks and an occasional goose. After he ‘retired’ in 1998 he worked many jobs and made many friends throughout his later years as well. Some of the jobs (but were really adventures) were dishwasher, janitor, ranch hand, wrangler, fence rider, bus driver, scraper operator, truck driver, and fence fixer.  He came to love the memorial wagon trains where he used his skills of riding, roping and ‘roughing it’. Learning so he could be an outrider and eventually plan and lead wagon trains. 

He never stopped learning. He took CDL classes, read books or had others show him how to do something. One of his last adventures was firefighting in CO in 2018. He worked 12-hour days and met many more new friends. Passing the pack test as a 70+ year old was a goal he worked toward and accomplished! He never considered his life over. He was still writing stories and memories, and slowly working on a rodeo photography book. That goal will be met and become part of his legacy. His friends are many but met through all his adventures but still precious were the friends from home: Cheyenne River. He would visit all those he met though jobs, school, sports, his kids activities, and church. He genuinely would ask about you and tell you about his last adventure, mishap, or life lesson. He was in his glory when he had a good story OR make it a better story!  

He married a living angel. Barbara McNabb came into his life and saved him from self-destruction. She had a hard time breaking his old wild ways, but got it done(a real cowgirl she was). They had three children Dakota Dean, Emma Elaine, Jacob Addison, also raising Winstin Bruce Fischer as their own.

Orville is survived by his wife Barb, his five sons, Dana John(Rebecca), William Alan, Dakota Dean, Jacob Addison and Winstin Bruce Fischer, and his four daughters, Anne Marie LaPlante, Kristy Ann O’Rourke(Sam), Lisa Jean Marshall-Velez(Nestor)  and Emma Elaine LaPlante(Sven).

He is also survived by eight sisters Faye Rousseau, Rita Birkeland, Edith Knight, Luverne Cumming, Reba Three Legs, Iva Traversie, Carla Blue Coat, and Carrie Blue Coat. Three brothers, Allen LaPlante, LeRoy LaPlante, Phillip Blue Coat.

Close to him are his surviving Hunka brothers, Stan Smebakken, Lyle Widbom, Dale Schaal, Joe Rose, Clint Simon, Rol Bradford, Dale Pine, Jack Holthaus, Wes Huft, Mike Norman, Kenny Anderson, Wiley Schawm, Tom LaPlante, Dale Old Horn, Orville St. Clair, Cliff Joseph, Ray Poitra, Mike Starkey and John Starkey.

And very dear to his are his surviving Grandkids Kerra Marie LaPlante, Joann LaPlante, Logan Martin, Gavin Martin, Elle Martin, McKinzie Circle Eagle, Kel’lyn Circle Eagle, Vonica Wicahpi LaPlante, Reagan LaPlante, Isabel “Izzy” Alexandra Gutierrez, Otto Dean Dolphus, Dallas Cole Dolphus, Quinn O’Rourke, and Charlie O’Rourke. And his loving Great grand kids, Ella Marie Stordahl, Natalie Lynn LaPlante, Remi Ann Marie Martinson, Braylen York Sinkler, Elora Ann Knight.

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