Arthur Francis Risse (Gramps) was born April 3, 1932, the 6th of eight children born to Ben and Mary Risse. Art’s youth was spent growing up in the Little White River community, attending school through the eighth grade at the country school in the valley. Days were spent working and carousing with his siblings and cousins from the Frank Risse clan.
In 1953 Uncle Sam came calling, but not before being introduced to this future wife at an ice-skating party at Woepple’s Pond. Art and Bonnie Page exchanged letters while Art was serving basic training at Ft. Reilly, Kansas, and then finishing his tour at Ft. Benning, Georgia, where he spent some time on the boxing and rifle team. When he returned in early 1955, he and Bonnie began dating and were united in marriage on September 24, 1955. They honeymooned in Hot Springs for a couple of days and then returned to the ranch to forge a 68-year partnership. To this union 5 children were born: Rocky (Joan), Bernard (Teresa), James (Suzanna), Tracee, and Wade (Bonnie).
Art had a love of animals from an early age and had numerous dogs and horses with incredible intelligence and ability. His stallion named Okie (the crop-eared stud), had a reputation throughout the area as a top notch tie down steer roping mount. He enjoyed every aspect of life when it came to the animals, whether it be hunting birds, chasing coyotes (catching nearly 100 or more a few times), or trailing cattle and pigs. He raised “reputation” Hereford cattle for a time, then switched to Angus in later years, always striving when it came to animal care, always reminding you that the animals needed good care if you expected them to work for you.
Art was a proud member of the American Legion Post #240 throughout his life, serving as Sergeant at Arms for years and never missing an opportunity to give a deceased soldier a proper sendoff while serving in the color guard. He would often test fire a round in the basement of the Old Legion while getting ready, just to keep the troops on their toes! He led countless parades and grand entries at the rodeos, always out front carrying the flag of the United States, the country he loved so much. He also attended Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church his entire life, serving on the Parish Council for a time. His rosary was always in his pocket, and his love for the Lord unquestioned. He volunteered his time for many community projects, especially those at the rodeo arena, where he helped run the roping chutes or flagged team roping for years. He was known as a fair and completely impartial judge. He loved his time playing amateur baseball, horseshoe pitching, and men’s volleyball, being known as a fierce competitor, but being gracious in defeat if it fell on him. He became a friend to many through the years of hunting, branding, rodeoing, or whatever activity he was involved in. He had an infectious personality and a true sense of caring that was totally a gift from God.
His life completely changed in his fifties when he became Grampy Art. His love for his grandkids, and great grandkids was a thing of pure beauty, and he spent many days with them, either in the hayfield (PULL THE PIN!), gathering and trailing cattle (you were always safe riding with Gramps in his saddle), teaching them to hunt, driving the stick shift Chevy, or the many countless games he dreamed up from his recliner in the living room. He was always thrilled for a game of Pinochle with the grandkids and his wife, and was a tough competitor, never allowing you to get a bid you didn’t work hard for. He spent many afternoons watching rodeo practice at the arena, always willing to give pieces of advice on your roping skills, and if you listened closely, some life skills as well. He was not only Gramps to his own kin, but numerous youth (and adults) in the area that all grew to love the man dearly.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, his 5 children, 22 grandchildren, 27 great grandchildren, 2 sisters- Bernadine Smith and Roseanne (Dave) Jacquot, and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents (Ben and Mary), 3 sisters (Helen, Catherine, and Leona), and 2 brothers (Matthew and Jimmy).
Vigil services will be held Friday, January 19, 2024, 6:00 PM at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Martin, SD. Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday, January 20, 2024, 10:00 AM. A memorial has been established and donations may be sent in care of Bennett County Funeral Service, PO Box 65, Martin, SD 57551.