Lewis Nelson Oberrich, age 88, passed away at the Schneidmiller House in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, surrounded by his family on Wednesday, October 25, 2017. He was born on September 29, 1929, in Durango, Colorado to Louie Oberrich and Lena (Nelson) Oberrich and was the oldest of four children. He was raised on a small family farm in Animas City, Colorado.
He was a rebel from an early age and had to get his parents’ permission to join the Army before he turned 18. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington before being sent to Korea where he served as a medical assistant. He was sent home due to an injury to his eye, which would later be removed.
When he got back from the war, he started the rodeo circuit as a “Bucking Bronco” rider and won several “buckles” for his accomplishments. He met the love of his life, Betty Lou, at a rodeo party where he saw the prettiest girl with the most beautiful ankles. He married his wife of 60 years on January 13, 1957. Soon afterwards his first of three children were born.
When he wasn’t on the rodeo circuit, he was working with his father as a fireman on the steam locomotives for the Narrow-gauge railroad. The railroad ran between Durango and Silverton, hauling precious metals from the mines in Silverton, which was also the town in which his mother, Lena, was born and raised. Keeping food on the table for the family meant taking on any job he could get, such as working in construction or driving a truck in the summer months or plowing snow for the roadways and mountain passes in the winter months. When there was no work to be found in Durango, he moved the family to the area near Aspen, Colorado. Again, he took on many jobs, from coal miner, a D-9 Caterpillar operator for the BLM Dam projects, to the Head Ski Patrol Leader at Aspen Highlands Ski Resort. After more than 15 years in Aspen they picked up their belongings and moved to Sandpoint, Idaho. Once the children were gone, Lew and Betty moved to Montana, then to Washington then finally back to the Panhandle of Idaho.
During this time, Lew went back to his love of the rodeo, and he became an ordained minister, as a part of the “tailgate ministry” which provided fellowship and guidance to the Cowboys on the rodeo circuit. When he wasn’t ministering, he was taking care of the livestock for the rodeo or manning the gates for the bulls or for the bronc riders. He loved this life, he loved the people, but mostly he loved the fellowship with the Cowboys. He brought guidance to these young men and could relate to their problems, because he was once one of them. Eventually, Lew and Betty moved to Athol, Idaho to be with their son, Allen and it was there that Lew lived out the rest of his life with his beloved family.
He is survived by his wife, Betty Lou, his children, Gisele, Allen and Glenele and his granddaughter, Hannah Rosenfeld. He is also survived by his brother, Jack Oberrick of Alamosa, CO, Joan (Oberrich) Sheeley of Loveland, CO, and Carolyn (Oberrich) Houchin of Green Mountain Falls, CO.
Special thanks to the staff of Hospice of North Idaho at Schneidmiller Hospice House for their compassionate care of Lewis, as well as their guidance and comfort for the family during this difficult time.
A celebration of Lew’s life will be held this Saturday, June 16, 2018 at 11:00 AM at the English Chapel, 1133 N. 4th Street, Coeur D’Alene, ID.
English Funeral Chapel has been entrusted the arrangements. Please sign the online memorial at: www.englishfuneralchapel.com