Idaho loses a cattleman, character, conservationist with the death of Bud Purdy

Leonard "Bud" Purdy ensured that the famed Silver Creek was clear, productive

rbarker@idahostatesman.comApril 16, 2014 

Leonard "Bud" Purdy, one of Idaho's most beloved and respected ranchers, died Monday at his home.

Purdy, 96, hunted ducks and skied with Ernest Hemingway. He hosted Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper at his Picabo Ranch. He led the ranching industry into rest- and-rotation grazing, a system of moving livestock on and off public grazing lands that protected the range and improved cattle production.

He helped start the Idaho Cattle Association, led the University of Idaho Foundation as president, and was chairman of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. In addition to the ranch, he and his late wife, Ruth, owned the Picabo Store, Picabo Elevator, and Silver Creek Supply, a seed business.

"Bud Purdy was the very embodiment of the Code of the West - someone whose life was a lesson in cowboy ethics, common sense, stewardship, and the value of hard work and perseverance," said Gov. Butch Otter. "I don't know whether Bud was a religious man, but there was nobody with as much faith in his fellow man."

Purdy donated a 3,500-acre conservation easement along Silver Creek in the 1990s to the Nature Conservancy, adjacent to its own Silver Creek Preserve. The easement protected the creek and its environs from future development.

Silver Creek, one of the state's premier trout streams, attracts fly-fishermen from around the world.

Purdy didn't even take the tax break on the land easement, valued at $7 million.

He was inducted into the Idaho Hall of Fame in 2013 and was grand marshal of the 2013 Ketchum Wagon Days Parade.

He loved the cattle business, he explained to producer and writer Steve Stuebner in a 2012 article for the Idaho Rangeland Commission, which Purdy co-founded.

"Every morning, you get up and do something different," he said. "You turn out on the range and ride a horse every day. Even now, I go out and make sure the water is OK, check the fences and make sure the gates are closed.

"It's just a constant going out there and doing it. I was never a cowboy, but I've ridden a million miles."

Purdy was born in Beatrice, Neb., on Jan. 2, 1918. He spent the summers with his grandfather, W.H. Kilpatrick, on the ranch along Silver Creek. He graduated from Washington State University and took over management of the ranch in 1938.

He is survived by his sister, Margaret Struthers, of Twin Falls; three sons, Nick, Mark and Gordon; and his daughter, Kris Wenslawski. His wife, Ruth, died in 2006.

Purdy's burial will be private, but a celebration of his life is set for the Limelight Room in the Challenger Inn at Sun Valley on Sunday, May 4, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to contribute to the St. Luke's, University of Idaho or College of Southern Idaho foundations.

"His passing is a loss for all of us, but it's an even bigger loss for the next generation, who won't have the benefit of his wisdom and good will," Otter said.

Rocky Barker: 377-6484

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