Our” broken-down cowpuncher/old codger”, Johnnie Gentry, 97, passed away peacefully at home on May 9th, 2020 surrounded by his loving family. He is preceded in death by his parents, wife Nancy Yonkee Gentry, baby daughter Christy Ann, and 7 siblings. He leaves his sons, Kim (Roseanne) Gentry, and Mark (Debra) Gentry.
He also leaves 4 Grandchildren: Bryan (Melissa) Gentry of Molt, MT, Christy (Dagan) Green of Sheridan, WY, Terry (Brian) Luegge of Sheridan, WY, and Jonathan Gentry of Ranchester, WY.
He leaves 6 Great Grandchildren; Riley and Rudy Green of Sheridan, WY, Colter and Savannah Gentry of Molt, MT, Michael Rotolo of Gillette, WY, and Kyle Swedelius, of Belle Fouche, SD.
He loved to give his grandchildren nicknames that were named after some of his favorite Western shows including Gunsmoke.
Born on February 27, 1923 in Shoemaker, New Mexico, the son of Susanna and Henry Gentry, he was raised in the Mora River Valley with his 7 siblings. As a child he loved to swim, play with his brothers and sisters, ride horses, and eat fruit from his family’s orchard. The love of family and hard work was instilled in Johnnie at an early age.
In December 1941 he entered the Navy to fight for our country in World War II. He was stationed at Guam. He loved to tell the story of his travels to Peleliu Island and being on the ship for 29 days. The crew was hoping for a nice Christmas Dinner but was served spoiled hot dogs and sauerkraut. He says that when the ship arrived at the Island, the water was so rough that they had to be taken to shore on landing barges. Some of the sailors were able to make it to shore, while others got” dumped in the water”.
He was employed as a cowboy for the Gill Cattle Company. In 1947, his work brought him to Parkman Wyoming. He was astonished to see so much snow. It was around this time he met the love of his life, Nancy Ruth Yonkee, at the Ranchester Bar. Both were country folk who loved polka. They eloped on September 9, 1950. Shortly after that they moved to their own ranch in the Wolf Mountains near Lodge Grass, Montana. There they welcomed two sons and a daughter. He loved breaking horses, raising cattle and was always there to lend a hand to his neighbors. On living in the Wolf Mountains during the winter Johnnie said, “you had to be tough and half crazy to live there”. Due to age and health, they moved to Big Horn in 1990, and shortly afterwards sold the ranch on the Wolf Mountains.
He loved his place in Big Horn. Growing a large garden and watching his grandchildren and great grandchildren was his delight. He was active in the Elk’s Lodge, the American Legion, the Big Horn Women’s Club and the Senior Center. He loved taking trips to see relatives in Hatch, New Mexico and bringing home some of the famous Hatch Green Chilies. He loved to play cards with friends including his best friend Ed Poll at the Senior Center and in the end said “don’t call it the HUB!”. He truly missed playing cards with Ed and didn’t want to go back to the Senior Center after Ed passed away in July 2018.
Grandpa Gentry was part of the “Greatest Generation”. In 2010 he enjoyed being on an Honor Flight to Washington DC to visit the memorials. He shared that experience with some of his Sheridan friends
including Charlie Helvey, Ed Poll, and Charlie Gazdik. For his 97th birthday this year, he was honored to receive an autographed photo of President Donald Trump along with a letter congratulating him on this milestone birthday and thanking him for his service to our country during WW II.
The family would like to thank the VA Hospital for all they did for Johnnie through the years, to the Help At Home Program through the Senior Center, and Sheridan Memorial Hospital Hospice for their help at the end; we are truly grateful.
Per his wishes, no funeral services will be held. He will be cremated and private graveside family services will be held with military honors. In lieu of flowers the family asks for donations to the Big Horn Womans Club at P.O . Box 141, Big Horn WY 82833.
Champion Funeral Home has been entrusted with local arrangements. Online condolences may be written at www.championfh.com.