William Chester Hape


A child of the Great Depression, Chester Hape did not believe in waste. He did not waste money, he did not waste words and he did not waste time.

Instead, in the full life that he lived, Chester believed in constant action and hard work. After serving in the U.S. Army, Chester tried his hand at leather craft, pursuing it with the same passion for perfection with which he approached all of his endeavors. He eventually was commissioned to create the championship saddles for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for 13 years. Today, his leatherwork is appreciated across the world, with people coming to Sheridan from as far away as Japan and Germany to see his art. Most telling, some of Chester’s work can be found in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Chester developed his work ethic and attention to detail growing up on the family ranch outside of Sheridan, where as a boy, he loved to hunt and fish, play music, and later competed in rodeo and served as a hunting guide. After high school, Chester served as paratrooper for three years in the 11th airborne in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Germany, he earned recognition for skiing and marksmanship.

Returning to the United States, Chester married his wife, Wanda Packard, in 1959, moving the couple into a small home west of Sheridan that he built the summer before.

While there, Chester and Wanda had three children: Camille, Juanita and Wayne. Chester spent his days overseeing the family ranch while working full-time for Ernst Saddlery. He learned to build saddles and developed his tooling and stamping skills from some of the other notable saddle makers in the area, refining the style and helping to put the region on the map.

Chester built his second home in Wyarno on a piece of property purchased from his father. He helped with the local 4H, with all three children as members, and was a founding board member of the Sheridan County Rodeo.

With his children grown, at age 50, Chester decided to take swimming lessons at the YMCA because he “never learned to swim properly.” He loved the water and began competing in triathlons as the swim leg. He would eventually compete in triathlons individually in all three events.

He took up wind surfing in the 1990s, learning the sport from a close-knit group of friends who would meet at Lake DeSmet outside Buffalo every time there was wind. He would rise each morning and turn on the Weather Channel just to check the wind speed. This interest in wind surfing led to multiple trips to Baja, Mexico; Hood River, Oregon; and South Padre Islands, Texas. He took singular trips to Aruba, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

After Wanda died in 2006, Chester built his third house at Lake DeSmet to be closer to the water. He eventually moved back to Sheridan when the symptoms of his Parkinson’s Disease became too difficult for him to manage. He moved in with his son, Wayne, and daughter-in-law, Kena, in 2011, and as his mobility, eyesight and dexterity declined, Chester found pleasure in overseeing Wayne’s various projects, and taking part in every one of his grandson Waylon’s childhood milestones and activities.

William Chester Hape died at the age of 82 on Nov. 23, 2017. He was born March 3, 1935. He is survived by his sister, Jackie Perry of Sheridan; his three children, Wayne Hape and Juanita Balding of Sheridan, and Camille Van Houten of Casper; and five grandchildren, Bethany, Eva Marie, Chester, Cathleen and Waylon. He was preceded in death by his wife, Wanda; his father, Tuck; and his mother, Helen.

Chester left a short note to his children before he died, outlining his wishes. A man who did not believe in waste, he asked for no funeral service, and only to be buried next to Wanda. A short grave side service is set for Friday, Dec. 1st, at 11 a.m. at the Sheridan Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, friends can make a donation to Meals on Wheels of Sheridan or Greenhouse Living of Sheridan.

In his note, Chester also offered a simple plea to his family: “Take care of one another, always.”

Just as he lived his life.  Online condolences may be written at www.championfh.com.  Arrangements are under the direction of Champion Funeral Home.

Sheridan & Johnson County Obituaries