In Memoriam

In Memoriam …

Wendell Best, 82, Elida, was born January 11, 1933, died February 10, 2015 at his home on the family ranch. He was born in Lamesa, Texas to the home of John Grady (Red) and Eula Faye (Reavis) Best. On December 29, 1952, Wendell married the love of his life, Joy Morgan in Portales. Wendell was a member of the Floyd Baptist Church. Red and Eula Best lived in Bledsoe, Texas, up until Wendell was 9. Wendell started cowboying at a young age and helped trail the cattle from Bledsoe to New Mexico. One of his favorite stories of that trip was roping an eagle. Wendell and his sisters started school in Floyd that year. Wendell played basketball, baseball, was active in FFA and rodeo while in high school. He graduated in 1950 and then attended Eastern New Mexico University where he continued his rodeo career and FFA, and earned his American Farmer Degree in 1951. In 1955 he received a bachelor of science of degree in biology. Wendell was involved in several organizations many of which involved activities for his children. He was on the school board of Floyd Schools for 18 years, the founding board of Little Wrangler Rodeo Association in Roosevelt County, a board member of the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association from 1973-2003, and the National High School Rodeo Director from New Mexico from 1988-2003. Wendell served as President of the NHSRA in 1999-2000. Wendell was always ready to go to a rodeo, basketball game, or stock show if one of his children, grandchildren or his great-grandchildren were participating. During those years Wendell also had a few extra kids around that he would haul to a rodeo or ball game. Wendell is survived by his wife, Joy; a daughter Barbara (husband, R. L. Bob) Rogers, three sons, Monte (wife, Paula) Best, Kent (wife, Sherri) Best all of Portales; a sister Billie Cooper, Portales; his 11 grandchildren; his 10 great-grandchildren and another great-grandchild to be born in September, as well as several nieces and nephews, and many adopted kids.

Mike Runnels, 69, Ruidoso, passed away in his sleep on February 5 at the family home resulting from an aneurysym on one of the bypass grafts on his heart. Runnels was born on September 11, 1945 in Magnolia, Arkansas to Harold L. and Dorothy (Gilland) Runnels and grew up in Lovington.He attended Lovington schools and graduated from Lovington High School in 1963 then attended Colorado College. After his graduation from there, he then went on to the University of Texas where he attended law school and eventually received his law degree. Mike moved to Santa Fe in the 1970s and was elected to the Santa Fe City Council in 1976 for a four-year term. Two years later in 1982, he was elected to the position of Lieutenant Governor on a Democratic ticket with Gov. Toney Anaya. Mike became district attorney in the 13th Judicial District which included Valencia, Cibola and Sandoval counties. He served three terms in that position. He was the son of the late Harold “Mud” Runnels, a Democratic member of the U.S. House from New Mexico for 10 years, until 1980. Runnels’ survivors include his sons Joshua, North Carolina, and Sean (wife Jennifer), California; brothers Phillip (wife, Sherry), Paris, Texas, and Matthew (wife, Judy), Silver City; and sister Eydie, (husband, Joe) Clement, Midland, Texas; his 92-year-old mother, Dorothy Runnels, Humble City; two grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews and a great nephew; and good friend, Dawn St. George.

Joe Atkins, 94, died at his home on December 31,2014 surrounded by loving family and friends. He was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on August 28, 1920.  He graduated from Stillwater Oklahoma High School where he was a member of the 1938 State Championship Football Team. He was attending Oklahoma State University when World War II began. As many young men of that generation did, Joe joined the Marines and was assigned to the 1st Marines, 1st Division. Joe was wounded during the assault on Peleliu Island and wounded a second time during the occupation of Okinawa. After the war, Joe moved to Levelland and was a roughneck in the oil fields of West Texas. He met Beth O’Neil and they married on November 5, 1949. They moved to Hall County, Texas where Joe cowboyed and managed Bobcat Crossing Camp on the Mill Iron Ranch. On the day after Thanksgiving in 1950 they moved to Roy, New Mexico and began ranching in the Yates, New Mexico area. After purchasing a ranch in Missouri in 1974 they ranched in Missouri for 5 years before retiring to their farming interests in Hale and Lamb County,Texas. Joe took great pleasure in working with the young people in all the communities he lived. He started and endowed the Ogle Hopkins Wrestling Endowment at the University of Missouri to provide scholarships for members of the University of Missouri Wrestling Team. Joe was instrumental in providing quality horses to the Oklahoma State University Equine Department and horse farm for the benefit of the students.  He also took great interest in the Harding County Fair and bought 4-H animals at the livestock sale for decades to support the young people in the area. Among the organizations Joe belonged to over the years are the New Mexico Mounted Patrol, New Mexico Cattle Growers, NE New Mexico Livestock Association, Oklahoma State University Foundation and Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock, Texas. Joe liked nothing better than riding a good horse, working cattle with his children and neighbors. All-in-all his was a life well-lived. Joe is survived by his wife of 65 years Beth O’Neil Atkins, a daughter Lenora Neil Atkins of Roy and Albuquerque, a son Hugh Atkins of Phoenix, Arizona, other family members and many friends. Burial was at Ute Creek Canyon on the family ranch.

Editor’s Note: Email Memorial donations may be sent to the Cattlegrowers’ Foundation, a 501(c)3, tax deductable charitable foundation serving the rights of ranch families & educating citizens on governmental actions, policies & practices. Cattlegrowers Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 7517, Albuquerque, NM 87194. The New Mexico Stockman runs memorials as a courtesy to its readers. If families & friends would like to see more detail, verbatim pieces must be emailed to us, & may be printed at 10¢ per word.