Billie Bender was rodeo trick rider

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We mourn the Easter Day loss of famed rodeo trick rider Billie Bender, who passed away early Sunday morning, April 8, 2012.  Born Sept. 3, 1938, in Flint, Mich., and an only child, she is preceded in death by her father, rodeo legend Bennie Bender of Mobridge, and mother, Lucille (Hicks) Bender of Flint.

Billie was a natural cowgirl and like her famous dad, had a special way with animals, teaching them tricks and acts to perform before large audiences.  She was raised in Mobridge and, by the tender age of five, was trick riding while Bennie was clowning and bullfighting at major rodeos around the country.  Wearing costumes sewn by her mom Lucille, Billie trick rode at full speed on her favorite Palomino horse, “Monte Montana,” into her 20s. She appeared as a weeklong guest on the Arthur Godfrey show during her teenage years, and acted as an extra in several western movies including “The Rounders” with Henry Fonda.

Following her trick riding career she mastered the art of leather work and hand-tooled custom pieces for renowned people and personal friends such as Casey Tibbs, Rex Allen, Ben Johnson and Audie Murphy, to name a few.  Living in Tucson, Ariz., she married racehorse jockey Kenny Hare.  Her next companion was jockey and Kentucky Derby Winner Ray York, and she later married jockey Donald Brammeier.

In 2009 Billie and her late father Bennie were both honored at the 20th Annual Tribute Dinner given by the Casey Tibbs Foundation in Pierre.  Several years ago she left Tucson and moved to Spearfish to be near family.

Billie never met a stranger, was always ready to smile and laugh at herself and truly enjoyed life and good times.  It was her larger than life personality, quick wit and dry sense of humor that friends and family will remember her most by.  Thanks for the memories Cuz…

Billie is survived by her beloved dog, Chi-chi; cousins Barry, Reno (Marjorie), Bridger and Brooke Bender of Spearfish; Uncle Marlyn and Aunt Clarice Bender, Uncle Darrell and Aunt Irene Bender, Aunt Elaine Lahren and Aunt Donna Mae Bohl of Mobridge; Aunt Bernice Pooley of Ridgecrest, Calif.; and many cousins.

Friends and family of Billie’s are invited to attend a “Celebration of Life” gathering in her honor for storytelling and refreshments on Saturday, May 5, 2012 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the new Days of ’76 Rodeo Museum in Deadwood.  Her remains will be placed next to her parents in the Greenwood Cemetery, Mobridge.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Days of ’76 Museum.

Online condolences may be written at www.fidler-isburgfuneralchapels.com.

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