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August 17, 1942 ~ November 14, 2023 (age 81) 81 Years Old
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Ernie Habets passed away on November 14, 2023, after a short hospital stay, but a long battle with cancer.
Ernie was born Ernest Clarence Habets, August 17, 1942 in Conrad, Montana. At two years old, he came to live with his parents, Joe and Ceil Habets. He grew up on the family farm between Conrad and Shelby, where he grew his love of animals and agriculture. Ernie was an adventurous child and always admitted he gave his parents plenty of challenges. The story is that he once brought home a report card, that said Ernie shows leadership, but in wrong direction!
It must be from these early years, he learned he could make people laugh. He was good at it. He could always make you feel at ease and crack a joke out of pretty much anything.
Ernie attended school in Shelby and graduated in 1961. A short time out of high school, he enlisted in the army and served three years. He enjoyed his time in the service. He was stationed throughout the U.S. and overseas in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was stationed in a military advisement group. After the military, he spent a short time in Oregon, working in a factory. Soon he returned home to Conrad, working various jobs in the area, including parts man at the local John Deere Implement. It was during this time, that he met the love of his life, Shirley Denzer. She was waitressing at her brothers Restaurant, The Keg. They joke that he frequented the place so often, that he had his own beer mug with his name on it, and may be the sole reason the place stayed in business that winter.
Ernie and Shirley were married on September 17, 1966. They lived in a small trailer in Conrad where Ernie continued to work. Soon after, they moved to and worked for several different ranches in the area. They were able to own and run a small herd of cows.
In their married life, they never didn’t own cattle. At one point, circumstances brought them down to one, but they never gave up their passion. Ernie was good with horses and cattle. He knew how to handle cattle with a gentle hand.
Ernie & Shirley purchased the farm from Ernie’s parents, Joe & Ceil, in 1973. They took the operation and expanded with more lease land and bigger equipment. Through the years, they shifted the emphasis from grain growing to Ernie’s passion - cattle and hay production. He took pride in his cows and putting up good quality hay.
Ernie taught their son, Jeff, born in 1986 after twenty years of marriage, the same principles and values. Ernie always wanted things to move forward. He saw the need for things to advance and change. He developed irrigation systems and implemented practices to better utilize resources. He was noted for being a very good conservationist. He believed that you need to take care of the land, so it can take care of you. He was once named Conservationist of the Year by the local Conservation District for his salinity control practices.
Ernie worked very hard to ensure that his son would have the ability to stay in agriculture. He continued to work very hard throughout his whole life, right up until his last days. Ten days before his death, he was in the corral, helping Jeff sort calves for shipping.
Ernie and Shirley had been successful in passing the ranch down to the next generation. Jeff and his wife Lindsey had taken the reins in 2019, so Ernie and Shirley could enjoy retirement right where they wanted to - on the ranch. Because, everyone knows, a rancher never really retires. Ernie still kept up doing exactly what he wanted to. And even better, with small helpers- called Grandkids.
His retirement was fully enjoyed by being a Grandpa. He had no traditional hobbies. His enjoyment in life was his family and his work. Grandpa Ernie and Hayden would feed cows all winter. And in the summertime, you’d find them on the hay raking tractor. For the past several years, those three grandkids were his reason for living. We are all so thankful that they had that opportunity to know their Grandpa Ernie and have the relationship with him that they did.
Ernie is proceeded in death by his parents, Joe and Ceil Habets; and Shirley, his wife of 54 years and best friend. He is survived by his son Jeff and daughter-in-law Lindsey, grandson Hayden, and granddaughters Hadley and Aubrey. He is also survived by sister Sheila Fleming, niece Kelli (Donny) Schroeder & sons Ethan, Kyle and Kole, and nephew Health Plagmann, all of Tulsa OK; niece Kristi (Chris) Brislawn & son Reilly of Santa Fe, NM; and nephew John (Lori) Denzer of North Carolina. He leaves behind many other relatives and good friends.
A Memorial Service will be held at the Marias Valley Golf & Country Club, Shelby MT, Wednesday, November 22 at 2 pm.
Memorials in honor of Ernie can be made to the Toole County 4-H Cloverbuds.