Pioneer Routt County rancher Lewis Kemry died Tuesday at age 93. His funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the First Baptist Church.
In 1990, the Steamboat Pilot & Today published an article on the Kemry family and the role Lewis Kemry played in Routt County’s ranching heritage. The article, written by Joanna Dodder, is reprinted below.
Kemrys honored for Hereford breeding
The Kemry family is synonymous with the long-standing ranching heritage of Routt County, with Lewis Kemry at the cornerstone.
Lewis was honored for his skills this year by being named one of two “Commercial Breeders of the Year” by the Colorado Hereford Association.
Born near the historic Four Mile Bridge along the Elk River about 10 miles northwest of Steamboat Springs, Lewis has lived all of his 69 years within 15 miles of his birthplace, excluding a stint in the Army. His ranch is located along County Road 44 near the shadow of Sleeping Giant Mountain, or Elk Mountain as old-timers call it.
Like most ranch kids, Kemry was enterprising from the start.
“My folks had a little herd of Shorthorn cows to start with, but in the middle '20s, Dad started using Hereford bulls,” recalled Kemry. “In 1934, I raised a small twin calf on a bucket with the skim milk calves and sold it as a yearling steer. I used the money to buy a heifer from the Dawson Ranch at Hayden. The next year I sold some wheat and raised another $90, which I invested in two more of these good heifer calves. I believe Ferry Carpenter was in charge there at the time.”
In the 1930s and '40s, small smooth cattle were all the rage in the industry, Kemry recalled. Livestock shows had a great deal to do with setting the standard.
“People would see these little rascals at the big shows, then go home and think, ‘Now how do I do that?’” he said.
In December 1950, his family sold steers that weighed 640 to 670 pounds. This year they weighed an average of 867 pounds on Sept. 12 (1990), and the heifers went in at 898 pounds a couple weeks later.
“Our weights have consistently come up over the years,” concluded Kerry.
However, it’s unlikely the weights will continue to increase in the near future, because shipping habits keep the weights steady, he observed. While carcasses once were shipped by the half or whole on hooks in boxcars, today shipments are regulated by the “boxed beef trade.” Cuts must be a uniform size in order to fit into a finite number of box sizes for shipment.
Besides tending to his ranch, Kemry has long been active in the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the American Legion. He served five years on the local school board, nine on the local co-op board, and several more on the ASC committee.
Kemry and his wife of 40 years, Betty Jean, have raised three children. The couple also lends a helping hand to other kids around the county by providing market and breeding livestock for 4-H projects, and by occasionally helping to train the 4-H livestock judging team.
“We’ve had youngsters in this big ol’ barn for years now,” Kemry chuckled.
It looks as if the ranching tradition will continue at the Kemry homesite through son Jim, who feeds the cattle every morning with his father and owns about 50 head of producing cows on the ranch.