Happy Trails to the Head Cowboy

William M. (Bill) Leonard

March 20, 1927 - May 9, 2009

Dad and Queen
Dad working with Queen, along with her colt Bucky, in 1966.

Yellow Roses For My Girl
Bringing flowers to Mom in the hospital in 2007.

Grampa Great
Showing the herd to Abigail, first of 12 great-grandchildren, at Leonard Limousin in 2000.
Boots and Black Tie
Mom and Dad do clean up nicely, don't they?

Life Story of William M. (Bill) Leonard

A lifetime member of the North American Limousin Foundation and co-founder of one of the oldest, active Limousin operations in the U.S. – with member #431 – was called home May 9, 2009, when William M. (Bill) Leonard, 82, passed away in Ida County, Iowa.

Mr. Leonard and his son, Mark W. Leonard, founded Leonard Limousin, Holstein, Iowa, in 1969.

Mr. Leonard was born March 20, 1927, in the family home on their farm north of Holstein to Hiram J. and Christina D. (Schroeder) Leonard. He was the youngest of a prominent Holstein pioneering family, with seven older brothers and two older sisters. Truly they were a family in a “house by the side of the road and a friend to man.” He lost both his parents as a boy in 1936 and as a result young Billy learned early on to be independent, tough, and resourceful. He often said he was raised on the toes of his big brothers’ boots.

Baptized and confirmed in the United Methodist Church in Holstein, he attended country school and graduated from Holstein High School in 1944. Mr. Leonard served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the 34th Infantry Regiment and in the Military Police while stationed in Kyoto, Japan.

He was married Dec. 18, 1949, to Gloria Mae Hoops of Galva, Iowa. They lived on three farms during their 59-year marriage and one of the happiest days of their full lives together was Sept. 25, 1963, when they purchased the Lage Estate north of Holstein. It was an auction that drew 5,000 bidders and visitors and newspaper articles recorded that “there had never been anything like it, probably never would be again.” After living there for more than 45 years, his final day on his farm was spent checking the newborn calves and looking over the new plantings of 200 shrubs and trees, a gift from his children. Mr. Leonard was proud of his hometown heritage and liked to remark that he lived his whole life within 8 miles of the house where he was born, excepting only for when he served his country overseas.

To this union were born three children: Billee Jean Leonard Madsen, Mark W. Leonard, and Lori Sue Leonard Morgan. He leaves to mourn his departure his beloved wife and children, seven grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, four grandsons-in-law, and a host of relatives and friends.

He met with success in his lifelong vocation of farming and ranching, over the years raising row crops, hay, Saddlebreds and quarterhorses, Yorkshire hogs, commercial beef cattle, and purebred Limousin breeding cattle. A professional milestone came in 1978 when he acquired an ownership interest in Sooner Jr., the highest-selling bull in the history of the Limousin breed. During Bill’s time in the Limousin business numerous successes were achieved including producing the first-, third-, and ninth-place steers in the first national Limousin Steer contest and owning Polled Hawkeye, sire of the steers and champion sire group. Through the years Leonard Limousin has owned other noted and champion bulls such as Polled Perfection, SLVL Cruiser, Extra Spectacular, Polled Preference, SLVL Stout, Beefmaster, Polled Pension and Polled Titan. Leonard Limousin has sold breeding stock to customers in 23 countries on five continents and in more than 40 states.

A proud father, he was gratified when son Mark was elected to various NALJA offices, including president in 1974, and when daughter Lori was named National Limousin Queen in 1980. He traveled the country with his family and the showstring during the 1970s-80s, reveling in the purple ribbons and high-dollar sales. But more importantly he taught his children to accept with grace standing further down in a class as well.

Mr. Leonard steadfastly believed in performance and genetics in his cattle, traits far and away more important than trying to predict trends. He insisted his cattle be fertile, sound, and productive, but he did admit to one strong preference that was skin deep. He wanted his cattle red … golden red … a genetic marker Sooner Jr. stamped firmly on all his progeny. He insisted last year that all his cows be A.I.’d to Sooner Jr. When you visit the herd north of Holstein, you’ll always see the “red cows with tan pants” grazing the green pastures north of Holstein. It’s a legacy that Dad, and Sooner Jr., leave for all of us.

In a final tribute, the funeral procession passed by the Leonard Limousin gateway en route to the cemetery on Iowa Hwy 59. The herd bulls stood at the fenceline as mute sentinels watching the head cowboy being carried home.

Mr. Leonard was a lifetime member of the North American Limousin Foundation, president of Co-op Inc., active in the Farm Bureau, a Boy Scout leader, president and trustee of the St. Paul Lutheran Church, president of the Holstein Cemetery Board, a life member of the American Legion Dessel-Schmidt Post 225, and member of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Mr. Leonard was a man who believed in honor above all. He was a student of political trends, a staunch Republican, a real cowboy, and a devoted family man who is greatly missed by his family and friends.

He was preceded in death by: his parents; five brothers, Abraham J., H. Arnold, Jesse H., Elvin E., and Ransom C., and one sister, Viola C. Sinns. He is survived by the love of his life, Gloria; children Billee and husband Reas Madsen; Mark and wife Sheryl; and Lori and husband Randall Morgan; grandchildren Jennifer Mochwart, Amanda (Scott) Vanis, Emily (Marc) Melody, Erin (Raen)Schechinger, Ember (Ross) Muhlbauer, Denae Leonard, and Austin Leonard; great-grandchildren Abigail, Emma Jane, Caroline, Jacob, twins David and Daniel, Iris, Josephine, and Olivia; two brothers Maurice O. (Lillian) and George W., and a sister Mary J. Conover.

“Happy Trails,” Dad.

Below is a poem by Baxter Black that he kindly gave permission for us to reprint in Dad's funeral service program. It wasn't written for Dad, but I have to say, it sure seems like it was. As always, Baxter gets it exactly right. See for yourself:


I Know You'll Miss This Man

By Baxter Black

The Lord spoke to the heavy hearts that stood with hats in hand
“Your sadness pains me deeply and I know you’ll miss this man
But, it’s true what you’ve been hearing, Heaven is a real place.
That’s no small consolation. You should use that fact to face

The emptiness his parting left that seeps into your bones
And draw on it to ease your pain. For he is not alone.
You see, all his friends are up here and all his loved ones, too,
‘Cause it wouldn’t be a heaven without each one of you.

And heaven for a cowboy is just what you might expect,
It’s horses that need tunin’ up and heifers that need checked.
It’s long rides with a purpose and a code that lights the way
And a satisfying reason to get up every day.

It’s the ranch he’s always dreamed of and never knew he’d find
And if you think about it, you can see it in your mind.
Him, leanin’ in the saddle with his ol’ hat on his head,
Contentment set upon his face like blankets on a bed.

The leather creaks a little as he shifts there in the seat.
The bit chains give a jingle when his pony switches feet.
And you somehow get the feelin’ that he’s sittin’ on a throne
A’gazin’ out on paradise just like it was his own.

I can promise you he’s happy, though I know you can’t pretend
You’re glad he made the journey. It’s too hard to comprehend.
The earthly way you look at things can never satisfy
Your lack of understanding for the answer to the ‘Why?’

So, I offer this small comfort to put your grief to rest,
I only take the top hands ‘cause my crew’s the very best.
And I know it might seem selfish to friends and next of kin
But I needed one more cowboy and Billy fit right in.”

Nobody knows how to say it better, do they? Thanks, Baxter.


Dad's gone, but his legacy lives on ...

Purebred Limousin and Angus Beef Cattle
Bred for performance and function since 1969

♦ Yearling and 2-year-old red and black, polled bulls
♦ Bred cows ♦ Cow/calf pairs ♦ Replacement heifers ♦ Semen

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