Francis Knippling

Francis Knippling, age 85, of Wessington Springs, passed away Friday, March 1, 2024, at Weskota Manor in Wessington Springs. A celebration of life will be 10:30 AM, Wednesday, March 6, 2024, at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wessington Springs. Burial will follow at St. Placidus Catholic Cemetery, rural Gann Valley. Visitation will be 5-7 PM, Tuesday, March 5, also at the church, followed by a prayer service at 7.

He was born October 7, 1938, the fifth of nine children to Lambert and Alice (Kintigh) Knippling in Huron.

He grew up in Buffalo County on his family ranch where he enjoyed roping, riding and raising hell with his siblings.

He attended Grey Hill grade school, on the family ranch. Due to his mother’s insistence, he sought to become a priest, he attended a catholic school in Indiana. It only took two weeks for him to decide he wasn’t cut out for that profession as he couldn’t wear his cowboy hat and boots. He proceeded to graduate from Miller High School in 1956.

He married the love of his life, Karen Waring, on November 16, 1957 at Stephan. The two of them made an amazing team and supported each other throughout their lives. ­They raised their family of six kids on their ranch. Horses were another huge part of his life. He started the foundation of his quarter horse remuda with his stud, Vanzi Bar. At the height of his career, his production included 150 brood mares and five studs. They promoted their horses through horse racing, quarter horse shows and rodeos with great success and many awards. During this time a whole host of lifelong friendships were created and treasured. Our family pictures were usually captured in the winning circle at the horse races, with more kids appearing each year in them.

When Francis turned 50, this opened a whole new chapter in his life; Old Men’s Breakaway roping. This started a new era of rodeoing for him with his horse, Doc. He won the first SD Rodeo Association’s (SDRA) Over 65 Sr. Men’s Breakaway Championship. His collection of belt buckles exceeded 75, with many given away to family and close friends. One of his favorite organizations was the Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Dakota. While attending the SDRA finals, he along with others would give horse rides to the Make-A-Wish kids on Doc.

He will long be remembered for loving his family first and foremost, coming in a close second was the sport of rodeo. His faith was strong and carried him throughout his lifetime. He was in his element taking every opportunity to help the youth advance their skills in the sport of rodeo.

Francis and Karen celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary prior to her passing in 2011. He was very fortunate to find that special love a second time in his lifetime, when he met Donna Larson, whom he married on November 26, 2014. Donna passed away unexpectedly May 23, 2016.

Francis was a member of the South Dakota Quarter Horse Association having served as a board member and later President. Continuing his passion for rodeo, he was a long-time member of SDRA where he served as Vice-President and Board Director as well as a rodeo judge. He was also a member of Northwest Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Knights of Columbus. He received the Gold Buckle award from the Foothills Rodeo Club, and the legendary honoree award from the SD High School Rodeo Association for his work with the youth. He was also honored by the Casey Tibbs Foundation Match of Champions for his contributions in the sport of rodeo.

Grateful for having shared their life with Francis are his children: Brenda (David) Reis of Chamberlain, Rocky (Donna) Knippling of Chamberlain, Karla (Doug) Hofhenke of Huron, Roxanne Holm of Ashley ND, Barry (Sherri) Knippling of Chamberlain, Shannon (Scott) Dirk of Vale; 25 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren. Siblings: John (Cheryl) Knippling of Wessington Springs, Joe (LeAnn) Knippling of Flandreau and Carol (Larry) Marsh of Newberg, OR. Also grateful are special family friends, Joe and Tara Lopez along with their family.

Francis was preceded in death by his wife of 53 years, Karen Knippling and second wife, Donna Larson Knippling; parents Lambert and Alice Knippling; siblings: Robert (Ethel) Knippling, Helen (Wayne) Peterson, Katherine (Ross) Van Balen, Margaret (Frank) Schnell and Howard Knippling. Along with one son-in-law, Barry Holm.

Condolences may be sent to: 1865 Iowa Ave SE, Huron, SD 57350.