J. Shirly Bothum

J. Shirly Bothum

Artist J. Shirly Bothum, 65, of Joseph died Jan. 20, 2003, at Sacred Heart Hospital in Spokane, Wash., where he was flown after suffering a heart attack in Lewiston, Idaho.

In 1937 J. Shirly Bothum was born to John and LaVonne Bothum in Seward, Kansas.

Shirly was one of 12 children born to this Kansas sharecropping family. The Bothums moved to the Willamette Valley when he was five. Shirly's early youth was spent working on ranches gaining a first hand knowledge of the animals he would later sculpt so well. In the tradition of the cowboy his interest in horses led him to the rodeo arena.

After graduating from high school in Woodburn he put his riding skills to practical use and went to punching cows and riding colts for Tony Vey on one of the largest spreads in the Northwest.

Shirly joined The Rodeo Cowboys Association in 1960. Classic saddle bronc riding was his event, and he competed at rodeos all over the west, including the Pendleton Round-Up and Chief Joseph Days.

In 1961 at a rodeo committee meeting in Lewiston he met Judy Stockdale, home visiting her parents from Fort Collins, Colorado. Shirly and Judy were engaged and married within the year. They recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. In the first years of their marriage Judy worked at Potlatch Forrest in Lewiston, Idaho, where they were leasing a small ranch. In 1962 they purchased their ranch on the Grande Ronde River. Shirly's management of this rugged six thousand acres led to his winning a Cattleman of the Year award in about 1967.

The first two of Shirly and Judy's three daughters were born while living on the Grande Ronde. Sheila Bothum Klausen was born in 1964 and Jill Bothum Hansen was born in 1967.

The family later sold the ranch and moved to Imnaha, where they lived on the Benson Ranch for over a year. When Sheila and Jill were ready to start school Shirly purchased a ranch in Cloverland, Wash., and moved the family to Clarkston, Wash., in the early 1970s. Their third daughter, Katy Jane Bothum, was born there in 1975.

It was in the Lewis and Clark valley, while working as a builder, Shirly began to seriously pursue his art career. As he worked and lived in the cowboy tradition he followed his dream turning his talents to preserving his western heritage in bronze.

Shirly lived in the Lewis and Clark valley in Idaho for more than 25 years. He placed three major bronze art commissions there: the Sacajawea fountain in Pioneer Park, the Saint Joseph Hospital diorama "Road to Health", and his final work, the Corps of Discovery trio of Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea, which he was in the process of installing at the foot of 21st street in Lewiston at the time of his death.

Ironically, Shirly was rushed to St. Joseph Hospital, the home of his diorama, on Friday, Jan. 17, after sustaining a massive heart attack. He was stabilized and flown to Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane, Wash., where he later passed away on Jan. 20 after a gallant fight for life.

Shirly had moved his family to the Wallowa Valley, where Judy was from, in 1988. Shirly grew to think of Joseph as his home and embraced the community, serving as a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Chief Joseph Days Rodeo Committee and the thriving art industry. He has indelibly left his mark in Joseph as a chosen participant in the main street improvement project, with his life-size sculpture "Tracking the Intruders" placed permanently on Main St.

In addition to his wife and daughters, Shirly was also adored by his horses Trigger and Pistol and his four grandchildren, Chase and Clayton Hansen of Payette, Idaho, and Grant and Courtney Klausen of Bainbridge, Island Wash.

A viewing was held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24 at Merchant Funeral Home in Clarkston. Funeral services were held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Joseph Community Center. The coffin was transported by mule-drawn hearse up Main St. to the center, accompanied by about 30 riders and a riderless horse carrying Shirly's trademark angora chaps. Interment was at Prairie Creek Cemetery near Joseph.

In lieu of flowers or gifts his family has created in memoriam the J. Shirly Bothum "Wildest Ride Award." Donations may be sent to Merchants Funeral Home at P.O. Box 107, Clarkston WA 99403. This award will be presented for the saddle bronc event at the Chief Joseph Days rodeo where he was the champion in 1964.

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