Fred Reno Ager was born in Deadwood, South Dakota on April 2, 1942. He was the third child of Reno and Louise Ager and as time passed Fred was one of twelve children… 4 boys and 7 girls.
It is interesting to note that Fred could rightfully claim to carry two birth certificates, one identified him as Fred Ager born April 4, 1942 the other identified him as Paul Ager born on April 2, 1942. His mother, Louise, discovered the error and tried to have it cor- rected but the only correction was to change the name to Fred on the certificate dated April 2, 1942.
Fred has shared with me from time to time of the struggles that he had early in his life. While it was challenging enough to live in a family of twelve kids, he also shared a troubled relationship with his father.
His adolescent years were spent working at the Ager salvage yard on the corner of Highway 34 and 85 – it certain- ly was a family endeavor and he told me that it was hard work! When he wasn’t in school (he admitted once to me that he was the brightest one in his class but his grades didn’t really reflect how very smart he was.) he and his brothers, Dave and John, loaded iron on rail cars by hand. He was an industrious as a young man – always working at something – he and his brothers would hunt small game for fun and sell the pelts for money.
At the age of fourteen he worked on a farm outside of Nisland for $4.00 a day. He felt that he wasn’t learning much in school so he quit some time before the age of 16 years old. At the age of 16 he ran away from home with his brothers Dave and John.
His two brothers eventually returned home but Fred never looked back on this “adventure” as he called it. Again, industri- ous as he was, he always found work to support himself.
I asked him once about “sleeping under bridges” during this time and he said that he al- most enjoyed it because he was alone and at peace. I person- ally believe that this “sleeping under the bridge” experience tempered his life and gave him the heart that he had for those who struggled in life. He never forgot where he came from and was always sensitive to people down on their luck as he put it!
Somewhere along the way Fred did receive his GED di- ploma and he continued to learn and grow as he went through these experiences.
Fred enrolled and was edu- cated in a mechanics school in Kansas City, Missouri in the 60’s. After his mechanic school- ing, Fred returned to Belle Fourche and spent the next year working 12 hours a day helping to build the Colony Truck Stop in Colony, Wyoming.
Following that job, he managed Patron’s Oil in Belle Fourche for 18 years. Fred was a devoted, hardworking man and he was successful in virtually every endeavor. Fred married Wanda Routh in 1963 and he and Wanda were blessed with two children, Linda and Jeff. Always looking for op- portunity, Fred purchased his father’s Iron Place in 1979.
Four years later Fred was back in school learning another trade that I personally think was one of his favorite pastimes.
Fred went to Auctioneer School in Billings, Montana and was graduated in 1983. Doing what he really loved, he served the Black Hills and surrounding area with his auctioneering and real estate services for 25 years. Time spent in the auctioneering business was a passion with Fred that he never set aside.
He told me once that if he wasn’t in church on Sunday, he was at an auction somewhere buying things that he didn’t need but loved to collect. Fred and Wanda purchased a ranch in Aladdin, Wyoming in 1984 and lived there until 1994. During the early 90’s Fred managed the CO-OP in Hulett, Wyoming and also worked as a Ford salesman.
Take a moment with me and let’s review this man’s incredible working career. Working on a ranch, odd jobs as a young man, trained mechanic, construction worker, manager of Patron’s Oil, manager of Cenex in Hulett, Wyoming, auctioneering on a regular basis, involved in real estate, a Ford auto salesman, buying and selling antiques, refinishing furniture and some other things that I don’t quickly recall.
This man defies that age old adage! It is said “that a man was a jack of all trades but master of none”. Fred Ager was a jack of all trades and master of all of them.
While all of this was going on, he still found time to hunt, fish, play serious poker and other card games, and tell endless stories that were always entertaining and humorous.
He loved animal of all types… dogs and a pet deer. Oh! Lest I forget, Fred also served on the city council here in the City of Belle Fourche. In this capacity he also served with distinction.
He was a walking text book in regard to facts and figures and he could tell you the specific numbers of money wasted by our various levels of government – not just to complain but to provide you with a better solution that would save the city money.
Fred had an amazing mind. He could calculate figures in his head faster than anyone could do it with a calculator. He would get a bit intense about city politics from time to time and I once asked him why he stayed involved if it bothered him so much.
His response was another one of Fred Ager’s classic statements… “Someone smart must keep his finger on the pulse of the city – I’m your man!”
Fred has lost his wife in an auto accident. In 2001, Fred married Arlene Garduna and he spent the next 22 years sharing her life. Just a few days ago I spent some time with Fred and he told me how much he had enjoyed and appreciated Arlene.
This is when I got to know Fred as his pastor for twenty years. I remember attending Bible studies with Fred and Arlene at Willie Ruby’s home on Wednesday night.
Fred and I were there for the pot luck supper and they were special times. Many of you are aware of Fred’s sense of humor and he tell some of his stories around that dinner table. We all know that some of those stories were “edgy” and what made them even more entertaining was the looks that he got from Arlene!
Fred always came to church a bit early for his doughnut before the service and I will miss those times of conversation with Fred.
Fred didn’t say much about his commitment to Jesus Christ but his faith was obvious in the way he lived and the kindness he showed toward people in need.
In one of my final conversations with Fred just before he passed away, he openly professed his faith in and his love for Jesus Christ. One of the most precious times I have spent with any man… Fred was burdened at that time because of things in his past that he regretted.
He wanted to make sure that God would forgive him for those troubling memories from his past. It was my privilege to share him the most comforting scriptures that I love to share with those who are troubled with past guilt.
God forgives and God forgets and I will treasure the moment when that reality set- tled into Fred’s spirit.
He said Paul… “I believe that with all my heart but I wanted to hear it again.
Fred also shared with me at for Arlene… He told of the difference that she had brought about in his life, the faith that she inspired, and the love that she shared with him. He also wanted me to tell his children how much he treasured them in his heart… his grandchildren, the Garduna boys and their families. He said that he felt like God had blessed him twice!
Fred’s children, Linda and Jeff have expressed their appreciation for the legacy that Fred has left them.
From this man, their father, they learned from his example of living with honesty, integrity, and the value of hard work that is well done.
Son-in-law, Bill, spoke of the respect and love that Fred expressed toward him and his acceptance and support.
He will be remembered by all of us as one unique and talented man who enriched our lives by his presence with us.