HELENA -- Don Blixt and Hester Ann Rea have been selected for the 12th class of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center.
Representing District 8, Blixt is entering as the Living Award, while Rea garnered the Legacy Award.
They will be honored during the annual Circle the Wagons gathering Feb. 7-8, 2020, at the Best Western Heritage Inn in Great Falls.
Don Blixt was born in 1939, in Wickes, to Tiva and Lila (Peterson) Blixt. He attended a one-room schoolhouse with five other students until fifth grade. As a young boy Don gathered cattle and chased wild horses in the backcountry area, while honing his riding skills.
After moving to Helena, he joined the Helena Trail Riders and was an active member until his sophomore year of high school, when he took up playing football and basketball for the Bengals. Upon graduation, Blixt enlisted in the U.S. Army, and went on to serve eight years in the Montana National Guard.
In 1958, he married his high school sweetheart, Patti Roberts. They parented three sons: Steve, Scott and Shannon. The couple also has five grandchildren, Davin, Dymon, Shelby, Madison and Mackenzie, and three great-grandchildren.
Don renewed his interest in horses and started bulldogging with Pal Palmer at a Montana City ranch, before he and Dick Kelly tried their luck at amateur rodeo, joining the Montana Rodeo Association. After obtaining the bulldogging horse “Dugan,” Blixt purchased his RCA pro-card, and hit the road with Jim Harris and Benny Reynolds, traveling to rodeos throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Don captured multiple East Helena and Townsend Rodeo bulldogging titles. His PR was set in Columbus, in 3.2 seconds, but he’s most proud of the family’s rodeo legacy. A Blixt has won or placed at every Montana rodeo and all four Blixts – Don, Steve, Shannon and granddaughter Shelby – garnered Augusta rodeo crowns in their respective events. The family was inducted into the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall and Wall of Fame in Billings in 2014.
In addition to those previously mentioned, Don and bulldoggers like Marvin “Butch” Joyce, Elmer Nettleton, John Tomaskie and DJ Smith, trained together in barns at the Elmer Nettleton, John Tomaskie and Gary Hoovestal properties. And although fierce competitors in the arena, they were always supportive of everyone’s success.
With Don in the hazing box, sons Steve and Shannon held several steer wrestling schools, around Montana.
A sheet metal worker, Blixt spent 45 years in the profession, retiring in 2010. At 80 years of age, he continues to support the rodeo community by volunteering for various associations. Don is board member of the East Helena Rodeo Club and a dedicated gate man at the timed event chutes every year.
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The late Hester Ann (Allemand) Rea (1933-2015) was born and raised on her family ranch north of Casper, Wyoming, known as the “Staple Three Sheep Company.” Hester grew up working with cattle, sheep, and horses but became especially fond of horses, developing an exceptional eye for both performance and quality.
After graduating high school, she attended the University of Wyoming, obtaining a degree in Business Administration. Following college graduation in 1955, Hester married pre-veterinary student Jack Rea.
In 1963, the couple moved to Montana, establishing their own veterinary practice and ranch outside Three Forks, where they raised their three children Wade, Teri and Buck.
Hester had the opportunity to put her business degree to work as the Rea veterinary practice expanded across the state. This is also when her instinctive passion for horses led her to develop a renowned breeding line of registered quarter-horses, raised and trained on the Rea ranch.
Hester was adept at recognizing horses that were not only beautiful, but also athletic, capable of working on the ranch and performing in the arena. A number of exceptional horses were produced from the Major Majority and Major Bonanza bloodlines on the Rea Quarter Horse Ranch.
In 1984 Hester’s daughter, Teri, captured the world championship in the Amateur Trail Class at the World Quarter-Horse Show in Oklahoma City on the mare, “Hobeau Bonanza,” from the Rea ranch.
Hester’s breeding program also yielded another world champion, “Hopes Magnolia Bar,” who won numerous titles in working cow horse and reigning events across the nation.
Hester actively served as a Montana state representative on several committees and was the Montana Board Director for the showing organization “Center of the Nation.” She also did much to influence and encourage the expansion and success of the Quarter Horse Association in Montana.
Hester was extremely devoted to her family, as well, and very proud of their many talents and accomplishments. Her dedication to hard work helped her to persevere the passing of daughter Teri and son Wade, in 2002 and 2014. Known as a force to be reckoned with, she had a sparkling sense of humor that made her famous for her many “Hesterisms.”
Hester Rea passed away at the age of 81, from a pulmonary embolism, after a day of being “out with her horses.”