John W. “Bill” Sausser, 92, of Sabetha, Kansas died January 22, 2013. Bill was the last surviving Charter Member of the Pikes Peak Range Riders. Jim Williams from the Pikes Peak Range Riders stated “It is truly the end of an era for the Pikes Peak Range Rider organization”.
Bill began his life in Seneca on February 9, 1920. His parents were George A. and Margaret “Maggie” McNally Sausser. He graduated in 1938 from Seneca High School where he was a star football player, leading his team to a great season his senior year and was chosen most valuable player.
After high school, Bill worked for Red Kelly at his gas station and at Winterscheidt Milling; he also helped his father in his business of moving and remodeling houses.
In 1942, he entered the U.S. Army; attending Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and was commissioned June 3, 1943. Bill served until 1946 in the 613th Field Artillery Battalion, MARS Task Force; a unit in which mules carried heavy artillery along the Burma Road, helping to keep supply lines open from India to China. Captain Sausser was commander and leader of his unit, and was awarded a bronze star for his service. The story of the mule trek to China was retold in New Yorker Magazine in 1954 and Bill was mentioned in the article. He was discharged from active duty and remained in the Army Reserves until 1953.
After the war, Bill moved to Colorado Springs and worked on the Lazy B Ranch spending a number of years as manager of the Pine Valley Ranch. He was proud of the registered quarter horses that he owned, trained and rode earning many trophies, ribbons and awards; he was featured on the cover of a booklet called “Your Horse and You,” published by the Humane Society, Pikes Peak Region, in 1958.
His favorite horses were Old Blue, “the best horse I ever had”, Pony McCue, who won the first “Champion of Champions” award at the Colorado State Fair, and Patty’s Queen, who produced a number of champion offspring.
Bill was preceded in death by his wife of 22 years, Gwendolyn (Warrick) Glenn of Pawnee City, Nebraska. his parents; a brother, George Jr.; a sister Marguerite Blaylock and an infant sister, Florence; and brothers-in-law, Herman Beyreis, Arden Droge, Louie Foltz and Burr Blaylock. He is survived by three sisters, Mamie Beyreis and Bessie Droge of Sabetha, Kansas, and Helen Foltz of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; three nephews, Michael Droge (Molly) of Parkville, Missouri, Richard Droge (Susan) of Lakewood, Colorado, and Craig Foltz (Linda) of Lee’s Summit; a niece, Elizabeth Wells (Mike) of Carrollton, Texas; a number of grandnieces and grandnephews; and special family friend, Laurie Cavin. He is also survived by two step-daughters, Karen Hamer (Tom) of Tecumseh, Nebraska, and Kathy Glenn of Lincoln, Nebraska.
The funeral service was held on February 2, at the Friedens United Church of Christ near Bern, Kansas. A graveside service and inurnment with military honors will be conducted at a later date. Memorials may be designated for the Pikes Peak Range Riders Foundation or the Friedens United Church of Christ.
The Pikes Peak Range Riders first ride was in July, 1949 as an experiment to promote the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, resulting from an idea of Everett Conover and Kenneth Brookhart. A total of thirty-eight riders made the first trip. The second year, the ride was preceded by a Street Breakfast held on Pikes Peak Avenue. The breakfast had been held for a number of years to promote the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo so it was a natural as a starting point for the Range Riders. The crowd during the first few years consisted of fifty to one hundred. Breakfast was served by Joe Reich, Sr. from the Swiss Chalet Restaurant and a number of picnic tables accommodated the crowd. The Street Breakfast has grown considerably and is now served by cooks from Fort Carson to over 10,000. Bill was the last surviving charter member of the Pikes Peak Range Riders that began in 1949. Bill made 18 rides with them, his last in 1974.
The mission of the Pikes Peak Range Riders is “to promote and support the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, support the Pikes Peak Range Riders Foundation, and to carry on our western heritage.” The organization has grown to over 200 members; with around 160 on the annual ride. Events including the Colorado Springs Street Breakfast and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo support local military charities.
Making the nearly 600 mile drive and attending the service for Bill were Range Riders Ken Starkey, Duane Watson, Jim Dickey, Mark Knight, Doug Smith, Mark Smith, Russ Freeman, and Mike McArthur. The Range Riders rode their horses at the service and led a horse with an “empty saddle” representing the loss of their charter member.
The following poem was written to honor the “empty saddles” by former Range Rider, Ken Ochs:
“These Range Riders no longer on this earth do ride,
They now follow new trails beyond the great divide.
Where the water’s sweeter and the grass grows higher,
And the way is so easy that man or mount never tire.”
Left to Right: Mark Smith, Russell Freeman, Duane Watson, Empty Saddle, Jim Dickey, Mark Knight, Mike McArthur, Ken Starkey, Doug Smith.