Horatio ‘Rasch’ Winspear Burns

Thursday, August 23, 2018
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We are sad to share the news that Horatio “Rasch” Winspear Burns of Big Timber, Mont., passed away peacefully on Aug. 20. Rasch died while listening to the same classical music that was played at his wedding to Sheila (Shepherd) Burns, 57 years ago. His son Cameron was at his side.

We remember Rasch as a warmhearted father, grandfather and friend who loved his family, his friends, his ranch, his dogs and cows, probably in that order. He loved good conversation, a loud laugh, a good meal or cup of coffee with friends and finding a simple solution to a hard puzzle. Just a month ago he presented a cogent argument to his 12-year-old granddaughter Solange why it just might be possible someday for us to travel faster than the speed of light.

Rasch was born in Sheridan, WY in 1931 to Robert and Harriet (Winspear) Burns. His mother died on his fourth birthday, an early setback that gave him a lifelong independent streak. He lived with Harriet’s sister in Newark, NY from Harriet‚‘s death through kindergarten, telling the classroom he was from “Prairie Dog Creek”. His early days in Sheridan were highlighted by his dog Pooch, many horses and the roundup. In 1945, 14-year old Rasch took the train eastward to attend Milton Academy, MA. He arrived at Milton with a trunk, a head full of dreams and a severe case of culture shock. Initially, he nearly drowned in math class, but soon excelled in the subject, spurring creation of an advanced calculus class for him and early college admission. After graduating from Milton in 1949, he and his farther moved from Sheridan to Swamp Creek outside of Big Timber. He was joined by two half-sisters, Barbara and Janet.

In 1949, Rasch started at Harvard College, MA. There, he joined ROTC and the crew team. He loved to tell the story of hiding in the library to avoid a ROTC-required vaccine that he thought would compromise a big rowing race the next day. When the ROTC medics tracked him down, needles in hand, Rasch invoked a littleknown regulation allowing a 2-week leeway and narrowly avoided being court-martialed. Other rowing stories, including a broken oar, are too numerous to list, but his rowing teammates remained dear friends throughout his life. In the winter of 1952, Rasch graduated early from college and headed back to Big Timber to work on the ranch. That spring, he looked up from shoeing a horse one day and his college buddy Paul Milde showed up to drag him back to Harvard for a proper graduation with his class of 1953.

Rasch turned down an opportunity to earn a master’s degree in engineering, and employment at Ford Motor Company and NASA, to work on the ranch. He chose to serve his country via food production, an alternative to fighting the Korean war. He fell in love with the ranching life, physical labor and being outdoors. After two years of ranching, one day he went to Newark, NY to visit his mother’s family and then took the train to Boston to visit college buddies. Sheila Ellen Shepherd stepped onto that train, and at one point, they were the only two on it. They married in 1961. Rasch frequently reminisced about Sheila and their 28 wonderful years spent together raising a family.

When Sheila died in 1989, Rasch found solace in opera, wildflowers and photographing the ranch and mountains. A new light entered his life when he married Judith “Pachy” Burns in 1995. Her love of ranching, adventure and the outdoors carried him through her untimely death in 2013 and beyond.

Rasch and his family are incredibly grateful to our friends and the Big Timber community for their unwavering kindness, small-town support and kinship through the hardship, joy and precious moments that are life.

Rasch is survived by his sisters Barbara and Janet, his children Cameron (Alison), Lindsay (Remi) and Seth (Nancy), his stepchildren Piney (Jenn) and Bluesette (Mark), grandchildren Mack, Henry and Andrew (Cameron and Alison), Solange and Blaise (Lindsay and Remi), Mina and Amelia (Seth and Nancy) and step-grandchildren Nik, Taybe and Kess (Piney and Jenn), and Andrew and Birch (Bluesette and Mark).

We will celebrate the life of Horatio Winspear Burns at 2 p.m., Saturday, August 25 at the Big Timber Lutheran Church. Please consider donating to the Sweet Grass Community Foundation (www.sweetgrasscf.org) P.O. Box 517, Big Timber, MT 59011 in lieu of flowers.