Donald James Rice
May 6, 1933 - January 7, 2021
Don Rice passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday, January 7, 2021 in Grand Junction, Colorado at the age of 87. He was born on May 6, 1933 in Nucla, Colorado to Jim and Rosalie Rice. He grew up on the family ranch with his two sisters, Bonnie Curtis and Edith Davis. He graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Animal Husbandry in 1956. One week later he married Marianna Enstrom, also from Nucla. Six months later he joined the US Army and was honorably discharged. Don and Marianna purchased the family cattle ranch from his parents and there they raised three children Christine Villard (Lynn), Michele Bergmann (Steven) and John Rice (Tammy). He was proud of how Marianna and the children worked alongside him to keep the ranch operating. Don was an authentic rancher and cowboy engaged in all aspects of ranch life including raising cattle, doing his own veterinary work, shoeing and breaking horses, rounding up cattle and branding calves.
Due to health reasons, they sold the cattle ranch in 1979 and he began a new career with the State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He worked as a Water Commissioner in Fort Collins and Craig, Colorado retiring in 1992. He was instrumental in developing one of the first data tracking systems for water allocation for Northwest Colorado. He was awarded Water Commissioner of the Year for his division.
After retirement they lived in the communities of Craig, Nucla and settling permanently in Grand Junction in 2010. His fondest memories were of time spent with family and friends as well as traveling, woodworking and time at the cabin near Craig. Throughout his entire life he was known as a quiet and kind man with impeccable integrity.
Don served on the West End School Board for several years, the Montrose County Planning and Zoning Commission and the National Forest Service Advisory Board. He was a member of the Nucla Cattleman’s Association and a board member of the Colorado Cooperative Ditch Company. Throughout his life he was an active member of the church, serving as a trustee and on various committees.
He is proceeded in death by his sisters, Edith and Bonnie and a great granddaughter, ClairLynn. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Marianna, and his three children, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren as well as numerous nieces and nephews. His grandchildren are Sean Villard (Amanda), Amy Villard (fiancé Cody Tennant), Deanna and Kayla Bergmann, Katie and Spencer Rice. His great grandchildren are Logan and EvaMarie Villard and Ashley and Luke Rhodes.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Hope West Hospice in Grand Junction at
Funeral Services will be held at The Redland Methodist Church on Friday, January 15, 2021 at 2:00 PM
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