Hugh M. Estes
Hugh M. Estes, 84, Rapid City, died Sunday, February 7, 2016 of cancer at home, surrounded by his family.
He was a successful businessman who grew up on a ranch north of Wall.
Estes was born December 9, 1931 to Hugh P. and Charlotte Estes, who ranched north of Wall. While attending country school he became a young cowboy, helping in roundups, branding, and ranch chores.
After his father died, when Estes was 11, he and his siblings helped their mother and hired hands run the ranch. He graduated from Wall High School in 1949.
While in high school, he played trumpet and started a five-piece orchestra (sometimes 7) called the Modernaires. At one time or another they played every dance hall, community building, and gymnasium between Ft. Pierre and Rapid City.
In 1948, his older brother Bud purchased the Gamble Store in Wall. Hugh worked there as a clerk but soon joined the Marines and shipped out for Korea. He was re-routed to Japan, where his unit controlled the operation of Japanese stevedores loading ships with supplies headed to Korea. He visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sites of the atomic bomb attacks.
Returning to the US in 1953, he rejoined his brother at the hardware store. They began raising cattle and sheep on the side. They also purchased a Jeep trencher and began a ditch-digging business. Soon they had several trenchers, a backhoe, and a bulldozer and were doing farm, ranch, and commercial projects.
In 1955, Estes married Amie Petersen, a Wall schoolteacher. Hugh and Amie had three children, Brad, Bret, and Brenda.
Hugh and Bud purchased the Buckstead Cabin Camp in Wall in 1956 and began adding more units. Later they built the Sands Motel. The ditching business grew into a booming construction company. In 1979 Hugh built the Estes Building Center in Wall, a 23,000 square-foot retail and warehouse facility.
With construction projects all over South Dakota, Estes got a pilot’s license and began trading airplanes until he ended up with a Beechcraft Bonanza.
He was active in the Lutheran Church, and at one time was President of the congregation. He served on the Wall School board and chaired it. He was a lifelong member of American Legion Post 246 in Wall and for a time was commander of the post. He was a member of the Quinn Post of the VFW and was charter President of the Wall Jaycees.
In 1981, Hugh and partners purchased the Robbinsdale Lanes bowling alley in Rapid City, which they operated successfully for 20 years. After selling the construction company in 1990, Hugh and Amie moved to Rapid City.
With several partners, including family members, Estes opened the Gold Dust Casino in Deadwood and later built the Holiday Inn Express. He was chairman of the board. The operation employed at times 250 people and was widely regarded as the premier gaming attraction on Deadwood’s historic Main Street. They sold it in 2007.
Hugh then attempted retirement. He and Amie bought a ranch near Sundance, got a motorhome, and took their grandchildren on many camping trips.
Through it all, Amie worked at his side managing the business and handling the paperwork. They found time to go dancing almost every Saturday and to church on Sunday.
Hugh was preceded in death by an infant daughter, his parents, his brother Elmer (Bud) and Bud’s wife Patty, his sister Estelle Crowell, her husband Frank, and nephew Frank Crowell.
Hugh is survived by his wife (of 61 years) Amie, son Brad Estes and his wife Deb, his children Brittani Estes and Ian Estes; son Bret Estes and his wife Kay, their children Brian Estes and his wife Kari, Brooke Jonson and her husband Beck, Brock Estes and fiancée Lindsey Merkel; daughter Brenda Graziano and companion Alan Hanks, her children Brad Graziano, Anthony Graziano and Craig Graziano; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, inlaws and other relatives and friends.
Memorials have been established to either Calvary Lutheran Church or Hospice of the Hills.
A visitation will be held from 6:00 until 8:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016 at Calvary Lutheran Church. Funeral services will be held at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 13 at Calvary Lutheran Church.
Interment will be in Mt. Calvary Cemetery with military honors.