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Friday, July 23, 2021

Joe ‘Rusty’ Cleo McKee

Joe “Rusty” Cleo McKee passed away unexpectedly June 26, at the age of 78, doing one of the things he enjoyed the most: working his fields and making the grass green. Rusty was born May 25, 1943, to Roy and Maudie Bell McKee on their homestead in Pie Town, N.M. He attended first through eighth grade at the Pie Town School and never missed a single day. He attended ninth through 12th grade in Albuquerque, N.M. After high school, he got a job as a government trapper for the state of New Mexico. He moved to Pagosa Springs, Colo., in 1974 and worked for Dick Ray as a guide. When hunts were over, he stacked lumber on the green chain at the sawmill. In 1975, he started working for the Rafter T Ranch and, in the winter, he drove a coal truck at the coal mine. In 1976, he purchased this place and went to work for Bob and Honey Stovall on Yellowjacket Creek as an outfitter. When the hunts were over, he and Wayne Farrow cut firewood to sell. That’s when he met one of his good friends, Alan Farrow. They guided and ranched together, and made a pretty ornery pair. In 1979, he worked with Jake Montroy looking after yearling cattle on the Teal Ranch. When that summer was over, he drove a propane truck for Plateau Station. In 1980, he started working for Dan McCarthy on the East Fork Ranch taking care of cattle in Colorado in the summers and in Napi, N.M., in the winters. In 1985, he started doing river restoration on the East Fork in addition to taking care of the cattle. In 1986, the Turkey Springs permit was purchased, which doubled the amount of cattle that he cared for. In 1991, he married Jill Elliott in a horseback ceremony on the Notch Ranch in the Upper Piedra. This is also when he started doing river restoration full time. While working as Rusty’s River Restoration, which later became Waterway Restoration, he worked coast to coast and worked in the following states: New York, Georgia, California, Montana, Oklahoma, Maryland, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Idaho. In 2002, he and Jill purchased their lower property below their home and when he wasn’t on a river job, they farmed their own fields. He also helped his neighbors with their fields, mechanical problems or anything else they might need help with. These were the many things he enjoyed doing and he continued doing them until the end, and wouldn’t have had it any other way. He is preceded in death by his parents, oldest brother Kenneth McKee, and youngest sister Elaine Carrejo. He is survived by his wife, Jill McKee; sons Floyd (Lori) McKee and John McKee (Linda); siblings Kathryn (Ronnie) Roberts, Jack Dean (Ima) McKee, and Delroy Gray; grandchildren Tayler (Bryan) Hill, Kyler McKee, Carson McKee, and Kaden McKee; great-grandkids Roy and Charlotte Hill, and 22 nieces and nephews. 

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