Celebrating the life of Wesley Dean Imlay
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1929 was no picnic. When Black Tuesday hit on the 28th of October of 1929 it ushered in the Great Depression. Just over a month later on December 9th, 1929 Wesley Imlay was born in the middle of a snowstorm to his parents T. Carl and Pearl (Thompson) Imlay. T. Carl had to pull the doctor in with a team of horses through the snow to the family’s homesteader cabin for the delivery. Not the beginning of the great depression, nor a blizzard could keep Wesley from his debut! Hard times make great men and that was certainly the case with Wesley.
Wesley grew up in Montana, just northwest of Reed Point with his five brothers, Everett, Don, Vernon, Carl Jr., and Gene. Never is a hurry, Wesley was given the nickname ‘Speed’ by the service station owner in town and the nickname stuck. After graduating high school in Reed Point, he worked on ranches and helped his Dad build houses in the area. Speed joined the Army in 51. For the next 2 years he was a soldier, an infantry man, and a supply hauler in the Korean War. For his service, he was awarded the Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, the United Nations Service Medal as well as a Combat Infantry Badge.
After Speed’s time in the army, it was back to the big Sky country where he unlaced his combat boots and swapped them for cowboy boots. Back home and back to his roots, he started working on ranches. Leaving Reed Point, Speed found work on a ranch in Big Timber. It was also in Big Timber where he would meet his future wife. In 1954 Speed married Lorene ‘Lolly’ Braaten on September 12th. Speed and Lolly had four children in the years that followed. First came Theron, then Russell, flowed by Denise and finally Jeff. With a full family and ranching to be done, Speed continued ranching until the mid 70’s working in Absarokee, Livingston, Clyde Park and Rapelje.
By 1976 Speed had transitioned from rancher to mail carrier, trading in his saddle bags for mail bags. He ran mail for the United States Postal Service and supplies for lock merchants from Billings to Molt and Rapelje. Speed continued this route until 2001 when he retired and moved to Bridger. Easing into retirement, he stayed busy cutting firewood and helping with farmland irrigation in the area. In more recent years, Speed moved from Bridger to The Willows Assisted Living campus in Red Lodge. He could be seen driving his fellow compatriot’s downtown Red Lodge on many occasions, the cab of the truck full of old-timers and the box of the truck full of their walkers. Eight months ago, Speed packed his things one final time and moved to Billings. His last home was at Lasting Legacy Assisted Living where he passed away on November 3rd, 2020. Speed’s legacy lives on through his four children and their families. Theron Imlay (Mandy) Las Cruces, NM, Russell Imlay (Debbi) Bridger, MT, Denise Reno (Ron) Billings, MT and Jeff Imlay (Dawn) Gresham, OR. Speed had 10 nieces, 8 nephews, 15 grandchildren, and 11 (and counting) great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his wife Lolly (2002), his five brothers Everett, Don, Vernon, Carl Jr., and Gene, his grandson Seth (1998) and son in-law Ron Reno (2013).
Cremation has taken place and services for Speed will be held at a later date. Memorials in Speed’s name may be made to a charity of one’s choice.
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West of Big Timber
Big Timber, MT 59011