November 13, 1931 - March 21, 2021
John Benjamin Kendrick II, 89, died naturally on Sunday, March 21, 2021 of age-related complications after a surgical procedure. A lifelong Sheridan, Wyomingite, he also lived in Denver, Colorado for the last 40 years.
John was born November 13, 1931 in Washington, D.C., son of the late Manville Kendrick and Diana Cumming Kendrick of Sheridan, Wyoming. He attended boarding school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire before heading to Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from which he was graduated in 1954.
Immediately after college, he served as a private in the US Army, stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and Fort Devens, Massachusetts. While in the Army, John was an intelligence/electronics specialist who once fixed a damaged, top secret cryptography machine in a few hours when an entire team from the factory had been stymied for two weeks. Upon release from the Army, he returned to Wyoming to join his father running the ranches.
His paternal grandparents were Wyoming pioneers John Benjamin Kendrick and Eula Wulfjen Kendrick. A member of the Cowboy Hall of Fame born in Texas, the first John Kendrick was a penniless orphan who twice rode thousands of miles up the cattle trails from Texas to the Wyoming Territory. He was only 22 in 1879 when he first pushed cattle up the trail, riding drag in the dust as the junior hand.
On the second drive, he was the foreman. He continued to work hard and acquired several ranches to form the Kendrick Cattle Company. Trail End, John and Eula Kendrick’s home in Sheridan, Wyoming was completed in 1913 and is now a state museum.
John B. Kendrick served as Wyoming’s governor from 1915-17 and was a US senator from 1917 until his death in 1933. Senator Kendrick’s story is beautifully documented in One Cowboy’s Dream by Cynde Georgen.
In a letter of advice written on U.S. Senate stationery in 1932 to his daughter-in-law Diana about his infant grandson John, Senator John B. Kendrick wrote, “Now, whatever may be said about him, I am convinced that John means well and if you will give a little more time and thought to interpreting his meaning you will have no difficulty whatsoever in getting along with him. In one of his letters, Manville even stated that John was stubborn. Personally, I do not believe a word of it. My thought is that even at an early age he has come to an attitude of mind when he knows what he wants and when he wants it. Inasmuch as from the start he has looked more like his grandfather Cumming than anyone else, I take it that he has come honestly by this characteristic.”
The family loves this letter; although no one can attest to how it was received by John’s brilliant and headstrong young mother, who happened to be a crack shot in her own right. It’s likely good her father-in-law wrote this from the safety of his Senate office in Washington, D.C.
John’s maternal grandfather was Dr. Hugh Smith Cumming, surgeon general of the United States from 1920-36 serving under five presidents. He and Senator Kendrick were instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration hospital system. Dr. Cumming took charge of the U.S. Public Health Service in the fallout from the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, where he institutionalized the then new and revolutionary discoveries about infectious diseases.
John and his younger brother Hugh grew up in Trail End and on the Kendrick ranches with their parents and grandmother. John filled Trail End’s basement with scientific experiments and later its ballroom with music and dance parties. John was not averse to the odd prank, which may have involved minor explosions and rolling massive snowballs down the wood plank walkway into Kendrick Park several hundred feet below. These early forays into empirical science and physics stood him in good stead as he could build and fix anything he set his mind to on both the ranches and at his cabin in the Bighorn Mountains.
John succeeded his father as president of the Kendrick Cattle Company. He instituted modern management practices, particularly in the farming and irrigation operations. He worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to create a pheasant farm for conservation and sport. During these years, John was active in the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
John was a truly brilliant expert in an extraordinary number of subjects as he read prolifically, listened attentively, traveled widely and seemingly remembering every single detail and nuance while effortlessly building rapport with anyone from the most junior ranch hand to the most intellectually advanced luminary. A few of his numerous other talents were Army marksman who could shoot a can off a fencepost at 400 yards; fisherman who could drop a dry fly within a few inches of an unsuspecting trout; and, pilot who could fly the Kendrick Cattle Company little yellow Piper Cub airplane off of a short grass hayfield.
However, it was at his treasured historic Wyoming cabin in the Bighorn Mountains where John was the happiest working with his hands as a master machinist, tinkerer, welder, electrician, carpenter, and, as his oldest son Hugh put it, “he could perform most of these trades better than most craftsmen who did it for a living.” His beloved wife of 44 years, Cynthia Rippey Kendrick, said he had “a love affair with tools and fixing things.”
Above all, John was an amazing family man. Unless he overnighted at the ranches, he rose extra early to prepare a full ranch breakfast for his children every day except Saturday, when cereal was a treat, and Sundays when he made waffles or pancakes in imaginative shapes. His customary greeting for family and close friends alike was a bear hug, usually lifting anyone smaller off of the ground.
He was an intuitive cook who rejoiced in perfecting cuisines from Hindi and Chinese to classic American meals made on the grill or in the smoker.
He taught his kids and grandkids to think, to work hard, to be curious, to ask questions, to read with scrutiny, and to think before speaking. He loved classical music, opera, and his kitties, who often nestled in his lap as he digested yet another book. Even as his eyesight failed, he mastered the Kindle and read on and on.
There will be no more words, only an unfathomable silence, for this amazing chapter has closed. There will be no more toasts from the head of his table, no more captivating discussions, no more strong, long hugs, no more, “Dad, can you help me fix this?”
In addition to his adored widow Cynthia, he is survived by children; Hugh C. Kendrick and wife Emily of Atlanta; John B. “Jack” Kendrick III and wife Karen of Sheridan, Wyoming and Hurricane, Utah; Helen “Elena” K. Campbell of Nashville; Diana C.K. Untermeyer and husband Chase of Houston; Andrea R. Raschke and husband Keith of Lakewood, Colorado; Bentley R. Kendrick of Littleton, Colorado; and Francis W. Kendrick of Phoenix. Grandchildren; Jake and wife Nikki Kendrick, Sam Kendrick and wife Hannah, Megan K. and husband Denny Gresham, Kendrick Marie and Hugh Campbell, Elly Untermeyer, and Annalise and Ty Kendrick. Great-grandchildren; Timber and Mason Steir, Ben and Teddy Kendrick, Calvin and Malcolm Gresham, and first cousins Eula Hoff of Denver and Kendrick Harmon of Sheridan.
He was predeceased by his brother, Hugh Smith Cumming Kendrick who died in 1952 at the age of 18 as a result of a sports injury while attending Phillips Exeter Academy.
A private memorial will be held this summer at his cabin in the Bighorn Mountains following a family service at Sheridan Municipal Cemetery where he will join his parents, brother, and Kendrick grandparents.
The family wishes to thank many much-loved helpers of several decades, and the nurses and doctors of the UC Health Anschutz Intensive Care Unit for their kind care.
The family also appreciates the many beautiful flowers that have already been received and wishes for any other memorial donations be made to: Trail End Historic Site in Sheridan, Wyoming; Bradford Brinton Museum in Big Horn, Wyoming; the Friends of Man in Denver, Colorado; the Senator John B. Kendrick branch of the Future Farmers of America in Sheridan, Wyoming; or a charity of your choice.