Published: Thursday, April 4th, 2013
David Lee Hunsaker was born Nov. 28, 1948, in Staples, Minn., the third of 13 children to Ken and Laverne Hunsaker. Hard work and ranching were constants, but the location varied from Minnesota, Utah and Montana before settling down in the Black Hills of South Dakota when he was a teenager.
Dave joined the U.S. Navy in the spring of 1966 at the age of 16. He was in complete awe serving on a tugboat in Kodiak, Alaska. He completed his high school education while serving in the U.S. Navy and continued to self-educate every day of his life. From 1966-69 he served on the aircraft carrier USS Ranger in the Tonkin Gulf off the coast of Vietnam on Yankee Station. He served on three west pac tours aboard Ranger Task Force 77.
Returning to the Black Hills he met his match and married the love of his life, Dixie Volin, May 25, 1974, in Rapid City, S.D. Together they had two children.
Dave loved making Christmas magical for his children and on Christmas day 1976, Dave and Dixie had the best Christmas of their life when their son, Joshua Christian, was born. March 5, 1985, his beloved daughter, Amanda Lee, was born. Josh and Amanda were the apples of his eye from the day they were born until the last day of his life. He recently said some of the best times he had were when his children were young.
Dave was passionate about many things, but there was nothing more important to him than his family. Everything Dave did came from his desire to provide his family with a great life. He was a builder, and whether he was building a house, family or a ranch, he built legacies.
After his service he worked in the construction industry until 1979. At this time he began his life-long career working for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, first out of Gillette, Wyo. In 1983 his family moved to their permanent home in Custer, S.D. He worked as a brakeman and a conductor for 30 years.
Dave was a historian. A thirst for knowledge and hunger for opportunity were driving forces in his life. The hours he spent on the train were a perfect fit for his love of reading. He was wise yet humble. He was always willing to share his knowledge with others in a way to help them learn and build them up, never knocking them down. He always used his knowledge to make people laugh with his incredible wit.
He loved to travel and any opportunity to spend time with his family was an opportunity Dave seized. Family vacations were some of Dave and his family’s best memories.
Dave loved the simple life. He never met an animal or plant he didn’t love. He was both a naturalist and a realist and loved to break colts with his gentle nature. In 1992, Dave’s endless ambition, work ethic and his love of animals and nature led him to start his ranch with his son, Pahasapa Longhorns. Together they built a ranch from nothing and it continues to grow with added help from his daughter-in-law and granddaughters.
As a husband, Dave was all love can be and a best friend. As a father he is forever a hero. As an uncle he was a gentle guide. As a brother he will be remembered by his sisters as the loving, kind, generous, protective and practical big brother who never shied away from a practical joke, but took the time to make each of them feel special.
He will be remembered by his brothers for his horsemanship, his witty banter, his fiery temper and his endless brotherly love. As a son Dave will be remembered as a loyal, giving, helpful, respectful and kind son. He always thought of his mother first and was willing to go to the end of the earth to make her life easier. To all his family he was a leader and an inspiration.
Dave loved his role as son, brother, husband and father and uncle but the role he had been preparing for his entire life was the role of grandpa. His granddaughters, Abigail and Jacqueline, were the lights of his life. The girls brought out the best in Dave and highlighted some of his best attributes: His animated story telling, his teaching skills, his ability to share history’s greatest lessons, to see the world all wise but through a child’s eyes, but best of all his endless capacity to love. Dave was a lot to a lot of people, being such a kind and generous man, quiet, sincere, humble and proud.
Dave loved history, reading and the art of language. One of his most beloved phrases is “magnum opus,” meaning great work or masterpiece. Dave’s life was his magnum opus for it was indeed his greatest work.
Dave died at his home in Custer March 22, 2013. He was 64.
Dave was preceded in death by his grandparents, his father, father-in-law and two nephews.
He his survived by his wife, Dixie Hunsaker of Custer; son, Joshua (Lisa) Hunsaker of Hot Springs, S.D.; daughter, Amanda Hunsaker of Custer; mother, Laverne Hunsaker of Hermosa, S.D.; brothers, Kenny Hunsaker of Keystone, S.D., Mike (Evelyn) Hunsaker of Keystone, Rob (Deana) Hunsaker of Fairburn, S.D., Gary (Connie) Hunsaker of Fairburn, Wallace Hunsaker of Keystone, Monty (Kim) Hunsaker of Hermosa, Marty (Brandi) Hunsaker of Fairburn; sisters, Kathy (Dave) Dillon of Fairburn, Sherry Manton of Scottsbluff, Neb., Susan (Rick) Lock of Gillette, Wyo., Francine (Tammy) Hunsaker of Keystone, Lynette (Derek) Alexander of Hill City, S.D.; and two granddaughters, Abigail and Jacqueline Hunsaker of Hot Springs.
Private services will be held at Black Hills National Cemetery. A celebration of his life was held at Custer VFW March 27.
Written condolences may be made at www.mccolleyschapels.com.
Click Here To See More Stories Like This