Charles Kelly Kluver

On January 6, 2017, Charles Kelly Kluver unexpectedly passed away from natural causes while doing what he loved — tending to his cattle within the vast, open country alongside eastern Montana’s Rosebud Creek and under its majestic skies. Kelly was 61 years old. 

Kelly was born in Forsyth, Montana on April 18, 1955 to Elmer “Red” and Patty Kluver. Kelly grew up with his three siblings — Karson, Kirby and Colleen — immersed in the magnificent and humbling challenge of the ranching lifestyle — riding horseback, checking cows, branding, starting colts, and living off the land. He spent his summers in the saddle atop Sparky, Brandywine and Rifle, as well as in the hay fields. It was a rich life for a young boy. When he graduated from high school in 1973, Kelly was offered a full ride academic and football scholarship to Montana State University, which he turned down in favor of his Cowboy life.

When he wasn’t with his wife, Barbara, their children and grandchildren, Kelly enjoyed the company of his cows, horses and dogs. When he was not among his animals, he read. A scholar at heart, Kelly read many books about history, the West, and animal husbandry. A gentle and intelligent man, Kelly prided himself on his study and application of conformation — the degree to which an animal’s anatomy conforms to a certain standard for its breed. Kelly’s attention to detail and his love for the outdoors contributed to his interest in hunting and steadfast marksmanship. He also enjoyed collecting items of the Old West, and had a special skill for finding cast iron pans and coffee grinders.

Kelly’s grandchildren will always remember Papa Kelly for his scrumptious macaroni & cheese, his laughter during games of “Chase” or “Annie-I-Over,” his warm, loving hugs and his broad, knowing smile. Kelly loved his family, adored his animals and was grateful for the land on which he lived. He led a more virtuous and humble life than most.

Kelly was preceded in death by his parents, Red and Patty Kluver, and his nephew, Trevor Johnson. 

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Needham; son, Tanner (Felix) Bell of Hinsdale, Montana; step-daughter, Prairie (Ryan) Topp of Grace City, North Dakota; and step-daughter, Dakota (Lane) Meeks of Bozeman, Montana; grandchildren Lauren, Mariah and Logan Topp, Ryen and Hailen Meeks, and Cecilia, Margaret, Audrey, Cathryn, and Tanner Jr. Bell; and siblings Karson (Marie) Kluver of Forsyth, Montana, Kirby (Frieda) Kluver of Forsyth, Montana, and Colleen (Tom) Johnson of Bozeman, Montana, along with many nieces and nephews. 

A funeral service will be held on Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. in Miles City at Stevenson & Son’s Funeral Home, 1717 Main Street, Miles City, Montana 59301. A reception will follow. 

Condolences may be sent to the family in care of Stevenson & Sons Funeral Home or by visiting In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions are directed to any association supporting Veterans.