By Rich Winter
Anyone who had the distinct pleasure of meeting Charlie Colombe, probably remembers when and where they were when they shook the hand of the man that did a little bit of everything during his 75 years on earth.
Colombe passed away Sunday morning in Sioux Falls following an ATV/Farm accident at his ranch on Saturday.
While most remember the enigmatic Colombe, they likely don’t remember the way Colombe remembered them.
“He had the uncanny ability to remember the names of everyone he ever met,” said younger brother Wayne ‘Red’ Colombe. “Not only did he know that person, but he made it a point to know the names of their kids and their grand kids and that made him unique.”
Unique might not be a big enough word for this former Dallas, Texas, barber, professional rodeo bull-rider and former President of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.
Charlie Colombe was born in 1938 and spent part of his early year’s attending school at the St. Francis Indian School Mission with Sinte Gleska University President, Dr. Lionel Bordeaux.
In 1958, he and four of his five brothers all worked at the same barber shop in Dallas, Texas.
Following the barber experience, Colombe joined the United States Army, and even spent a year in Korea.
Among his many passions were working on his ranch north west of Mission and driving hundreds of thousands of miles to participate in rodeos, and later to haul horses to rodeos.
“He was a great saddle-bronc, bareback and bull rider, although he failed miserably at roping,” younger brother, Red Colombe jabbed.
Colombe was a man who dabbled in just about everything life had to offer.
He served two terms as a Tribal Council Representative of Antelope, 1972-1975 and 1975-1977.
Colombe served as Rosebud Sioux Tribal President from 2003-2005, and is largely credited with securing the funding that enabled the tribe to build the Rosebud Casino.
“He tried some things that worked and he tried some that didn’t, but you can’t blame him for not trying,” Red Colombe said. “He knew business people and he understood business and I think that makes him unique among tribal leaders.”
Although he dabbled in just about everything, he probably loved the time he spent with his grandchildren at his White Thunder Ranch the most.
And oh, did he love horses.
“Everytime there was a rodeo, no matter how insignificant, Charlie would haul horses to the event,” Red Colombe said. “He gave away horses to every nephew, niece or grand child that asked for one.”
While the cowboy hat, that could always be plainly seen when Charlie Colombe was driving anywhere will be missed, perhaps his grandson, Maxx Colombe via a recent Facebook post, can sum up his life best.
“Well I lost a grandpa. He was the best, and he is a great cowboy. All the promises he gave us and all the words he said to me, it was my grandpa Charlie Colombe he will be with me all the time but in heaven.
“I just felt shocked when my dad got a call saying he wrecked on a four wheeler.”