Chilton, James Kenneth, Sr.
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James Kenneth "Ken" Chilton, Sr. was born in Clifton, Arizona on May 21, 1916 and passed on to God on September 6, 2013 at his home at the Diamond Bell ranch. He lived his entire 97 years in his native Arizona. Ken's Chilton ancestors arrived from England during the 1650's. Successive generations moved west. In 1887, Ken's mother's family, the Cospers, drove a herd of cattle to Arizona from Texas and were among the first settlers on the Blue River in eastern Arizona. His great-grandfather Thomas Langdon Chilton and family arrived in Arizona by covered wagon in 1898 and settled on a farm and ranch that is now partially covered by Roosevelt Lake. Ken graduated from Miami, AZ schools where he was an all-around athlete and captain of the football team. While working his way through higher education at what was then Arizona State College at Flagstaff, he lettered in football, basketball and track. Ken earned both a bachelors and masters degree and a school administrator's credential. While attending what is now Northern Arizona University he met Margaret Jessie Smith and married her on March 26, 1937. They celebrated 69 years of marriage and raised three children before her passing in 2006. Ken was a fourth generation Arizona rancher, son, grandson and great-grandson of Arizona pioneers. He was an active member of Arizona Cattle Growers since 1946. He and Margaret built their life together on farms and ranches in Arizona including family operations in Tempe, Chandler, Queen Creek, Camp Verde, and the Laurel Leaf ranch surrounding the Town of Jerome. After selling the Laurel Leaf Ranch and the 7+A Ranch (in Upper Eagle Creek), he purchased the Diamond Bell cattle ranch west of Tucson with sons Jim and Tom in 1979. Ken served eight years on the Arizona Livestock Board--appointed by two successive governors--and chaired the Board for seven of the eight years. He was named "Cattleman of the Year" in 1988 by the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association. In 2012, Ken was a rancher featured in the Arizona Centennial Celebration book 100 Years, 100 Ranchers. The original photographs taken for the book by Scott Baxter have been displayed in various cities throughout Arizona. Ken was born to be a cowboy and lived his dream building and improving every ranch he purchased throughout his long and vigorous life. He counted it a blessing to have his two sons partner with him on his final ranch, the Diamond Bell. While dedicated to ranching, Ken also taught school in Morenci, Gilbert, Camp Verde and Clarkdale and served as an administrator in Morenci and Clarkdale. Ken is survived by his daughter Ruth Ann Pfleider of Green Valley, and by his two sons Thomas Benjamin Chilton (wife Kathy), and James Kenneth Chilton, Jr. (wife Sue). Tom and Kathy reside on the Diamond Bell Ranch while Jim and Sue live on the Chilton Arivaca Ranch. Ruth Ann lovingly organized his care and handled his business responsibilities during the last several years so Ken could be at home on the ranch. Ken was blessed with eight grandchildren, ten great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild. A memorial reception celebrating his life will be held September 28, 2013 at 14333 S. Stagecoach Road on the Diamond Bell Ranch. A memorial Mass will be celebrated at St. Ferdinand's Catholic Church on Sunday, October 6 at 1:00 in Arivaca. Contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to the Arizona Cattle Growers' Association, 1401 N. 24TH St. #4, Phoenix, AZ 85008.
Published in The Arizona Republic on Sept. 15, 2013