Sibyl June Prager passed away Monday, December 5, 2012, in Casper at the Wyoming Medical Center, at the age of 88 years. Funeral services will be held 2 p.m. Monday, December 10, 2012 with Pastor Donnie Holt at First United Methodist Church in Douglas, Wyoming. Dr. Kent Sundell will offer the eulogy. Interment will follow in Douglas Park Cemetery.
Sibyl was born May 9, 1924 at the home of her parents, Ferris Bruce and Mary Kathryn (Dunn) Bruner. The Bruner home, located in the LaBonte community south of Douglas, Wyoming, brimmed with three generations of family, including up to three grandparents on occasion.
As a child, Sibyl helped herd sheep and rode a horse to gather the draft horses and milk cows. She loved to hunt beads and arrowheads, and sing as she chorded on the old guitar. She attended the Black Bridge Grade School, where she completed the required work in seven, rather than the usual eight, years. She excelled in spelling.
Sibyl then lived in Douglas during four terms at Douglas High School. She played the tenor saxophone in the band, and graduated in 1941, with honors in typing and shorthand. She worked as an usher at the Princess Theatre and as a clerk in the county court house.
During those years, her brother, Charles, bought a piano accordion for her, and she began playing for dances with her Dad and her brother, Archie. She was also a very good dancer, and it was not unusual to have several young men awaiting their turn on the dance floor with her. One night in 1939, in the old dance hall at Esterbrook, one young man asked her to dance. She had too many dances promised, so she turned him down. Lawrence Prager’s persistence prevailed, however, and soon he was not only dancing with her, but also playing drums in her family’s band, known as the LaBonte Quartet.
On September 28, 1941, Sibyl and Lawrence were married at the Bruner Ranch. They lived on his family’s ranch, located in an extremely remote area of northern Albany County, four miles west of Laramie Peak. Her new brother-in-law, David Prager, teased her, suggesting that they could use her pancakes to chink the logs of the dilapidated house they were renovating.
The newlyweds continued playing for area dances. One winter night, they rode horseback six miles through deep snow and cold, to play for a dance. He carried his banjo, and she hung on one side of her saddle, while her accordion balanced on the other.
During Lawrence’s service in the United States Navy, 1944—46, she followed him to California, and worked as a typist in the Navy Supply Depot. Upon their return to the Prager Ranch, they lived in his mother’s tiny homestead cabin four years, while Lawrence did major interior remodeling in their house.
In 1948, she became a mother, just in time for the Blizzard of ’49. Her biggest challenge during those six weeks was to keep Barbara from freezing to death.
In 1950, they moved back into the house. Her family responsibility increased, with the births of Rita, Larry and Norman. Electricity’s arrival in 1954 made her homemaker’s job easier. The Prager’s began operating an outfitting service for deer and antelope hunting, for the next twenty years. She cooked meals for up to 35 people in her relatively primitive kitchen. To accomplish this, she bought groceries by the station wagon-load, and often changed at least one flat tire during the 50-mile trip back to the Prager Ranch.
In 1959, her children began 4-H projects, and she oversaw all their work, as well as transported them to all the meetings. She later was a 4-H leader. As the sheep morphed into a whole-family project she learned to trim and show sheep. Her dedication to those sheep is demonstrated best by her helping lamb in January, two weeks after major surgery.
In 1966, the Prager’s purchased land near Douglas, so that Sibyl could be with her three younger children as they completed their high school educations. When Larry entered FFA, he was awarded a chapter sheep flock. They drove to the donor’s pasture, where she helped lift the wild black-face ewes into our truck after the Larry and Norm caught them. She and Lawrence were the first parents in Wyoming to have more than one child receive FFA’s American Farmer Degree.
In the early 1980’s, Lawrence was having trouble hiring capable hay hands. After his latest employees wrecked his Jeep, Sibyl told him to take those boys back to town, and she would learn to do the work. Soon she was baling, and also learned to run the bale piler. This she continued to do every summer through 2000.
Her winter projects during these years were pursuing and recording family history. She held offices in the Converse County’s Historical Society, Cowbells, and Farm Bureau. And she and Lawrence, along with their children, were still playing their music at the Douglas Senior Center and Esterbrook.
In 2002, Sibyl and Lawrence began living year-round at their Douglas home. She devoted many hours to Lawrence’s care as his health declined, until his death on March 31, 2010.
In these last years, she continued to pursue her love of bridge, playing in as many as three different groups per week, and playing the piano several times each week for the Douglas Senior Band, at the Senior Center and also at Douglas Care Center. Some of her last instructions, dictated from her hospital bed to her daughter, was the protocol for this week’s bridge game at the Senior Center!
She was also preceded in death by her parents; brother, Archie Bruner; brother-in-law, David Prager; sister-in-law, Rosa Kilpatrick; brother-in-law, Alfred Kilpatrick; and nephew David Kilpatrick.
Survivors include daughters Barbara (Vern) Billingsley, and Rita Prager of Douglas, sons Larry(Karen) Prager of Belle Fourche, SD, and Norman (Edwina) Prager of Douglas; grandsons Gary Cundall of Washington, DC, Ryan (Jammie) Prager of Ladera Ranch, California, Jeff (Michelle) Prager of Hoboken, New Jersey, and Kevin Prager of Traverse City, Michigan; granddaughters Kristin (Tim) Fauss of Casper, Wyoming, and Amanda Prager of El Paso, Texas; two great-grandsons and two great-granddaughters, Sydney and Ellie Prager.
In addition, she is survived by her devoted brother, Charles (Mary) Bruner of Douglas; nephews, Jim (Gwen) Bruner of Dubois, Wyoming, Bill (Linda) Bruner of Wheatland, Wyoming, Philip Bruner, Roy (Sherrill) Kilpatrick of Douglas, and Tom (Linda) Bruner of Mesa, Arizona; and nieces Marie Koppa of Douglas, Carol (Chad) Miller of Ord, Nebraska, and Mary (Bruce) Fowler of Arcadia, Nebraska.
Serving as pallbearers will be Jeffrey Prager, Ryan Prager, Gary Cundall, Jim Bruner, Bill Bruner and Philip Bruner. Honorary pallbearers will be the Douglas Senior Band and Bridge Friends, and all of her many friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully asks that memorials be sent to the Douglas Senior, Center, P.O. Box 192, Douglas, Wyoming 82633.
The Gorman Funeral Homes – Converse Chapel of Douglas is in charge of the arrangements.
Condolences may be sent to the family at gormanfh.com