Darleen passed away at her home near Douglas on Friday, February 13, 2015.
Darleen was born in Great Falls, Montana on April 24, 1945 the daughter of Swen Oscar and Opal I. (Goss) Swanson. Darleen was raised in Augusta, Montana; she attended school in Augusta and graduated from Augusta High School in 1963.
Darleen was a cowgirl from the time her feet hit the ground. Always preferring to be outside helping her dad with the ranch chores, instead of being in the house, she became quite a hand. Darleen became her dad’s right hand man. She could drive the team while haying, pull calves, feed in the winter, fix fence or rope in the branding pen, it didn’t matter she could do it all.
Darleen was a fierce and talented competitor in the rodeo arena. A natural born horsewoman, she had a magic touch with barrel horses, training many barrel horses that won at every level. She was a member of the NHSRA, NRA, GRA (later WPRA), NSPR, NBHA and NWBRA. She qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo held in Valentine, NE in 1962 and 1963. She was crowned the Champion barrel racer of the NRA in 1964 and again in 1966.
In 1968 daughter Kris entered Darleen’s life. This slowed her rodeo competition down for only a short time. By the early 1970’s she was back to her winning ways, she joined the GRA, the predecessor of the WPRA. During much of the 1970’s Darleen and her husband made their living rodeoing. 1974 was one of her most successful seasons, along with her great horse Cadillac, she finished 16th in the world standings missing the NFR by only a few hundred dollars. She qualified for the Montana Pro Rodeo Association circuit finals in 1985, as well as the National Senior Pro Rodeo Finals in 1990. Darleen would continue running barrels until a back injury took her away from competition in 2011.
Darleen also had a very successful career training race horses. In the late 1970’s to the early 1980’s she and her husband co-trained a string of very successful racehorses. She loved the time spent on the race track. Her magic touch with a horse came through once again and they were named leading trainers, on more than one occasion, at race meets around Montana and Wyoming.
In December, 1989 daughter Kris would marry.
1994 would bring the birth of her first grandchild, Garrett. This opened a whole new chapter in Darleen’s life, that of Grandma D. She would be blessed with two more grandchildren, Caden in 2002 and Kendra, a blond haired blue eyed girl the spitting image of her grandmother, in 2003. Like everything Darleen did in life, she performed the role of Grandmother to perfection. She was the grandmother that went to school for story time to read to the class. She hauled every critter on the place to school at one time or another for show and tell. She got up at the crack of dawn to help bathe horses, or dogs, so they would be ready for the 4H show at county fair. She spent countless hours in the arena loading roping steers, setting up barrels, or driving the tractor to work the ground. She attended every horse show, rodeo, barrel race, play day, hockey/basketball game, school play or band/choir concert that she could make, and if she couldn’t attend a video must be taken and sent to her ASAP.
Darleen was preceded in death by her father Bud Swanson and mother Opal (Goss) Swanson. She will be greatly missed by daughter Kris Mitchell, son-in-law Robert Mitchell, grandchildren Garrett, Caden and Kendra Mitchell, all of Douglas; her sisters, Myra Horner of Florence, Montana and Linda Jo Hatch of Fairfield Montana; and brothers, Gene Swanson and Bob Swanson both of Augusta, Montana. As well as many nieces, nephews, barrel racing and rodeo friends.