Leon Ernest “Ernie” Fritz, 86, who was descended from a long line of pioneers, died Monday morning, June 24, 2013, at Aspen Meadows in Billings.
His great-great-great-grandfather, Martin Luther Fritz, came to Philadelphia as an indentured servant from Alsace (now a part of France) in 1771. He fought in the American Revolution and is believed to have crossed the Delaware River with Gen. George Washington. After the war, he settled in western Pennsylvania, then in Ohio. His sons and grandsons continued moving west, through Indiana and Illinois, then to Iowa.
Mr. Fritz’s grandfather Benton moved to Billings in 1906 from Marcus, Iowa. His father, Leon Samuel Fritz, homesteaded near Duck Creek in 1912 and received a land patent in June 1917. He married Laura Baker of Tacoma, Wash., and Ernie Fritz was born Aug. 5, 1926, and grew up on the ranch.
He attended Senior High School but was not able to graduate because he was bucked from a horse and lay in a coma for several weeks. During his recovery, he had to learn how to walk and talk again. He was known for the Harleys he rode and the fast cars he drove.
He married Gail Gullard in 1951. Their sons, Kerry, Cassidy, and Shadd, were raised in the log house they built on the ranch, where they grew wheat and raised cattle.
Mr. and Mrs. Fritz separated, and he later married Ann Wargo.
In the last 30 years of his life, Mr. Fritz became a Christian, a committed recovering alcoholic and counselor for Alcoholics Anonymous.
Survivors include sons, Kerry of Billings, Cassidy of Elkhart, Ind., and Shadd of Billings; 10 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
Private family services will be held. Arrangements are by Cremation & Funeral Gallery.