Father, son die from COVID-19 within days of each other

Bruce “Duke” Damon Spotted Bear Sr., left, and Bruce “J.R.” Damon Spotted Bear Jr. died from COVID-19 less than two weeks apart. (Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish, Facebook)

Indian Country Today

PORTRAITS FROM THE PANDEMIC

The new coronavirus took 52-year-old Bruce “J.R.” Damon Spotted Bear Jr. on April 17, 2020. Less than two weeks later, it took his dad.

Bruce “Duke” Damon Spotted Bear Sr. died on April 28, 2020, the day of his son’s funeral. He was 77 and died not knowing his son had lost his life 11 days before.

The two Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation citizens lived on a ranch near Pryor, Montana, and became ill around the same time, according to the Billings Gazette. Both were admitted to a hospital and placed on ventilators.

“On this National Day of Lament and Mourning for those who have fallen from COVID-19, we remember our own Bruce Spotted Bear Sr., and Bruce Spotted Bear Jr.,” read a June 1 Facebook post by St. Charles Catholic Church in Pryor.

Bruce “Duke” Damon Spotted Bear Sr. died from COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish, Facebook)
Bruce “Duke” Damon Spotted Bear Sr. died from COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish, Facebook)
Bruce “J.R.” Damon Spotted Bear Jr. died from COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish, Facebook)
Bruce “J.R.” Damon Spotted Bear Jr. died from COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of St. Charles Parish, Facebook)

The elder Spotted Bear was a skilled horseman and enjoyed team roping at rodeos and training race horses, according to his obituary. During Crow Fair and rodeos, he donated his time and horse trailers, according to the Billings Gazette. He met his future wife, Myrna, while attending Haskell Indian School in 1965. Spotted Bear was a bus driver and maintenance man for thirty years at St. Charles Mission School.

J.R. Spotted Bear worked at Shipton’s Big R, a retail farm and ranch store, “where most folks could find him because he was a hard worker, who was always working,” read his obituary. He enjoyed the outdoors and spending time in the mountains with family.

The younger Spotted Bear also had a skill for beading and sewing.

“He made a lot of items for his family and friends, such as elk tooth dresses, belts, moccasins and leggings,” read his obituary.

“Anyone that knew him, knew him to be a kind person.” 

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