Dr. Raymond “Ray” P. Ansotegui’s seven year battle with Alzheimer’s ended peacefully in his home on Wednesday, March 2, 2023, while being lovingly attended by his family.
Born July 11, 1947, to Ray and Irene Ansotegui on the family ranch bordering Nevada and Oregon, Ray spent his early years on the family ranch in Paradise Valley, NV. He loved school and couldn’t wait to be a cowboy. As early as ten years old he “went on the wagon” – his term for the week-long cattle drives where he learned a lot about being a cowboy and cursing. He embraced the beauty of being horseback without civilization for miles.
His family moved to Fallon, NV, when Ray was in high school. He continued to work on the ranch and excel in school; from kindergarten until he graduated, Ray never missed a day of school. No stranger to hard work, he spent most of his free time working both the neighbor’s dairy and at the family lumber yard, yet had time to soup up his truck for drag racing.
Ray was the first in his entire family to attend college. Education became his life’s work and passion. He graduated from the University of Nevada Reno with a BS in Animal Science and a Master’s degree in Range Nutrition. He earned his PhD from New Mexico State University in Ruminant Nutrition and Reproductive Physiology. Ray often referred to himself as just an “Over Educated Cowboy.”
In 1972, Ray married his lifetime riding partner and wife, Linda Bilbao. Smitten by the “young beautiful independent woman who could sit a horse and work cows like no one he’d met before,” Ray wooed Linda with a pair of hand-made silver spurs. They adventured for 51 years together.
Ray and Linda moved from Nevada to Livingston, MT, in 1975. He worked briefly for American Breeder’s Service before he accepted a one time, one year position at Montana State University (for a professor on sabbatical). One year at MSU stretched into thirty-two years as Ray won numerous teaching awards and led ground breaking research for the university. Ray completed two sabbaticals; one in New Mexico and one in Western Australia. He encouraged and watched his students use their education when they returned to family ranches or started their own. He saw many of his students make a difference as they went on to keep Agriculture alive and well in Montana and throughout the West. Ray insisted his students drop the formality of Dr. Ansotegui and call him simply “Ray.” He was never too busy to take their calls, talk them through their challenges and help with recommendations.
Despite his notorious unique intelligence and a classic grumpy cowboy look, Ray was always approachable and humble. Ray’s secret sauce as a professor was his keen ability to see things in his students they couldn’t see in themselves.
In 2006, Ray retired to be a full-time grandpa. He continued his genetic consulting and AI business with his wife Linda and helped out on his friends’ ranches. Retirement years were full of fun adventures – freezing in AI camps while laughing with friends and numerous camping trips to Yellowstone. He and Linda traveled to spend time with their children and grandchildren around the world (Nevada, Arizona, New Hampshire, Italy and Switzerland). He looked the part of a cowboy no matter where he was in the world. He was kind to a fault, an engaging storyteller with a biting sense of humor and sarcasm that will always be unmatched.
Ray was preceded in death by his parents, Ray and Irene Ansotegui; and brother, Dennis. He is survived by his wife, Linda; brother, Alan Ansotegui; children: Denise Ansotegui-Bergeron and Raymond Ansotegui; their spouses: Neil and Amber Jean (whom he loved like his own children); and his grandchildren: Hayden and Jillian Bergeron – the lights of his life. He is also survived by numerous brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews – all of whom have plenty of “Uncle Ray” stories…
Information will be provided for a celebration of life service is planned for the near future.
In lieu of flowers, the family has set up a scholarship fund through Montana Stockgrowers Association. Please send donations to Montana Stockgrowers Association, 420 North California Street, Helena, MT 59601, C/O Ansotegui OEC (the Over Educated Cowboy).
When you try to describe Ray Ansotegui and his life’s work in cattle and education, you just flat run out of enough adjectives to do it justice! A few of those adjectives that come to mind are “Beloved”, “Colorful”, “Big-Hearted”, “Respected”, “Intentionally Crusty”, “Witty’, “Humble”, and “Fun-Loving”. A guy who had a tremendous a positive impact on multiple generations of Students and Beef Producers. Man, we will miss Ray!
I went to school in Fallon with Ray. He was always the kindest person. We were in Livingston about 20 years ago and called him. He kindly came to the motel where we were staying and we had a wonderful visit with him. Such a kind, gentle soul. You never forget that in a person. My heart and prayers are with all of you.