Lyle K. Gerhart, 72, a Belt rancher, died February 13, 2009 after an extended illness.  

Lyle was the youngest of William E. Gerhart and Amy C. McCafferty’s six children.  Born in Great Falls on July 6, 1936, he grew up on the family’s cattle ranch near Belt.  After graduating from Belt Valley High School in 1955, he married Jacqueline Koontz in 1957 then spent a short time in Colorado. Lyle returned to Montana prior to their divorce in 1960. Through most of the 1960’s, he owned and operated Lyle’s Appliance in Billings.  Lyle married Zoe Ahl in 1965 and had two children prior to their divorce in 1971.

After the death of his parents, Lyle returned to ranching.  He and three of his siblings formed the Gerhart Partnership in 1981 and bought the upper portion of their father’s ranch at the head of Briggeman Coulee near Belt.  This ranch had been homesteaded by Lyle’s grandfather’s sister and her husband, the Briggeman’s, and Lyle’s grandfather Bill bought it from the Briggeman’s in 1898.  The Partnership leased out the grass from the ranch, and Lyle began raising registered Angus cattle.  Over time, he bought out two of his siblings and became the majority owner of the Partnership.  His outfit, Alpine Meadows Angus, developed a reputation for producing cattle with strong maternal characteristics.  Lyle took pride in raising cattle that did most of the work themselves, requiring little more than good pasture, salt in the summer and some hay in the winter.  Lyle managed his cattle herd with only occasional help, buying old hay equipment and returning it to running condition, and doing all the haying and feeding himself.  He was the quintessential Montana rancher:  frugal, independent, self-reliant, and extremely knowledgeable about equipment, cattle, and grass management. Lyle and his cattle participated in two local tours hosted by The American Angus Association, the second in cooperation with David Anderson of Belt, who began leasing the purebred herd in 2005 when Lyle’s health prevented him from managing it alone.  

Lyle is survived by his two children, Karen L. Gerhart of Dunnigan, CA and Daniel L. Gerhart of Salt Lake City, Utah; his brothers Leonard “Bud” and Richard G. Gerhart, and his sister Phyllis Bardwell.

A memorial gathering will be held at the Russell Museum in Great Falls from 3-5 pm on Tuesday 17 February.  The family requests that memorials be directed to the Peace Hospice of Great Falls.

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