September 12, 1959 – January 12, 2020
Mike Welker was born on September 12, 1959, in Valentine, Nebraska, to Dean and Eldine Welker of Kilgore, Nebraska. He attended Cody-Kilgore Unified Schools and graduated in 1977. Through high school Mike rodeoed in both Little Britches Rodeo and High School Rodeo in bull riding and bareback riding events. Following high school, Mike attended Mitchell Vo-Tech and graduated in 1979 with a Welding Degree, Certified Welder – all positions. On June 14, 1980, he married his high school sweetheart, Susan (Kockrow). Together, they had three daughters – Lynn, Marla and Lisa. Using his talent as a welder, Mike and his dad, Dean, started Welker Welding in 1981, a manufacturing company established to meet the needs of the agricultural industry throughout the Midwest. Specifically, they designed and produced cake bins and cake feeders for what became a game-changer for ranchers who no longer had to pile bags of cake on the back of their pickups each day. Welker bins and cakers were and are sold in over 22 states now. Aside from working alongside his dad to create meaningful products for the ranching industry, Mike was well-known for his welding talents making many house calls to ranches across the Sandhills over the years to weld what needed so ranchers could finish haying, caking, etc.
Mike spent a great deal of time as a child, following in the footsteps of his Grandpa Ray Welker. Ranching was a calling for Mike having worked cattle and climbed on horses and equipment since he was eight years old. In 1989, Mike and Susan had the opportunity to buy a ranch south of Kilgore, where Mike was the fourth generation. Having a deep appreciation for the Sandhills and a passion for agriculture, Mike enjoyed raising cattle and growing crops. He ranched for 30 years producing high-quality Black Angus cattle.
Mike had rodeo in his blood. As a youth, he loved riding bulls and bareback horses. Later in life, he spent 17 years as a rodeo judge notably serving for several years in a row as a rough stock and timed events judge for the National Little Britches Rodeo Finals. He also judged the South Dakota State High School Rodeo Finals in 2007. Mike shared his love of rodeo with his family, teaching his daughters the sport and taking them to 4-H horse shows, junior rodeos, Little Britches Rodeos and Nebraska High School Rodeos for all of their youth and high school years.
In addition to his passion for the sport of rodeo, he was an extremely talented leather crafter. In high school, he started making billfolds and belts. In 1984, he started Welker Leather. Mike made everything from saddles to chaps to halters to headstalls to belts to knife cases to fencing plier cases. Two bronc halters he crafted were worn by famed horses at the Indian National Finals Rodeo and are proudly displayed in the South Point Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada.
On Sunday, January 12, 2020, Mike passed away at his home south of Kilgore at 60 years of age, leaving behind a cowboy and ranching legacy that will never be forgotten and three grandsons – Kord, Cameron and Eric – he thought the world of.