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Roy McPhee - A Life Well Lived
by Lee Pitts
Roy McPhee was the first person I ever saw die.

He was also the first person I ever saw come back to life.

I should have known... of all my finer friends if I had to pick one who was worthy of being resurrected it would have to be Roy. He was as fine a human being as I’ll ever have the fine fortune to know.

I remember exactly the time and place I first met Roy. It was 1973 and he was introduced to me as a banker, which really surprised me because Roy had traits not usually associated with that line of work: his hands were calloused and he had a huge heart. And heart, my friends, is what truly defined Roy McPhee.

Roy and I became fast friends for life the minute we met. I suppose part of it was because he and his family hailed from Missouri, like many in my family. But more than that, Roy was just so darn easy to like. As comfortable as an old shoe, he didn’t put on airs, brag or pollute the air with more B.S. With Roy you knew every word coming out of his mouth was well thought-out and as honest as the day is long. I never heard him utter a cuss word or talk ill of other people behind their backs. Never. Roy was self-made, extremely hard working, dignified without being stuffy, unpretentious, loyal and here’s a word you don’t hear much anymore... Roy McPhee oozed integrity. To my way of thinking that’s as fine a resume, or an obituary, as a person can have.

That’s not to suggest that I couldn’t list a plethora of honors that Roy accumulated, but I’ll leave that to others. Roy didn’t like to brag about himself so I won’t either, other than to say he was one of the best breeders of purebred cattle I ever met. Around the McPhee place everyone worked for their living and there was no waste. Of time especially. Roy’s cattle were known for being honest and what we call “easy keepers”. In other words, they were an exact reflection of the man who bred them.

It’s been 12 years now that Roy died and came back to life, thanks to the skills and persistence of three people who had the CPR skills, the intelligence to use them and the stamina to breathe life into Roy when all of us thought it was too late. I often recall that experience for it was when I learned one of life’s most important lessons... what I now call Roy’s Big Secret. It is simply this... the greatest good in this world is to give life to another human being. Parents already know this but I never did until Roy turned cold and blue and was brought back to life by three earth-based angels. Thanks to those three people Roy truly was “born again”. His wonderful wife Nellie got to spend 12 more years with the man she loved, Roy got to see three more grandkids and one great grandchild be born and many more calf crops.

You learned right away that the most important things in Roy’s life were his family, his God and his cattle. Please note that I made no mention of money. Roy didn’t spend his life in the hopeless pursuit of acquiring trinkets in an attempt to impress other people. He always promised Nellie that if they had a good bull sale he’d build her a new house. They always had a great bull sale but Nellie never did get her new home. But never mind, there were far more important things in life. Roy McPhee could find happiness in an appliance carton just as long as it was filled with God and family and surrounded by Red Angus cattle.

As he did in his first life, Roy didn’t waste a minute of the second he’d been granted. Most people in Roy’s condition would have just propped themselves up on a couch, felt sorry for themselves and waited for death to come again. Not Roy. I can’t tell you how many times I saw him in far-flung places, breathing from one of the many oxygen bottles that Nellie drug all over the West. Roy breathed in gasps, looked like a limp dish rag and seemed to be on death’s door every time I saw him but he was determined to squeeze every heartbeat out of his worn-out heart. More than any man I’ve ever known Roy McPhee lived life to its fullest. To do any less would have cheated his three benefactors and life itself.

I must admit that I’m not a regular churchgoer, worshipping instead in God’s great outdoor cathedral. But this I really do believe, that one day we will see Roy McPhee again. Most of us anyway, taking into account there may be some cattle buyers in the crowd. Although I look forward to the time I meet my my old friend once again I’m not in any hurry to do so, for Roy taught me to never give up on life. To fight the good battle until the very end. When I do see Roy I’m going to sincerely thank him for reminding me by his life’s example to live every day as if it will be my last... for one of these days it will be. And by the way, that goes for all of us.

Roy McPhee lives on through his family and his cattle and also through his personal reminder to all of us who knew and loved him that every time we awake we are “born again”. Every time I think of my friend Roy I am reminded not to waste a precious second of this gift we call life.

That’s quite a lasting legacy, don’t you think?


Roy McPhee October 20, 1928 – March 8, 2007

Roy McPhee was born in Hemple Missouri and after serving in the navy he stayed in California to pursue a career in agriculture banking and raising cattle. Roy started raising Red Angus cattle in 1971. He grew that into the largest Red Angus herd west of the Rocky Mountains. His herd of Red Angus cattle was recognized in 2005 as being “One of the Most Influential herds in the Breed”. Across the country Roy’s cattle have been awarded many champions and test leaders over the years. Roy was awarded many honors and awards in his lifetime, including cattleman of the year in 1993. Roy was a man of honor, integrity and a man of his word in his personal as well as his professional life. Roy was a member of several organizations including Sonoma County Trail Blazers, Hitch & Bitch, California Cattleman’s Association. Today McPhee Red Angus continues in Roy’s tradition and vision of raising Red Angus cattle as a family operation.

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Roy was born and raised on a farm in Hemple, Missouri. He was the eighth of nine. After graduation from the University of Missouri, he took a commission in the U.S. Navy and served during the Korean War. After the war he stayed in California pursuing a career in agricultural banking and raising cattle. Roy was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He loved his family and cherished his many friends. He has raised Red Angus cattle for the past 36 years and has raised many prize winning bulls and heifers around the country. He was instrumental in promoting Red Angus cattle and in the Red Angus Association of America. Roy was awarded many honors and awards in his lifetime, including Cattleman of the Year in 1993 and Personality of the Year for the Red Angus Association of America in 1987. His herd of Red Angus cattle was recognized in 2005 as “One of the 40 Most Influential Herds in the Breed.” Roy was a man of honor, integrity and a man of his word in his personal as well as professional life. He was well respected and adored by many. Roy was a member of St. Joachim Catholic Church, California Cattlemen’s Association, American Red Angus Association, Lion’s Club, Sonoma County Trail Blazers, Hitch and Bitch, California Beef Cattle Improvement Association, and Beef Improvement Federation. He was the devoted husband to Nellie McPhee of Lodi; father of five, Dennis McPhee of Oregon, Michael (Pam) McPhee of Linden, Kurtis (Pam ) McPhee of Murphys, Mary (Robert ) Miller of Linden and Rita McPhee of Lodi; grandfather to thirteen, Bradley, Michael, Christina, Jennifer, Rebecca, Royce, Rose, Luke, Anna, Karey, Louie, Stephanie and Jennifer; great-grandfather to four; four sisters, Sister Mary Rose McPhee and Sister John Gabriel McPhee both of Indiana, Sister Agnes McPhee of San Jose and Rita Dehner of Massachusetts and one brother, Ed (Deanie) McPhee of Missouri. He was preceded in death by one sister, Mary Agnes McPhee and two brothers, Gerald and Donald McPhee. Friends are invited to visit Tuesday from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Lodi Funeral Home. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at St. Joachim Catholic Church in Lockeford. Committal will follow at Harmony Grove Cemetery in Lockeford. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Joachim Catholic Church Building Fund, 13392 Lockeford Ranch Drive, Lockeford, CA. 95237. A virtual register book may be signed at www.lodifuneralhome.com where memories can be shared. Lodi Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.
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A Life Well Lived: A Tribute to Roy McPhee

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