Byron Holtan


Byron James Holtan, 75 of Garrison, ND passed peacefully on November 10, 2021 after fighting Alzheimer’s/dementia.  He was surrounded in love by his son John and daughter Kelly (Sorge).  Funeral services will be held on Saturday at 11:00 am at the Ralph Wells Jr. Memorial Complex in White Shield.  A visitation will be held on Friday from 4 to 7 at Thompson Funeral Home in Garrison.  Burial will be at Immaculate Conception Cemetery west of White Shield.

Byron James Holtan was born at Bismarck, May 9, 1946 to Lyle and Nettie Holtan. He was raised on the Holtan family ranch, 11 miles west of White Shield, ND on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. He attended Elbowoods School on the Missouri River bottoms through the 2nd grade.  The flooding of the Garrison Dam wiped out Elbowoods and he finished at White Shield High School, graduating in 1964. He attended North Dakota State University, (NDSU) studying agriculture. After his father’s (Lyle Holtan), sudden passing during his sophomore year of college, Byron returned to tend to the ranch and continue the Holtan family legacy of farming and ranching.

He married Colleen (Tolly) Igoe/Slocum in 1970 and raised her three children James Scott Slocum, Tarryl (Cameron) Gabel, Poughkeepsie NY and Dawn (Robert) Primeaux, Garrison, ND. Together they had two children Kelly (Dale) Sorge, Garrison ND and son John (Kara) Holtan, Cottage Grove, MN.

Farming, ranching and raising a household of five children represented his early years of life as he raised production cattle, small grains and feed. Byron was known for his strong work ethic which kept him driving endless miles to and from Garrison during the children’s school years. He supported his wife’s (Tolly) business talent, when they opened a floral shop which was the first of its kind in Garrison. He is fondly remembered delivering many floral bouquets over the years. 

In 1984, Byron and Tolly pursued a dream they felt would bring families together while sharing their love for the outdoors as their life’s work and vision began Indian Hills State Recreation Area, adjacent to the ranch. Summer help included a half dozen nieces and nephews who called the ranch home from Memorial Day to Labor Day. He taught every one of them how to drive his 1970 Chevy pick-up fondly called old gold. They were his mini crew that learned how to fence, cut and rake hay, chase cows and haul endless barrels of fish guts.

His favorite vacation was an early winter Elk hunt, packing horses high into the mountains of Montana every year, fly fishing and sharing an evening on the water with his wife Tolly.

Byron was a true steward of his land. Byron dedicated decades to daily monitoring and recording daily temperatures and precipitation as an official US Government Weather Observer.  He dedicated 24 years of service to the West McLean Soil Conservation District.

Byron was preceded in death by parents Lyle Holtan, Nettie (Holtan) Iverson, stepfather Howard Iverson.  Stepson, James Scott Slocum, loving wife, Tolly (Colleen) Holtan,

brother; Donald Holtan.

He is survived by step children, Tarryl (Cameron) Gabel, Poughkeepsie, NY., Dawn (Robert) Primeaux, Garrison, ND. Children, Kelly (Dale) Sorge, Garrison, ND., John (Kara) Holtan. Brothers, Arlin (Naomi) Holtan, Surprise, AZ., Carlyle (Vicki) Deer Park, WA., Sister-in-law Kathy Holtan, Sister Sheryl Krueger, Garrison. ND.   

In lieu of flowers, monetary donations will be used to build a permanent observation telescope/lookout above Lake Sakakawea/Missouri River. Our goal is for all friends, visitors and guests of the resort to enjoy a glimpse of Byron’s vision, as seen through his eyes.  Those memorials may be sent to Kelly Jo at 7280 14th St NW Garrison, ND 58540



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