On June 4, 2021, God called Coy Lane Hepper home to His arena. Coy was born on September 1, 2006, in Bismarck, N.D., 20 seconds before his twin sister, Kari. Son of Jeff and Eva; brother to Jade, Abby and Kari; grandson of Adolph and Lavern Hepper, Gertie Joens and Fred and Jackie Joens. Coy lived on the Hepper Family Ranch in Keene, N.D., helping raise cattle and performance horses.
Small but mighty, Coy learned from a competitive and accomplished family of athletes. Coy was a standout in multiple sports and rodeo events, learning his dad’s motto quickly, “there’s no cryin’ if no bones are sticking out.” Sitting horseback by the time he could walk, Coy tried every event in rodeo. He got his start in the big arena in 2017, just 10 years old, when uncle Tom Hepper dropped off bucking ponies at the ranch. In classic Coy style, he put on his bareback riggin’ and rode buckin’ ponies at the Badlands Circuit Finals in Minot, the PRCA rodeo in Bismarck, and at the “Daddy of ’em all,” Cheyenne Frontier Days. The limelight of the big rodeos propelled Coy to three qualifications for the Junior NFR in Las Vegas where he made North Dakota and South Dakota proud with his gritty style and no-quit attitude. As a member of the NDJHRD, Coy competed in every event offered at least once, and on both sides of the arena, including all three roughstock events - bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc. In the 2020-21 season, Coy’s 8th grade year, he settled into bull riding, bareback, chute dogging, team roping, breakaway roping, and rifle shooting chasing the All-Around title. When the dust settled, Coy was crowned the State Champion in bullriding and bareback. On his way to those titles, Coy covered every bull and bareback steer over the entire season. The accomplishment wasn’t lost on Coy, known for his one-liners, when he remarked on the ride home, “I kinda Jim Sharped ’em didn’t I?” Dad, Jeff replied “You’re <&@#$%^&* Right!” Mighty Coy had big plans to cover every animal under him at the Junior High National Finals in Des Moines, Iowa, where he was set to compete with his friends and sister, Kari, in June.
The Heppers are a competitive, determined crew, pushing each other to always challenge yourself. Big brother Jade was a standout High School wrestler, older sister Abby an accomplished all-around rodeo athlete and barrel racing star, qualifying for the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo., this year. Twin sister, Kari, competed alongside Coy in rodeo events across the state, also qualifying for the Junior High National Finals in pole bending and goat tying on the way to winning the North Dakota Girls All-Around title.
Not to be outdone by his brother Jade, Coy was a rising star in North Dakota wrestling. Often competing above his own weight class, Coy was determined to learn the lessons he needed to improve. Coy had multiple undefeated seasons under his belt and won championships at every level, including Junior High State Champ, USA Wrestling State Champ in folkstyle and freestyle. One of his proudest wins was his championship at the competitive Montana Open. Coy cracked the varsity lineup at Watford City High School a time or two, wrestling at 106 pounds, while weighing a whopping 86 pounds - after a gallon of Gatorade. To understand Coy’s competitiveness, you need only listen to his Mom, Eva, who recalls Coy heading to the showers with a second place trophy, then emerging from the locker room empty-handed. Eva asked where the trophy was. Coy had thrown it in the trash. Coy’s bedroom at the ranch is crowded with trophies, medals and buckles from his countless achievements. If you care to see his runner-up hardware, you’ll have to dig, or look in the dumpster.
Claiming to be all of five foot tall (with his best boots on), Coy also found a spot on the basketball team. Being a head shorter than his opponents didn’t matter to Coy. He just mastered the three-point line, finding a way to keep pushing his limits.
Coy’s big extended family stretches beyond most folks’ imaginations. It’s that family that taught him the value of friendship and showing up for those around you. As fiercely competitive as Coy was, he valued his friends’ and family’s success as much as his own. And it showed in Coy’s never ending smile and famous one-liners.
Coy is preceded in death by beloved family members: grandpa, Adolph Hepper; grandma, Gertie Joens; aunt, Carol Hepper; uncle, Allen Maier; cousin, Casey Hepper; and special friends, ‘grandpa’ Ray Gilstad and Levi Wisness.
Coy is survived by a large and close family: parents, Jeff and Eva; brother, Jade; sisters, Abby and Kari; grandparents, Lavern Hepper; Fred and Jackie Joens; uncles and aunts, Terry Hepper, Laury Sejen, Butch and Sandy Hepper, Curt and Marcie Hepper, Gail and Jeff Bonn, Monty and Tammy Hepper, Tom and Nancy Hepper, Earl and Alice Maier, Dale and Dency Maier, Lila and Cody Briggs, Adam Joens, Casey Joens; and numerous cousins, including Coy’s godparents, Trudy and Ryan Riehl. Coy is also survived by special ‘grandma,’ Linda Gilstad; and the world of friends gained in the NDHSRA, NDJHRD, RRA, WCHS and countless other places.
Pallbearers are Ty Breuer, Lance Gerhardt, Paul Weinberger, Jarvis Sorenson, Jon Matson, Clay Bohmbach, Russ Kling, and Chas Ophus. Honorary pallbearers are all of Coy’s cousins, rodeo stock contractors, bullfighters, coaches, classmates and friends. Ushers are Morgan Wagoner, Trevor Kronberg, Andy Wagoner, Stacey Boekelman, Chase Wisness, Craig Maley, Chad Rotenberger, Jamie Neether, Jerome Huchison, Rick Jore, Jed Bohmbach, Marty Hildre, Trae Kautzman, and Beau Wisness. Thank you to Nathan Brenna for help with this obituary, and to Gene Veeder and Kelly Hanna for special music. Coy will be interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Mobridge, S.D., beside his partner, grandpa Adolph Hepper, on Thursday, June 10, at 1 p.m., with lunch to follow at Rick’s Café, Main St., Mobridge, S.D.
Funeral services for Coy Lane Hepper, 14, of Keene, N.D., will be at 11 a.m., Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Rough Rider Event Center in Watford City, N.D. Viewing will also be Wednesday, June 9, 2021, at the Event Center starting at 9 a.m. Remembrances, condolences and pictures may be shared with the family at www.fulkersons.com. Fulkerson-Stevenson Funeral Home is caring for the family.