Joseph Edward Laughton was born in Fredrick, CO, on February 25, 1921 to Edward T. Laughton and Pearl H. Laughton. He passed from this earth on May 18, 2020, in Casper, WY, at Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Center at the age of 99.
His childhood was spent in Brainerd, MN, where he graduated from high school in 1939. After graduation he worked in the Civil Conservation Corps in the Badoura State Forest in Minnesota as a company clerk and hospital orderly from 1939-1941. He then attended North West Bible College in Minneapolis, MN, where he met and married Helen C. Tufte in 1943. They had two children, Karan J. Laughton and Gareth J (Gary) Laughton.
In 1945 he moved to Spearfish, SD, to start his studies in elementary education at Black Hills Teachers College. After earning his teaching certificate, he started his career at Vessey, SD. He was still exchanging letters with some of those former students up until his death. Every summer Joe attended summer school at Black Hills State, Spearfish where he graduated with a BS degree in 1963. Joe taught grades 5/6 in Dayton, WY, from 1947-53. Joe always pointed out that Hans Kleiber signed his hiring contract. He delighted in attending Dayton Days annually where he could meet up with former students. In 1953 Joe moved to Sheridan to teach at Taylor School. The $100 per month increase in salary allowed him to buy his first car. He took a year’s sabbatical in 1961 to finish his degree, then moved to New Jersey to teach for 6 months. There, in 1963 he married Anita Hammesfahr. They moved back to Sheridan where he taught at Hill School for 14 years. He pursued a MA degree in special education at Montana State University, Billings. Joe retired from teaching in 1977. He and Anita traveled every state except Alaska until her death in 1991.
Joe served as Local WEA President of Classroom Teachers Association, Rural Education Association, and Sheridan Retired Teachers Association. He was also State WEA President of Classroom Teachers. He served as president of the American Association of Retarded Children (presently ARC) and was a life member.
Joe had a long career as “The Cardboard King”. This kindly nickname refers to Joe’s ability to envision and create masterpieces big and small using salvaged boxes and bits of stuff. Many will remember a six-foot jute box, full-size gypsy wagon, forests of trees and meadows of flowers, and a paddlewheel riverboat most of which had moving parts. Love for theater led him to contribute to many theatrical sets from elementary school plays, Christmas programs, theater productions plus set building for 30 years at the Senior Center (Hub). In his youth, Joe briefly studied at the prestigious Minneapolis Walker Art Gallery. He valued the many watercolors, pen and ink, pottery, and various classes he attended with local artists. In his 90th year, Joe discovered a pen and ink class through the Senior Center. Over the following few years, he created dozens of pen and ink scenes that he had reproduced onto note cards. He was always pleased to find opportunities to gift a packet of cards to his family, friends, and community.
In the performing arts area, Joe participated in local theater productions. He sang with the Sheridanairs, the First Baptist choir, and recited poetry from memory on many public occasions. His portrayal of Father Christmas was always in demand as well as his “fractured fairy tales”.
Joe was an active volunteer and community member. His past service included the RENEW board, Boy Scout Council, YMCA, Sheridan County Historical Society, Senior Center, Civic Theater Guild, AARP, and Hospice. He was honored with a 2012 Keystone Award for his leadership and community service. Joe was a member of Sons of the American Revolution and the First Presbyterian Church.
Most days folks could find Joe with the “gang” at the Java Moon or strolling the walking paths enjoying the plants and animals along the way. Walks to the post office, pharmacy, and bank were part of his weekly routine. Joe’s love of gardening and planting things continued through his time at Sheridan Square.
Joe was a student and teacher of many things his entire life. He had a curiosity and genuine interest in people and the community. He had a keen connection to a family history that led back 9 generations and connected him to distant cousins. His ‘art’ for letter writing kept him in touch with family and friends new and old. He was a good husband, father, father-in-law, grandpa, great-grandpa, and uncle. Grandpa Joe was a light in our family. He is greatly missed.
Survivors are his daughter Karan Laughton, Lander, his son Gary (Sherry) Laughton, Sheridan, grandsons Jason (Stacy) Laughton, Newburgh, IN, Ryan (Amber) Laughton, Redondo Beach, CA. Great-grandchildren Kenna Andreas, Bresden Laughton, Taye Sidberry, Westley Laughton. Nephews Robert (Arlene) Hammesfahr, Ralph (Leah) Hammesfahr and niece Barbara Ann (Tom) Putman. Due to COVID 19 only a private service will be held on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Memorial donations may be made to Hospice of the Big Horns 1401 W. 5th St., Sheridan, WY 82801. Champion Funeral Home has been entrusted with local arrangements. Online condolences may be written at www.chamionfh.com.