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John D. Free

John D. Free passed away Feb. 25, 2014 at his home in Pawhuska, Okla. of natural causes, surrounded by his loving family.

He was 84.

John was born in Pawhuska on April 7, 1929 to Ott and Marie Free.

John was an incredible artist, able to create works of sculpture, oil paintings, water colors, pens, pencils and pastels. His ability to draw a horse was unsurpassed in the art world. He was a member of the Nation Academy of Western Art, Oklahoma Sculpture Society, Prix De West, and a past member of the Cowboy Artist of America. He has shown art work at the Cowboy Hall of Fame, Gilcrease Museum, Woolaroc, as well as numerous galleries and shows. He was a silver medal winner at the annual Prix De West Art Show, and the Wrangler Award given out at the annual Western Heritage Award Banquet was sculpted by John. He is nationally known as his artwork is part of private and corporate collections across the nation. He has received numerous awards and recognitions during his 50-plus years as an artist.

John was raised by his granddad on a ranch outside McAlester, Okla. John developed a love of horses, cowboys and God at a very young age. There John honed his artistic skills encouraged by his granddad. He learned the importance of honesty, virtue, discipline, hard work, family and Jesus Christ. John drew from that all his life while working full time as an artist, father, husband and especially grandfather. Many of those elements were depicted in his artwork throughout his career.

Family was important to John. He loved his wife, Rayma; his three sons, John Jr., Matt and Mark; and his many grandchildren and great grandchildren, sister, brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews.

John began his art career in 1960, and trained under Thomas Lewis in Taos, New Mexico and spent many summers in Taos shaping his craft. His wife Rayma went to work full time to allow John to have time to start his fledgling career. Rayma was instrumental in managing John’s career.

John lived on a small ranch north of Pawhuska where he cared for his horses including his favorite horse, Old John, and his longhorns. He also started a foundry, The Bronze Horse, with his brother-in-law, which is a family operated business.

John was a member of the Osage Nation, First Baptist Church of Pawhuska, and served in the military in Japan in his late 40’s.

John was preceded in death by his wife of 58 years, Rayma June Bivins Free, and his brother, Hugh Free.

He is survived by three sons, John, Jr. and his wife Cindy, Matt and his wife Susan. Mark and his wife Jamee.

He is also survived by his precious grandchildren and great grandchildren, Amy Ramsay, her husband Matt and children Jackson and Matthew; Betsy Free and her son Cort, J.D. Free, Jake Free his wife Kylyn and their children Landyn and Cooper, Ladd Free, Marie Treat and her husband Chris, Cameron Free, Matthew Free, Bridger Free and Jackson Free; his very caring sister Delores Theis and her husband Raymond, and their children and grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Saturday, March 1, at First Baptist Church of Pawhuska. McCartney’s Johnson Funeral Home of Pawhuska was in charge of arrangements.

Memorials can be sent to First Baptist Churh, 302 E. 6th, Pawhuska, OK 74056, in care of the Falls Creek Fund.

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