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The Mead Kids

This photo was sent in by Jamie Kane which was given to her by Donald Mead, Joe's brother.

Joe is pictured to the right with the dog. He is 15 years old in this photo. (click photo to enlarge)

Click for Joe's obituary
As printed in the Devil's Lake Journal

Friends may Sign Joe's Guestbook here
Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake



(written by Denise Conroy) Saturday, March 15th 2008 was the end of an era; the passing of a legend Joseph L. Mead. Joe was 77 years old and fought a long hard battle with diabetes for many years. He was never one to talk about his health and would often change the subject to horses if you asked. ;-) There were many trusted friends and fellow curly breeders that often worried about Joe living alone which he did for many years, but they were very comforted when his son Kyle & his daughter in law, Carol moved in to assist him about 5 years ago. Kyle and Carol have 2 children, with Megan being their youngest at just 20 months old at the time of Joe's death. Carol said she was the apple of her grandpa's eye and it brought me great pleasure to hear of his interaction with his grandchildren during those last years. To be surrounded by such youth, and a loving family is such a blessing and we know it brought him great joy.

Joe will be remembered in many ways with the first being that of his extreme dedication & long history of breeding outstanding Curly Horses. Prefixes like 'JC's' which stood for Joe & Corine, 'MCH' which stood for Mead's Curly Horses or simply "Mead's" will serve as reminders of his influence in the bloodlines of our curly horses today. We personally feel honored to have a Mead gelding in our backyard to remind us of his passion and dedication. There is no mistaking a Mead horse, if you have ever owned one.

Joe will also be remembered, admired and respected for his contribution in being part of the ABCR (and later the ICHO) and in joining with so many other old time breeders such as Sunny Martin, Benny Damele and Ernie Hammerick in preserving & protecting this rare and wonderful breed.

Visiting Joe was like going back in time. Horses ranging freely, the herd dynamics efficiently in place and functioning as they do in the wild. Few were touchable and Joe liked it that way because he said if he handled them too much, he worried they would get stolen while out on his immense acreage. He assured us that although not handled, the youngsters with their affinity towards humans would quickly come around to handling. We found this to be so true. We purchased many young horses from Joe and in just a few short lessons, they acted as if they had been handled since birth.

I will always remember Joe for his charming smile and intriguing way of sharing history of his curlies. I feel so blessed to have known Joe and to have made many trips to his place in North Dakota. Joe's herd averaged around 40-60 horses each time we came to visit. What always impressed us about Joe was that in spite of his very large herd, he could tell you names of each horse, the markings and pedigree in detail. And if a mare, he could give you all the markings of that foal that stood beside her... now that was a gift, because he could have as many as 30 foals on the ground in any given year! I think that shows his dedication and the degree in which he knew his horses. He knew horses so well that even as a young colt or filly, he had a pretty good idea what that horse would amount to in potential and ability. He appreciated a smooth stride on a horse so he took a keen eye to watching the young ones move and he could tell you which one would make the smoothest ride as an adult. He also could identify a horse with great hooves. That too was extremely important to him and that is definitely evident in his horse's lines today. Our Mead Gelding has hooves like hard plastic! And they naturally maintain themselves with very little care. We learned to appreciate this when we started trimming our own horses using the barefoot trim methods. His hooves remind us of the wild mustangs and I know Joe would be very proud of that. Joe also appreciated a horse that would cover ground. He always talked about Ruby Red King and how he would do an extremely fast single foot at 12 miles an hour. He would recall with a smile how King could easily go 60 miles a day, maintain his weight and never go lame. Ruby Red King was a single footed Morgan with an incredible mind, which is why you will see that morgan line in many of Joe's horses today. Visit the Curly History pages to read more about some of the other influential horses used in Joe's program and other breeders that went along side Joe in those early days to develop the lines we see today.

We met Joe in February 1998 and instantly you felt like you knew him for years. He was warm & hospitable and would talk Curlies with you as long as you cared to listen. We visited Joe about 6 times over the years. On early visits, Joe was rather healthy and eager to hop in the truck and take us to his perspective fields where his herds were separated. We would walk for miles, mingling with the horses as Joe would point out certain ones and then share a special story about why that horse had purpose in his herd. As I recall those times, it was magical and exciting. When asked about a particular Curly that caught our eye, he would grin and say, "You have a good eye, I was going to keep that one." But of course, every horse on Joe's property was for sale and he loved it when people appreciated what they saw in his fields.

If you asked my kids what they remember about Joe, it would be the amazing peacocks in his backyard or the unique pigs with waddles! He also had Scotch Highland cattle and what we called "oreo" cows. There was never a shortage of rare animals at Joe's! And it seemed he always had a definite purpose and reason for owning or breeding each of them. Nothing was done frivolously with Joe. It was an experience you would remember for a lifetime and one you thought of fondly for many years to come.

Joe's knowledge and enthusiasm for the breed will be of great loss to the Curly Community. There will never ever be another man like him. We send our deepest condolences to the Mead Family. Our prayers and thoughts are with you as we moarn with them the loss of this very unique and special man.


If you would like to send cards & condolences to the Mead family, their address is listed below:

Joseph L. Mead's Family
9301 35 th St. NE, Tolna ND 58380


Joe's Obituary

Joseph L. "Joe" Mead, 77 of rural Hamar, ND died on Saturday morning, March 15, 2008 at his home in the care of his loving family. A Memorial Service for Joe will be held on Saturday, March 22 at 4 p.m. at the Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake with Pastor Harold Chin, Grand Forks Seventh Day Adventist Church officiating.

Joseph Lyle was born on October 16, 1930, the son of Joseph Silas and Hattie (Stafford) Mead in Cable, WI where he was reared and educated. At a young age, Joe moved to the Badlands of North Dakota, where he started working for an area rancher named Bill McCarty who also signed the paperwork so that on September 7, 1949, Joe could enlist early at the age of 17 in the United States Army and served with the 35th Quartermaster Pack Company, last company of the Calvary. While serving he survived the historic Fort Carson fire where much was destroyed. He also survived being captured as a POW during the Korean War and served his country until his honorable discharge on September 14, 1950. He continued to serve in the Army Reserve for another six years.

Joe moved to Alaska where he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers in its territorial days, before statehood. He later worked for the Department of Transportation, Highway Division as a Foreman, working out of Birch Lake Camp, for over 20 years, retiring in 1985.

Joe's life was always an adventure and with those adventures came many risks. Almost all his adventures were life threatening, including being buried in an avalanche with his plow truck while working for the DOT and falling through the ice on the frozen Tannana River while taking a string of horses across. But Joe wouldn't have traded the life he led for the world, for his life was anything but boring. Joe, doing what he loved, established a rodeo in Delta Junction, Alaska which inadvertently drew people in from afar but more importantly it gave everyone in a small town with more bars than anything, something else to do.

Joe became a breeder of the American Bashkir Curly Horse before it was even a recognized breed. He has sold the breed all across the United States and even to many foreign countries, including Germany, Australia, Austria, England, France, Sweden and his blood lines have reached Scotland. He was instrumental as a breeder of the Curly Horse. This love for the breed never left him and the horses followed him whereever he went. He received special recognition from the Curly Horse Registry for his work in advancing the Curly Horse breed into what it is to this day. After his retirement, Joe returned to the US and settled in Sequim, Washington. In 1995 he returned to North Dakota and eventually moved to the Jerusalem Hills north of Hamar which he called home for many years and has made many great friends.

Joe was a very active member and served as a member of the board for the American Bashkir Curly Horse registry. He was also a member of the International Curly Horse Association. Highland Cattle Association, American Morgan Horse Association, American Sport Horse Association and the American Buckskin Registry Association. Joe lived life to the fullest and with a pioneer spirit. He was very proud of his children and grandchildren and their accomplishments. We shall forever cherish his memory in our hearts.

Joe is survived by his sons, James Lyle Mead of Alaska, Joseph C. Mead, also Alaska, E. Kyle Mead and his wife, Carol of Tolna, Hillis Mead of Devils Lake; six grandchildren, Shawna Mead and Katelyn R. Griffin, Morgan and Megan Mead, Sierra Marie Lynn Possen and Amy Jo Lynn Mead; brothers, Clyde (Goldie) Mead of Utah; Donald (Kate) Mead of Wisconsin and Keith Mead, also of Wisconsin; sisters, Avis (Leonard) Olson of Oregon and Cathy Skaj of Wyoming.

He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Jim and Dean Mead; sisters, Abby Jo in infancy and Joyce Mead.

Friends may sign the online register book at
Sign Joe's Guestbook
Gilbertson Funeral Home, Devils Lake, is in charge of arrangements.

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Joe's Legacy Continues

Joe's Legacy WILL live on through his son Kyle and his wife Carol....and their two young children. "It's in their blood" to breed these horses, Carol says when asked about the future of Joe's herd. If you wish to have a "piece" of the Mead Legacy, contact Carol at: 701-262-4975 to inquire on available Mead's Curly Horses for sale.



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As the Curly world mourns the loss of a champion among Curly Horse Breeders, Kevin and I mourn the loss of a true friend. We had the pleasure in this life to have known Joe for 21 years. I served with Joe on the Board of Trustees for ABCR and as a new Trustee all those years ago, Joe led by example. I came to appreciate not only his cantankerous demeanor, but his wit and wisdom as well. As a Trustee Joe always had the Curlys best interest at heart. Joe's knowledge of the Curlys led us to breed the best horses we could. My husband and I made many a trip to North Dakota to purchase horses from Joe. I look back on those trips with a smile on my face. ( Photo to the left: Joe & Ron Groves taken at the Damele homestead at Dry Creek)
We broke bread together and I always accepted Joe's offer of a stout cup of coffee. Although the egg shell never quite settled the coffee grounds like Joe said, I never complained. We would sit for hours talking about bloodlines, breeding and of course we spoke of Benny. Much of Joe's knowledge came from Benny Damele and Joe was quick to praise Benny and give the man his due. Just to see Joe's stern face soften as he talked about his old friend touched my heart. Although I could not see Joe as often as I would have liked, we had many long phone conversations together. I would ask how he was doing and if he was following doctor's orders. He would gently scold me that the "old saw bones" was out to do him in and was trying to keep him from taking care of his Curlys. With Joe it was always the same his Curlys came first. Then of course he would change the subject and ask me which mares I had bred and when was I expecting my Spring foals. My memories of Joe would fill several pages and the times we had together I will hold close to my heart. His legacy will live on in all the people that he touched and shared his wonderful Curlys with . Thank you Joe for being you and try not to give St. Peter a hard time. We will miss you.   Kevin and Nancy

I did not know Joe personally, but have of course heard much about him and his mission to breed tough, sound, healthy and good looking Curly Horses, rather than breeding any horse with curls.  A few years ago, my friend acquired a Mead-bred mare - she and her foals are all wonderful in every way.

Thank you to Joe for producing great curly horses, not just horses with curls, and to his family for continuing his work. ~W


Sara Matthews (left) and Denise Conroy (right), visiting with Joe for the last time. Summer 2004

The beauty of Joe's Curly foals were unmistakeable. Their proud stance and soft eyes were irresitable to most buyers. The years of dedication to quality was there and you could see. Although color was not a priority for Joe, you would see a rainbow of color in his herd. Here are a few more pics taken in the Summer of 2004 while visiting Joe. Sara ended up buying a couple young colts during our visit. (and no, she really hadn't planned on it! lol) which are now saddle trained and incredible animals.



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