12:08 PM EST, December 29, 2012
Francis Dean “Butch” Caneva, 74, of Deadwood, died Thursday, December 27, 2012 at the Lippold Family Hospice Suite at Sturgis Regional Hospital. He was born April 20, 1938 in Joliet, Illinois, to Carl and Kathryn (Gillette) Caneva. He married Carla (Busch) Caneva on May 20, 1961 and she survives.
Also surviving are his children: Brandon (Laura) Caneva of Sturgis and their children Connor and Annika; Deana (Moses) Ward of Lincoln, Nebraska, and their children Evan, Isabel, and Quinn; and Collin (Angie) Caneva of Lincoln, Nebraska, and their children Calvin, Ella, and Chiles. He is also survived by his brothers: Reno (Phyllis) Caneva, and Ronald (Lynda) Caneva, of Lockport, Illinois.
Remembered by most as a successful businessman in Deadwood, he began his retail career at the age of fourteen in his father’s store called Caneva’s Fashions for Men in Lockport.
In 1957 he met Carla when she began working in the store at the age of fifteen. While their initial work relationship was tumultuous and antagonistic, upon Francis’ return from his National Guard service in 1960, Carla and Francis fell in love and were married the following year. Francis served five years in the Illinois National Guard as a medical specialist.
During the decade that followed, he continued to build his family’s retail business in Lockport. At this time, he also obtained his private pilot’s license. Shortly after, he purchased a Cessna 182 and logged many hours flying over Chicago and to Mackinac Island in Michigan.
In 1972, after the birth of their third child, Francis and Carla lost their clothing store in Lockport when it burned to the ground. Because Francis was a skilled pilot and an officer in the Menswear Retailer Association of America, he learned of a business opportunity in Deadwood, South Dakota and flew his young family to the Black Hills.
Francis fell in love with South Dakota and would tell anyone, “You will never see a bluer sky than right here in the Black Hills.”
Francis and Carla purchased six clothing stores (with business partner, Mick Mudlin): The Hub (Deadwood, Sturgis, and Belle Fourche), The Hitchin’ Post (Belle Fourche), The Lariat (Rapid City), and the well loved and often missed, New York Store.
Francis’ legacy is one of creativity, wit, hard work, and resilience.
In 1977 he began battling debilitating cluster headaches that resulted in the wearing of his signature dark sunglasses indoors and out.
He continued to work as his illness permitted and developed the first computerized business system in Deadwood to help run The New York Store.
In 1991, while he was a business partner and retail manager for The Midnight Star in Deadwood, he battled and overcame prostate cancer.
In 2006 he was diagnosed with dementia that progressed rapidly through the years that followed, but he never forgot his family or the call sign for his airplane, “niner niner six two tango.”
In his free time Francis enjoyed aviation, fishing, and his trademark white automobiles that he loved to shine. He was also passionate about writing and painting. In fact, he has written three unpublished novels, one of which is a tribute to his relationship with Carla, his wife of 51 years.
He thoroughly loved spending time with family: his brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews in Lockport; and of course, his three children and eight grandchildren.
He was a loving dad, grandpa, uncle, friend, and husband who never skimped on the hugs, peach tea, or licorice. Francis was also an active member of his community: treasurer of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Deadwood; Broken Boot Gold Mine board of directors; a block club co-chair for Neighborhood Housing; and the Lions Club of Lockport.
The Caneva family is sincerely grateful for the warm outpouring of support and love from their community of friends and the wonderful hospice care at Sturgis Regional Hospital.
A memorial service to celebrate Francis’ life will be held in June. Memorial donations to honor Francis can be made to St. Johns Episcopal Church in Deadwood and Hospice of the Northern Hills in Sturgis.