Cover photo for Barbara Kettlewell's Obituary
1925 Barbara 2024

Barbara Kettlewell

February 19, 1925 — March 7, 2024

Barbara J. Kettlewell, known for her smile and her passion for Quarter Horses, passed away peacefully at home on her ranch March 7, 2024. She had recently celebrated her 99th birthday.


Barbara, the daughter of Fred W. and Frances Abbott, was born February 19, 1925, in Minneapolis. Following graduation from Washburn High School, she was certified in airline communication and worked briefly in California. In 1950 she married Reed Kettlewell, and they founded Sunup Ranch in Osseo, MN. Together they built the ranch into Minnesota’s oldest and largest breeder of Quarter Horses. Sunup moved its operation to the Brainerd area in the early ‘70s, where they continued to sell horses around the U.S. and internationally.


Reed and Barbara had two daughters, Victoria and Jennifer. Both daughters were out in the barn almost before they were walking. Barbara fostered their interest in horses. Both became accomplished horsewomen with sustained interest in Quarter Horses and the industry, and were vital to ranch operations.


One of the longest-standing traditions in Barbara’s family was the showing of horses at the State Fair. Beginning in 1951, the first year the fair’s horse show resumed after WWII, Reed and Barbara exhibited some of their first horses, Barbara winning the western pleasure class with W.R.’s Golden Tiney. The pair were featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.


For 25 years Sunup Ranch operated near Champlin, MN. In the early 70s it relocated to the Brainerd area, near Gull Lake.  Reed and Barbara saw much promise in the former dairy farm. Situated on one of the highest points in the area, the beautiful pastures swept away to treed horizons in every direction.


Reed and Barbara’s customers followed them to Brainerd. They increased both their herd of horses and cattle, and increasingly buyers were coming from all over the United States, Canada, Central America and Europe.  


In 1986 Reed died when participating in the Breezy Point Camp Confidence 10K. The suddenness of his death sent ripples through the operation, but Barbara was determined to continue the ranch. Today, Sunup Ranch continues to raise and sell Quarter Horses across the country, building on the foundation Reed and Barbara laid.


Barbara, along with her sister, were invited to audition in the first Geritol Frolics, a senior stage group, in 1987. Barbara performed until 2009 at the age of 85. Barbara had a brief second marriage and traveled abroad, affording her a chance “to see the world.”


Barbara was inducted into the Minnesota Quarter Horse Association’s Hall of Fame in 2010, and was a 70-year member of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). She was named an AQHA Legacy Breeder and an AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder.


Barbara volunteered at St. Joseph Medical Center and in the Brainerd schools. She loved her flower gardens. One of her many joys was seeing the new crop of foals each year and picking out the “good ones.”


Barbara is preceded in death by her parents, husband Reed, and sister Gloria A. Johnson. She is survived by her two daughters Victoria Kettlewell (Greg Booth) of Brainerd, and Jennifer Kettlewell of Minneapolis. For more about Barbara:


A Celebration of Life is planned for May 18, 2024, at 1 P.M. at Sunup Ranch. In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Minnesota Quarter Horse Foundation. Arrangements by Brenny Family Funeral Chapel.


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