Topper Thorpe

Topper Thorpe, (AKA Papa Top after his first grandchild was born) of Gila, New Mexico passed away on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. Topper was born in Camp Atterbury, Indiana on October 18,1942, to Martin and Eleanor Thorpe. Alongside his brother and sister, he was raised on a cotton, alfalfa, and livestock farm in Dona Ana, NM, and attended New Mexico State University where he earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master’s degree in Agriculture Economics. In 1965 Topper married Sandra Turner.   

Before earning his master’s degree, Topper served as First Lieutenant in the Army and was honorably discharged in August 1966.  

Topper, with Sandra, (who died in 1999) moved to Denver, Colorado in 1968 to work for CattleFax as one of the first two employees of the startup company. Topper helped pioneer a database of information designed to help CattleFax members make market-based decisions for their operations, by providing more accurate, and timely, industry-wide forecasting tools than were available anywhere else. He spent years traveling across the country speaking to cattle producers, feeders and associations sharing information and forecasts about the cattle market.  He became known for giving detailed speeches about the market without using any notes and in a way that was straightforward and easy to understand.  He treasured and established many long term relationships with the people he met during his travels. Topper worked for 30+ years as CattleFax’s General Manager/CEO, during which time CattleFax grew to become the nation’s premier market information, analysis, research, and education service owned by cattle producers and feeders. During this time, Topper and Sandra started a family and raised their three children, Destre, Terra and Slade, while being actively involved in the PTA and volunteering as 4-H leaders and on the local fair board.   

After Sandra’s passing in 1999, Topper married Leeann Herdman Shelley, and shortly thereafter retired from Cattle-Fax. After retirement, Topper and Leeann moved back to her farm in Gila, NM where Topper spent his retirement farming and serving his community. He volunteered tirelessly for 20 years to ensure that water rights for agricultural and local entities were allowed to be put to beneficial use and protected for future generations, specifically for the Gila/San Francisco water system and throughout the state of New Mexico. Topper was appointed by the NM Governor as a Commissioner on the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, and during the years he served on this Commission, strived to be the voice for agriculture and local entities in New Mexico.    

Topper was a man of unwavering integrity, with the highest of expectations for excellence in all he did. He was patriot and a staunch believer and defender of the freedoms his beloved United States offered. Topper spent a lifetime passionately supporting and protecting agriculture, serving his communities, and serving God. He was a brilliant mind, hospitable and kind, intimidating, caring and compassionate. Topper was a very loving family man and loyal to a fault to his friends. He will be dearly missed by many!     

Topper is survived by his loving wife Leeann, and daughter Destre Shelley (Dale) of Cliff, New Mexico-- grandson Tate Shelley (Kynzi) of Portales, NM, grandson Holt Shelley (Peyton) of Radium Springs, NM-- daughter Terra Thorpe, of Wichita, KS and son Slade Thorpe (JJ) --granddaughter Harley Jo Thorpe of Valentine, NE, stepson Troy Shelley (Claudia) of Casa Grande, AZ--grandsons Aaron Shelley and Ethan Shelley of Coolidge, AZ, nephews Troy, and Trace Thompson and their families, of Roswell, NM.   He was preceded in death by his parents Martin and Eleanor Thorpe, wife Sandra Ann Thorpe (1999), brother Philip Thorpe, his wife Carol, and their daughter Tammy Kenny, sister Peggy Thompson, and her husband Bill.   

In honor of Topper’s wishes, there will not be a public service, only a private, family memorial.     

Contributions in lieu of flowers can be made to the following:   

National Cattlemen’s Foundation for the Topper Thorpe Memorial Fund
9110 East Nichols Ave, Suite 300,
Centennial, CO, 80112,
or you can also go to: and donate a gift now.

The donations will fund the:
Topper Thorpe Mentor Scholarship
This is an annual award for a full-time Junior, Senior, or Graduate level student, studying Ag Economics, Ag business, Ag Finance, Ag marketing, or Animal Science. 


 Donate now