HONEYVILLE, Box Elder County John Max Baugh was a simple cowboy, a northern Utah rancher who above all was a family man.
Baugh, known to most as "Rasty," died Thursday at Ogden Regional Medical Center from complications of West Nile virus. He was 84.
Baugh's death is the first in Utah related to the virus in 2012, following four confirmed cases in the state.
The farmer and cattle rancher lived in the Harper Ward area in unincorporated Box Elder County between Brigham City and Honeyville.
Baugh and his late wife, Leah, were married for more than 60 years and together raised six children.
"They made a commitment to each other that, no matter what, they would be together forever, and they would provide that legacy for us kids. And they did," David Baugh, the couple's youngest child.
Rasty Baugh had a hard time sleeping after Leah passed away last year, the son said. He spent many nights sitting on his porch in the moonlight, feeding the cats that would hang around his farm.
Family members suspect it was on one of those late nights that he was bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus. He had been suffering from flu-like symptoms, David Baugh said.
"He just kind of didn't feel real well," he said.
Though he was 84, Rasty Baugh was in good heath, his son said. The illness hit a few weeks ago, he said, and within a few days, the man's speech had become incoherent.
Doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with Rasty, and he was unconscious for more than a week.
"The day he passed away, they diagnosed him with West Nile virus," David Baugh said.
Though their father's death came suddenly, David Baugh said he and his siblings are finding comfort in their belief that their parents will now be together to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary later this month.
"We're grateful for the legacy that he's left for us, for what we learned from him, working side by side on the farm," he said.
Lloyd Berentzen, executive director of the Bear River Health Department, said Rasty Baugh's death also serves as a reminder of the seriousness of West Nile virus.
Parts of Box Elder County haven't yet had a "hard freeze," which keeps the risk of the illness alive, Berentzen said.