Remembering Montanans we lost in 2016 (2024)

Remembering Montanans we lost in 2016 (1)

“The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” –George Eliot, “Middlemarch”

SHELBY – In terrible weather and on perfect days, Ray Zell attended funeral after funeral to pay one last tribute to military service and sacrifice with the haunting notes of taps.

A farmer, Zell started playing the call with his grandson’s trumpet in the 1980s. When he learned the alternative to his efforts would be a recording, he kept playing until a few months before he died at age 100.

And Zell knew what military service meant. Three wounds in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II earned Zell a purple heart, and heroism under fire led to a Bronze Star, his family told the Shelby Promoter. A tank commander, Zell was on the front lines from the Normandy invasion into Germany.

Older than most of his troops, Zell abhorred war, saying “no one wins a war. You only have victims or survivors,” and he saw his duty as one of getting the young men under his command back to their families.

Zell is among the Montanans, ages 70 days to 107 years, who died in 2016 and whose legacies we recognize today. For many, only after they died did we learnabout their adventures, achievements, service and passions.

Work that mattered

A generous, compassionate woman, teacher and real estate agent, Mary Blair, 86, and husband, Wayne, started a motorcycle shop in the living room of the old hospital in Box Elder and then moved to Havre to start Havre Cycle, one of the first Honda dealerships in the state. Blair felt it was her mission to welcome people to Havre.

Shelby great-great-grandmother Leona Skones Larson, 93, started teaching piano lessons at 12, with her little brother her first student. He went on to direct the choir of the West at Pacific Lutheran University, and she gave piano lessons to close to a thousand students in 78 years.

Remembered in cowboy boots, Robert McNees, 76, was a state leader in education. He was a teacher and coach at Riverview School, Franklin School, and then the principal at Emerson Elementary. He became the vice principal at West Junior High and then later became the principal at West Elementary and Valley View Elementary.

The tributes poured in after Gregory Jensen, 59, died in Missoula in February. He taught second grade for more than 30 years, coached tennis and was an elementary principal in Conrad for six. He supported the arts and the library and worked with the elderly. One of his greatest gifts was the way he made all his students feel special. One former student said he still plays tennis, a sport he picked up with Jensen’s encouragement.

“I will wonder how many other people out there did something great today because of the ways that Mr. Jensen encouraged them,” Alex Papp wrote in a letter in the Independent-Observer. “And I will be proud that I am a teacher, and I will hope that I am half as good as he was.”

John Orizotti, 82, bought Pork Chop John restaurant in Butte in 1969 and helped it gain national fame. He put his whole heart into the business, which flourished.

Former state senator, Hobson mayor and lineman Bob Williams, 86, spent his career keeping the lights on in living rooms and calving sheds across a wide swath of central Montana through his work with the Fergus Electric Co-Op. An Army veteran who served in Germany in the 1950s, he returned home from service at 4:30 a.m. and was woken three hours later with a hearty, “Welcome home, Bob! Time to go to work.”

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Cut Bank is better for the life of Kimberley Butterworth, who died this fall at age 53. She was executive director of the Cut Bank Education Foundation and Alumni Association, touching the lives of many students, faculty and community members and impacting the town itself. She took students to Washington, D.C., with Close Up, established the Academic Challenge Team and coached cheerleaders. She helped keep Montana’s Junior Miss/Distinguished Young Woman of Montana scholarship program going and even was key in keeping the program alive nationally.

The eighth child of eight born to an Irish immigrant during the Great Depression, Homer Potts, 88, was drafted into the Army and served in Korea during the Korean War. He couldn’t afford a good business location so he set up shop in an old military barracks on a gravel road – a gravel road that would one day be the busiest street in Montana. At the end of his 53-year career at OK Rubber Welders, he was the longest-surviving businessman on 10th Avenue South. He spent his last decade caring for his wife, Gladys, learning to cook, can pickles and clean the house. He wasn’t a natural outdoorsman, but he took his sons fishing and camping with the Scouts – though he ditched the tent for a camper.

A World War II veteran of the Army Air Corps, Ben Tone, 94, with friend Harry Smith launched the Virginia City Players in 1949. Actor, director, and retired Montana State University drama instructor, Tone influences the theater company to this day and mentored many young actors.

Vivian May Keil, 99, of Conrad was a homemaker, sort of. A better definition of what she was to the farm’s operation is to call her “a horse riding, snake-skin tanning, hay-slinging true Montana cowgirl,” with the “grit and stamina to match any farm hand,” her family wrote.

Wolf Point’s Keith Casterline, 88, was born on a blisteringly cold day near Vida while his dad was away on horseback trying to fetch a doctor from Richey. He boarded to attend high school in Circle. He dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but with one half-brother killed during the Normandy invasion in World War II and another in law school, Casterline remained on the family farm to help his father, growing winter and spring wheat, safflower, peas and barley for 67 years. A former delegate to the Montana Constitutional Convention in 1972, he was involved in a long list of community groups. He took great joy in learning the newest forms of technology. As one of his last journal entries, Casterline wrote, “A poor man’s field may produce abundant food but injustice sweeps it away.” (Proverbs 13:23).

A 26-year member of the Montana house and senate from Missoula, Carolyn Squires, 75, was a nurse, unionist and champion of the rights of the poor, workers, families and women.

It’s hard to lose an election, but Libertarian Michael Fellows, 59, threw his hat in the ring anyway because he believed in his cause. He ran, unsuccessfully, for the Montana House, U.S. House, secretary of state and Montana Supreme Court. He died on his way home from a political forum in Seeley Lake.

Thomas Hastings, 60, was one of the first organic farmers in Conrad, a founding partner of Timeless Seeds and featured in the book “Lentil Underground” by Liz Carlisle.

Missoula artist Mary Beth Percival, 71, is remembered as a graceful watercolorist, with a career cut short by dementia.

Dr. William J Taylor, who died at age 85, began working with veterans suffering from PTSD in 1980. He consulted with local agencies, helped develop mental health programs for the American Red Cross, founded Spectrum Learning, a private learning center and started a summer youth program incorporating martial arts training.

Former World War II Canadian Women’s Army Corps photographer Joyce Crosson Sas, 92, became an internationally trained esthetician featured in Vogue who developed her own skin care and makeup line.

A woman who loved life, Pearl Larson, 98, of Havre is remembered for her professionalism and compassion as a nurse and her strength as a breast cancer survivor.

Overcame hardship

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Long before she became a great-great-grandmother, Eunice Rogers of Shelby was a child of the Great Depression who learned faith and frugality. At age 10, she and her seven siblings went to an orphanage, where she lived until age 17. Maybe there she developed the tender place she had in her heart for those who were less fortunate.

Rogers caught the eye of a dashing cavalry officer who would in just a few years be badly injured in the Battle of the Bulge. She followed her husband to a series of hospitals until his medical retirement as a captain. He became Toole County sheriff, and she became a bailiff. At 55 after her first husband’s death, she became a farmer’s wife. Before she died at 95, the Shelby woman was “an example to all who met her of a cheerful disposition, a loving heart, a generous spirit.”

Well-known and well-loved, Beverly Kittson “Sopiiakii,” 90, of Browning was one of the last members of the Green Wood Burners Society and the War Mothers Society. She started and was a leader for the Busy Badger 4-H Club in Old Agency, and she unretired to go back to work as a cultural teacher for Head Start, passing on her language to another generation.

Great Falls native Lela Moniger Autio, 88, grew up in the Great Depression. Her father was a ranch hand from Belt, her mother died when Autio was 3 years old. Her brother drowned at age 8. She grew as a teacher and an artist, paving the way for women artists in Missoula and across Montana. Her philosophy was that a person should do three things well: take care of your family, support your community and create a body of work that makes you proud.

Loma farmwife Emma Beirwagen was days short of her 96th birthday when she died in March. She was born the seventh of eight children and a mere 4 pounds. In the days before incubators, she was placed in a shoebox on the oven door and fed chalk water. The hardships continued for Beirwagen, who lost her dad when she was 3 and a few years later developed spinal meningitis, which paralyzed her for a year. Though inches shy of five feet, she went on to play basketball in high school. A great-grandmother, a seamstress, a pianist and a woman of faith, she and her husband were involved from the early days of the Great Falls Rescue Mission.

Lewistown’s Leland Garlick, 75, was heartbroken when his wife, Marilyn, died two years ago after 54 happy years of marriage. After his hands were severely injured while he worked for a brick cutters, they were sewed to his belly, a handle for grafting skin. (He told kids the scarred, deformed hands were the result of tangling with a grizzly bear. The more he was scolded for colorful stories, the faster they flew.) An outdoorsman, he was proud to play a major role in building the strong Lewistown Bow Hunters Association and loved teaching shooting and hunting.


Four of Montana’s most prominent veterans died in 2016: Bataan Death March survivor Ben Steele, 98, of Billings, Assiniboine World War II Code Talker Gilbert Horn Sr., 92, of Havre,Joe Medicine Crow, at 102 the last living Plains Indian war chief, andMissoula's David Thatcher, one of the last airmen from the Doolittle Raid over Japan in 1942.

Kissed as a “liberator” by on a D-Day commemoration in France, plumber Al Tesch, 91, of Choteau landed on Utah Beach on D-Day +8 in 1944 and fought as part of a fighter group across France, ending in Kassel, Germany.

A farmer, dedicated Shriner and one of Montana’s oldest Eagle Scouts, Jay Johannsen, 92, of Sunburst served two years in the interior of China during World War II after a harrowing ride over “the Hump,” as the Himalayas were known, and then in Japan during the Korean War.

One of 10 children, Richard Ferderer left home to find work, volunteering with the Marines and serving in the Korean War. A teamster, Moose and Elk, he was active with AA, including working with prisoners. After his lung cancer diagnosis, the 79-year-old wrote to the Tribune to publicly express his appreciation for the medical care he received and “the love and support, the daily phone calls, the cards, flowers, food, gifts and help from my family and my true, great friends has been humbling and remarkable.” The warm hugs “almost made this business of cancer worth it.”

A week after the attack on Pearl Harbor, farmer Lloyd Eide of Glasgow joined the U.S. Army Air Corp, spending four years with the 79th Fighter Group 96 in France, Italy and North Africa. Before he died at 96, he was awarded the French Knight of Legion of Honor Award in appreciation for his contribution to the liberation of France.

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Retired USAF Brigadier General, Craig rancher and former Geraldine farmer, Harold “Buck” Juedeman, 84, was a child of the Dust Bowl. He enlisted in the Marines and then was accepted into the Naval Cadet pilot training program. He then went on to fly a combat tour in AD-1 Skyraiders in Korea before serving as an instructor after the war. He joined the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls, where he eventually flew the F-89, F-102 and F-106 aircraft. Juedeman volunteered for a combat tour in Vietnam flying the F-102 and was seriously injured, though he returned to flying after a lengthy recovery, spending 35 years in the military. Active in ranching until the end, he was among the first to install center pivot irrigation systems in the area and later one of the first local wind turbines.

Robert Kraft, 90 was a 50-year farmer and an Army Veteran of WWII, awarded the Purple Heart for combat service in the Philippines. He spent a year in the occupation of Japan.

A former Red Cross volunteer of the year, Clinton Sennett, 88, was a World War II veteran and longtime Lewistown postmaster. He graduated high school early to enlist in the Navy, serving in the Pacific Theater and with the Allied occupying forces on Okinawa and in Japan as a radio operator and gunner in PBY floatplanes and PBM bombers. He flew over Nagasaki after the atom bomb dropped, taking photos of the devastation with a smuggled camera – only to have his film confiscated on his return to base. He joined the Navy Reserves after returning home and counseled young service members. A husband and a dad, Sennett was a 70-year member of the American Legion and a coordinator for Civil Defense in Central Montana.

A proud farmer, Albert “Tib” Aakre, 88, lived all of his life in Pondera County except for his service with the Marine Corps during World War II. His life revolved around the seasons and the weather, the crops and the livestock. He strove for self-sufficiency.

In Munich when Germany surrendered during World War II, Edward Nash, 91, of Cut Bank grew up on a homestead in the Sweet Grass Hills. He enlisted in the US Army, deploying to Europe in 1945 and then redeploying to California to train for the invasion of Japan.

Childhood was not easy for Floyd Ray, who died at 84. Growing up the third of four boys on a farm, Ray was paralyzed by polio for two years, but his childhood shaped a life of family, faith and hard work. He served in the Army during the Korean War, rising quickly from private to sergeant. Fighting heroically for his battalion, he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Korea Medal and three battle stars. He went on to work for the J.C. Penney Co. in Cut Bank for more than 40 years, serving as chamber president, coaching baseball, mentoring young people and portraying Santa Claus in the schools for more than 30 years. He participated in the political machinations of the local coffee klatch until the day he died, too.

Awarded the Purple Heart for his service in Vietnam, Larry Daggett, 69, served with the Army and then the Montana Air National Guard, adding up to almost 37 years of military service. A tribute after his death recognized him for taking young troops under his wings and showing them the way.

William Arvin, 89, of Havre, spent two years in the Navy during World War II, serving in the South Pacific, the Philippians, Okinawa, and Occupation of Japan on the USS Colorado BB45. He got an early release, with the understanding he could be called up again. And indeed, he got an “invitation” from Uncle Sam to report – just in time to screw up wedding plans. He got a seven day extension and left for Korea three days after his wedding. He retired from teaching and construction for about a year before going back to work, spending 14 years in a job with Cenex.

Butte native Roy Dower, 83, was an Army veteran who served during the Korean War. Helping reconstruct Japan after World War II, he used his mechanic skills to build a ski lift for the locals in Okido. He used the G.I. Bill to pursue his pilot license, beginning a lifelong love of aviation. With his childhood best friend, he build an experimental aircraft, Whitman Tailwind, which flew for more than 50 years.

The son of an East Glacier dude rancher, Dennis Sperry Mollander, 92, attended the University of Montana until he enlisted in the U.S. Naval reserve in 1942, serving in the Pacific Theater until 1946. He taught English at Great Falls and C.M. Russell high schools, becoming a tutor after retirement and then an adjunct professor at the University of Great Falls until age 90. He loved the outdoors, hiking, skiing, hunting and fishing. He shot his first elk at the age of 86 and skied until age 91.

Retired MSgt. Sherman “Rusty” Maphies Jr., 49, spent 27 years in service to his country with the Montana National Guard, deploying to Iraq, twice, the Korean Peninsula, Panama, Puerto Rico and Curacao. He also supported state wildfire suppression efforts on multiple occasions. Rusty was a certified jet engine technician on the F-16 and F-15 weapons systems.

After extensive exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam as an Army helicopter pilot, former police detective Kenneth Strand, 68, was left to battle Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes and neuropathy. On one of Ken’s missions in Vietnam, he single-handedly saved a whole troop and received a plaque from the troop that said, “Thank you for saving our a**.” He died on his wife’s and his son’s birthday.

Lifelong Anaconda resident, veteran and postman Edward McCarthy, 86, had dual citizenship with Ireland. He was known for huge pre-St. Patrick’s Day parties, an infectious smile and a hand stretched out for a handshake or a hug. His favorite sayings were: “Top of the morning and rest of the day to yourself!”, “Céad Míle Fáilte” (“A hundred thousand welcomes” in Gaelic), “Go Irish!” and “As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction.”

Gifted Butte neurosurgeon Pete Sorini, 56, died from brain cancer after a 14-month fight. He continued to shine, touching lives even though his illness. His funeral was in the Butte Civic Center, with no other place big enough to accommodate all those mourned. An Army Reserve colonel, he performed surgeries in Iraq, Germany and Haiti. His family wrote that he “somehow had the ability to extend a 24-hour day to make sure the needs of others were met.”

Five-term state legislator and delegate to the Montana Constitutional Convention, Leslie “Joe” Eskildsen, 94, grew up on the family homestead and then the county poor farm, which his family ran until the Social Security program launched. He purchased his first piece of land in high school and farmed into his 80s. When World War II came, he enlisted in the US Navy and served aboard a minesweeper in the South Pacific. He told his family his comrades at arms were his best and most cherished memories of his time in the service.

At 85, Arthur Kaluza looked back more than 40 years with the Montana National Guard, with one highlight his commanding a tank in Glacier National Park as an extra in the 1960 Korean War film “All the Young Men,” starring Allan Ladd and Sidney Poitier. A lifelong learner and longtime railroad pipefitter, Kaluza was proud to send all six of his children to college and graduate school.

Painting contractor Edward Warren, 86, showed “absolute love and devotion” to his descendants, with his great-grandchildren calling him “Grandpa Great.” He tried to enlist at age 13 to help his family get by but was found on a ship and booted as too young. He joined the Marines four years later.

Rudolph “Rudi” Sabo, 90, a Navy veteran and teacher, was a Montana State University wrestler who went on to launch Fairfield High School’s wrestling program. He took the Billings Senior High School wrestling team to a state title and then began 37 years of teaching at Great Falls High School, including more than 13 years as a wrestling coach. In 1970, Rudi was honored with the Montana Coaches Association Wrestling Coach of the Year award. His education philosophy was that if a student failed his class then he as a teacher had failed that student.

At age 16, William Hunt Sr. dropped out of school and fudged his age to enlist in the Iowa National Guard April 1939 with his younger brother, Bob. They joined the 113th Cavalry, a horse cavalry unit that mobilized in 1941. Though he lived until 92, the former Montana Supreme Court judge and Liberty County attorney said he learned the importance of luck as part of the first wave of soldiers to storm Utah Beach on D-Day and throughout his time in World War II.

“The war taught me we’re all the same. We all do our best, and we can’t worry about our differences,” he said.


Ellen Lambkin Mulcare, 87, grew up in her family’s historic Lincoln Hotel, where she learned to respect all the colorful denizens of Lincoln, a town where “everybody was somebody.” Inspired by the outdoor pursuits of her brother, who died in Germany during World War II, Mulcare loved the outdoors and hunted well into her golden years on horseback and on foot. Long walks through the countryside inspired two of her favorite projects, the Bluebird Society and the Upper Blackfoot Valley Historical Society.

“I loved my life,” she told her family as she faced lung cancer. “I have no fear. I know that God is with me.”

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Adventurous Joan Mazzucola, 73, grew up on her family’s Rudyard farm but saw the world. The Billings woman bought a van and made a solo trip to Florida, rented homes on both coasts and traveled by train across the country. She worked the summer seasons in Yellowstone Park and wintered in the Flathead Valley, traveling to Europe, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Cancun, Alaska, the Mexican Riviera and the Mediterranean – things many people talk about doing but few ever do. She was more than her travels. A matriarch, her family called her a moral compass who valued hard work and facing the world unafraid.

Maggie Deaton, 87, started working at the old Montana Deaconess Hospital 1962 as a nursing assistant and finished her career more than 30 years later as a certified ward secretary at Benefis Health Care. She walked, golfed, bowled and participated in the Montana Senior Olympics.

Dutton’s Doris McCoy Habel was a farm wife who traveled around the world to New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Germany and throughout the United States. Supportive grand and great-grandparents, Habel and husband, Art, were named “super fans” by the Montana High School Association.

Dying just four days short of her 91st birthday, Kathie Fowler Sherrard – to the amazement of children everywhere – could still do consecutive full stretch cart wheels well into her late sixties. She was known for putting others ahead of herself and for her hospitality. A farm wife, she had more than 125 unannounced guests five consecutive summer Sundays in a row.

“Grandma Nature,” Sharon Paul, 73, will forever be at the base of her beloved Stonewall Mountain in Lincoln. She spent countless hours sharing her knowledge of and appreciation for the things that were most important to her with her grandchildren.

Train conductor Bill Strissel, 58, of Rudyard was known for memorable road trips on the back roads of Montana, trying to take a different route on every trip to experience new country and new scenery.

Jana Elliott, 56, brimmed with love as a teacher at Wolf Point Northside Elementary School. She was a foster parent who took in six children, just one of the adventures in a life that included climbing countless mountain, wandering endless trails, kayaking, cycling, snow shoeing and hunting.

Born the fifth of 14 children, Chinook’s Elsie Nelson, 103, was a genuine “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II, welding materials on 100-yard supply ships with acetylene torches. She made possible the education of nieces and nephews with her “Earnest Endeavor” fund, helping them pursue their ambitions whether as missionaries, mechanics, teachers or whatever called to them.

Serving their communities

Anyone in Gildford who knew Irene “Shorty” Stuart, 88, never had to wonder what she was thinking. She wasn’t shy about sharing her thoughts and earned many titles over the years: community caretaker, the kissin’ grandma, nurse, medical assistant and trauma nurse. She was an avid walker, a farm wife, a cook, a gardener and a sports fan known by every referee on the Hi-Line and wasn’t afraid to hold them accountable for any unfavorable calls.

Her life motto was “Laughter is the best medicine” and she lived up to that, bringing laughter wherever she went.

Volunteer extraordinaires Maggie Deaton, 87, who was honored for volunteering more than 4,000 hours through RSVP, and “Papa Paul” Paul Grosvold, 53, who volunteered 1,100 hours as Troop 1 Scoutmaster in one year alone, both left hard-to-fill shoes.

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If you’re going to live nearly 107 years, it’s good to be active and interested, and that’s what Ernie Stomsvik of Cut Bank did. He was a husband for 70 years, a golfer who shot his best round at age 80, a dedicated blood donor who gave more than three gallons during his life, an Elk, a Mason and a charter member of the Glacier County Historical Society. A while after retiring from the Montana Power Co., he was a court bailiff, from age 81 to just shy of 100.

Delores Bird, 67, of Browning, was an educator at Heart Butte Public Schools and then Browning Public Schools before becoming a librarian at Napi Elementary, marking more than 40 years working with children.

Born in a log cabin in the Bull Mountains, Louise Turley Bell, 89, raised five children with her husband Jack. She and Jack built Bell Motor Company in Cut Bank, and she was active in her community.

Saco rancher and Navy veteran Richard Caves, 83, and his wife had 42 foster children in the years after his son graduated high school. He treated them all like they were his own.

For more than 30 years, Bill Kindzerski, 86, taught science and computers in Fort Benton, where he also devoted hours to the Chouteau County Fairgrounds, the Fort Benton Ag Museum, the Upper Missouri Wilderness Waterway Cruise Co., the Daly Mansion, Kiwanis and the Five Valleys Accordion Club.

Francis Engellant, 90, grew up on the family farm near Geraldine, a community he left only to serve in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He was a school board member, part of many community groups and a founding member and leader of the Lippard-Clawiter Foundation. This year he received the Yoneo Ono Award for volunteerism by the Rural Community Assistance Corp.

As a high schooler, William Surmi went to work in the family coal mine. In 1962, he switched to mail, becoming the Sand Coulee postmaster. The 91-year-old veteran left a legacy of service to his church and with the volunteer fire department. He also helped organize Sand Coulee’s centennial celebration in 1984.

Alexander Diekmann, 52, was senior project manager for The Trust for Public Land in Bozeman and instrumental in conserving thousands of acres in Montana and Wyoming.

Called one of the Billings’ “oldest and most dedicated humanitarians,” Margaret Ping, 103, worked in low-income neighborhoods in New York City, spent 39 years with the YWCA, spent 10 years in Mexico City and established the YWCA in Peru before returning to Montana. She donated the land the Big Horn County Historical Museum was built on and brought Habitat for Humanity to Billings. She took up oil painting at 102.

Army veteran, brand inspector and member of the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa tribe, Hedley “Jim” Arthur, 76, was instrumental in establishing Winifred’s museum and became its first curator.

Gone too soon

Witty, smart and good-hearted, Brenden Johnson, 19, brought joy to those who knew him. He liked to tinker with projects and think about better ways to do things. He was an awesome, wide-eyed kid who became a popular, involved teenager at Cut Bank High School. His journey ended far too soon, at Montana Tech in April.

A massage therapist with a healing touch, Darcy Buhmann, 37, is remembered in her hometown, Chinook, as a free spirit who “brought life and adventure to every occasion.” She was murdered in Bozeman by an ex-boyfriend and left behind two young daughters. Her enthusiasm for life spilled over into adventures in the outdoors, creating memories with her family of camping and boating.

A member of the MSU Bobcat Rodeo team, Anders Andreasen, 23, graduated in May with an ag degree and died over the July 4th weekend, joining the father who predeceased him. The Fort Benton man was known for his quick wit, tacky shirts, crazy shenanigans, cattle herd and pickup called “Blue Thunder.”

For about all of her 8 years, Daisy Hader battled a very rare disease that caused lung and heart failure, fighting the illness as no child should have to but “she was so brave, just like a super hero,” her family wrote. “Her witty, spunky character was not typical for a child her age. She had a passion for life and a million different facial expressions to go with it.”

Montana State-Northern football player Ethan Blythe was a standout athlete for Lewistown and is remembered for a goofy smile that lit up the room.

A car wreck took the life of Fairfield High School student Lauryn Goldhahn, 15, a girl who “ lit up every room she walked into, even without saying a word” and had a gift for visiting with anyone and making them feel loved.

George “Eagle Bear Fisher” Bostwick, 29, made friends everywhere he went. He played ball for Browning and Polson during his high school years and also at Blackfeet Community College.

Helena’s Ryan Eakin, 20, was a shooting victim in July. A proud big brother, his family remembered his for his organizational skills, gentle soul, positive outlook and big, shy smile. His Eagle Scout project was making a raptor rehabilitation house for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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Only 18 when he died, Jesse James Dannels of Chinook was honored by the teammates who became like brothers through swimming, football, track and wrestling and by athletes across the Hi-Line and the region who wore letter jackets to his funeral. Known for his smile, he cheered people on to do their best and was always willing to help others.

Jesse left behind these words he once wrote to teammates: “Winning isn’t everything, “Be kind to the winner when you lose – and beat them next time. Love what you do. Cherish every moment you can. I will never forget any of you. See you on the flip side.”

A role model for many, Colton Rohlf, 23, was a University of Montana Western student majoring in education and died in a car wreck. The Great Falls man was a Special Olympics Unified Partner and coach for the Great Falls Hornets and loved to fish. This year’s Camp Walleye was named in his honor.

Lachlan Browne of Helena could not wait to be a part of this world, arriving two months early and weighing only 3 pounds. He lived 70 days, organ failure thwarting his chance at a fair shot at life, but Lachlan radiated his love with a curling smile and eager eyes.

“Even the smallest drop of water creates ripples across a lake. Lachlan Duncan Browne filled the lakes of our hearts,” his family wrote. They are starting a foundation to further medical research into infant liver failure.

Reach Tribune Staff Writer Kristen Inbody at Follow her on Twitter at @GFTrib_KInbody.

Remembering Montanans we lost in 2016 (2024)
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