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Memories & Candles

“I did not know Harry, but was so moved by his obituary that I wanted to send my condolences. I grew up in Butte. Harry was of my parents'...Read More »
1 of 1 | Posted by: Teri Wing - Missoula, MT


Harry passed away at his home of natural causes on July 20, 2011, 10 days after marking his 92nd birthday. A life lived full and rewarding. He was a master storyteller and shared the humorous, dramatic and interesting adventures of his life experiences with anyone who would sit and listen. Harry was born on July 10, 1919 in Butte, America to his parents Henry (Harry) and Mae. He was raised on the rough and tumble Eastside where honor mattered but so did toughness. His grandparents and parents died before Harry had turned 14. When his parent's friend, who was caring for him, died a year later he learned to rely on his own resources and intelligence. He stayed at the Butte YMCA and hit the road at the height of the Great Depression by riding the rails over much of the Northwest. When he returned home to Butte he earned his diploma from Butte High under the guidance of his football coach. On his 19 birthday he eloped with his true love, Grace, and was married in Virginia City by a blind Justice of the Peace – no questions asked about their young age. Five boys and 69 years later he and Grace remained truly smitten with one another. Sadly, Grace's passing occurred in 2007. Harry proudly served in WWII as a B-17 ball-turret gunner in Europe with the Army Air Corps. Based in England, he flew 35 missions and survived a bomb blast in London. Stateside, he became a flight instructor at Las Vegas Army Air Base. After his honorable discharge Harry and Grace opened their first motel in Shelby, MT. A couple of years later, they relocated to Missoula and built first the Big Chief Motel next to Rattlesnake Creek and then The El Rancho closer to downtown. Over the years, they expanded this motel and renamed it the Bel Aire. Harry , with Grace, established a successful and well-respected business and became an integral part of Missoula's business community. He still found time to be the best Dad a bunch of sons could ask for. As a scout leader and one of the originators of the Mount Jumbo Little League, Harry became a second father to many of the kids who attended Central School with his sons. Time spent with Harry was always great fun and educational. No matter which young person came into his life, he took a personal interest and went out of his way to make them feel included and loved. Harry was a civic leader active in the Chamber and for many years in Rotary. Bowling and Handball were his passions and he gained and retained many close friendships as he played both into his 80's. Summers spent at Swan Lake and Flathead Lake were a solid tradition for Harry and Grace and many wonderful memories were created with kids and friends over the years. Harry and Grace traveled throughout the US and extensively overseas, the latter with their dear friends Wally and Helen Schwank. They also logged many miles on the beautiful roads of Montana. Harry loved his surviving five sons Jay, Jim, Terry, Robert, and Dan and his daughters-in-law Sharon, Denise and Earline. He was proud of his four grandchildren, Kari, Kim, Tara, and Sean, and nine great-grandchildren. He was the patriarch of his nieces, Bev Nagel, Joan File, and Judy McLeod. The family of Ray and Eunice Ormesher were, also, an intregal part of his life. He is predeceased in death by his parents, his beloved sister, Thelma McNeil, and the love of his life, Grace. Harry was a man of absolute truth and integrity. His Butte roots of strength of character and self-confidence were his true compass and his kindness and generosity was infinite. He is much loved and will be remembered by all who knew him. In lieu of flowers the family suggests memorials to The five valleys Land trust, 117 W. Broadway, Missoula, MT 59802 A funeral service for Harry will be held on Thursday, July 28, at 1 PM at Garden City Funeral Home followed by burial at the Western

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