To those reading this obituary, whether you were a student of Dan’s, a Reum-Aide at school getting out of study hall, whether he was your coach, your mentor, your administrator, co-worker or your friend. Whether Dan was your uncle, your cousin or your brother, whether he was your father, your grandpa or your great-grandpa, no matter what Dan was to you, rest assured that he loved you as much as you loved him.
Born at his family home in Polson, Mont. on Aug. 10, 1943, Dan was destined for a life of service and love for hard work. When Dan was 11, the family moved to Twin Willows Ranch, just North of St. Ignatius, Mont. at the base of the Mission Mountains near McDonald Lake. Dan and his sister Bonnie (Taylor) and brother Norman (still running Twin Willows today) grew up on that ranch with his mother Mabel and father Clinton. Dan went to high school at St. Ignatius, playing sports and other activities, helping on the farm and helping his father build houses in the Flathead Valley. After graduation, Dan joined the Marines in order to travel and have opportunity for schooling after his service. During his military time, Dan met and fell in love with a red-headed beauty named Sarah (Pounds). Sarah had worked nursing with an aunt of Dan’s named Elsie at a California veterans’ hospital. Soon the two were married and began civilian life together with Dan attending school in Montana to obtain his teaching certification.
During his time in school, early on in the couple’s new life together, Elsie, Dan’s aunt and Sarah’s friend, was tragically killed in a car accident in the Mission Valley. Elsie had been raising four children, aged 3-12, Wendy, Pam (Rawson), Steve and David, on her own. In order to keep the children together, Dan and Sarah took legal guardianship of the children with supportive help from Dan and Sarah’s family. This began Dan’s true life’s work of helping and supporting children in our world. Twenty-three years old, newly married and four kids aged 3 to 12. Talk about jumping right in!
Dan got his teaching degree in Helena, Montana, and the family moved to Whitehall, Montana where Dan began teaching 5th grade. Shortly after moving to Whitehall, another little Reum was added with their daughter Kim (Flynn). Needing a bigger house for the growing family, a year or so after that, Dan’s dad, Clinton, came and helped Dan build the family home just west of Whitehall, Mont. about a mile out of town. They had a couple hundred acres they grew hay on and had a few animals, getting back to the farm life Dan loved. Soon after moving out of town, their sixth child, Sheri (Johnson) was born.
Dan taught fifth grade for a number of years, and when the opportunity came around, he moved to the junior high/high school to teach Special Education and begin to get into administration issues, becoming Athletic Director, along with other duties. Dan attended school in his spare time getting his school administrators certification. Soon after obtaining that certification, Dan became Principal of the Elementary school until his retirement from the Montana education system. During his years in Whitehall, Dan was instrumental, along with a few good friends, in getting the Little League baseball program back into action, coaching, field maintenance, fundraising, and recruiting. Dan also coached football and basketball along with his Athletic Director duties, instrumental in building baseball fields and the current football field of the Whitehall High School. Dan helped with building schools and playgrounds during his time in Whitehall, always present and instrumental in fundraising and recruiting volunteers. He would spend summers cutting trees for the Forest Service with his beloved partners, rototilling gardens and landscaping with his kids and grandkids, and whatever else he could do to support the family. Dan was a fixture at most youth activities.
After his retirement in Montana, Dan took his skills and love for rural communities and youth to Alaska, becoming the principal of St. Michaels schools. Sarah stayed back in Montana to take care of the homestead. Dan continued his work with the youth and community and soon became a beloved elder in the community. After about five years in St. Michaels, Dan took his skills to the village of Akiak, where he helped them build a new school and again became a beloved elder in their small community.
When his term was up in Akiak, Dan moved to Nulato and became their school principal, once again becoming a beloved elder. When that term was completed, Dan retired from the Alaska education system and moved to Cordova, Alaska where his son, David, had been since 1987. Dan got a job dispatching for the local forest service in Cordova, and moved into Forest Service housing. It was at this time, Sarah moved to Cordova to be with Dan and they moved into an apartment on Main Street they loved. Dan stayed active with the youth, serving a three-year stint on the local school board, coaching little league baseball and little dribblers basketball, volunteer fund raising for the youth teams, and mentoring the kids. Dan loved Alaska, fishing for halibut and salmon and just being on the water. Dan retired from the Forest Service a couple years ago.
One of Dan’s proudest moments was when he was selected to the Whitehall Hall of Fame in 2018 for his service to the community of Whitehall.
Dan and Sarah moved out of Cordova, back to Butte, Mont. the beginning of 2020 in order to be closer to the family doctors and other health facilities. In November of 2020, Dan fell and broke his hip in three places and was having difficulties recovering from that when COVID-19 found its way to their home. Soon it got to Dan, and he passed peacefully at home with family by his side on Dec. 28, 2020.
Dan spent his life dedicated to youth. He supported an orphanage in the Philippines with monthly donations for over 25 years, sponsoring Philippine children with school and transportation funds. He coached, mentored and taught kids every sport available. He was a beloved elder in each community he lived in. He loved people and people loved him and now he is our Angel in heaven. It is well with your soul, Dan. Your memories will carry on!
Dan is survived by his sister Bonnie (Taylor) and his brother Norman. To this day, Norman lives out the values of hard work at the Twin Willows Ranch where Dan grew up. There are acres of field and many cattle to feed.
He leaves behind a legacy of generations of hard-working people. His daughter Wendy lives in Nampa, Idaho and is a very talented artist. His daughter Pam married Donald Rawson and the two are known for having beautiful irises and famous hostas as well as two brilliant children, Jonathan and Jason, and grandchildren. Marrying Jo Ellen Richardson, his son Steve showed excellent taste and the two have a wonderful home in Bloomfield, Ind. and have been blessed with two children, Crystal and Keith. His optimistic son David married Aileen Velasco, both of whom are active in the community. They have children Brian, Elizabeth, Abby, Daveen and Cayden. A skilled real estate agent, his daughter Kim married Jon Flynn and the two have become quite busy keeping tabs on their own children Mika Zitnik and their mischievous twins, Hunter and Jacob. Owner of her own insurance business, his cheerful daughter Sheri married Eric Johnson and had a mechanically minded son named Tanner and a daughter named Lacey.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Whitehall or Cordova Booster Clubs, or another youth program of your choice, in his name. Cards to the family may be sent to Box 104 Whitehall, MT. 59759.
Memorial services in Alaska and Montana will be planned this spring/summer.