Donald Ward Powelson was born in the home of a midwife on Second Street in Havre, Mont., on June 30, 1919, a year after the great Spanish Flu Pandemic. He lived most of his life in Havre until moving to Saint John’s Moorberg and Jensen Cottages in Billings, for the last few years of his life. Don died in Billings on June 25, 2010, surrounded by his children and their spouses, five days before his 91st Birthday.
Don Powelson was the only child of Mark and Clara Burns Powelson. The family homesteaded north of Chinook and moved to Havre when Don was four years old. In later years, he enjoyed stopping by the old homestead during his numerous hunting trips. He was often accompanied by his long-time hunting and fishing buddies Ed McKinty and Dick Winters.
Don was raised and educated in Havre. He attended Saint Jude’s School and Havre High School, but, as a result of The Great Depression, was forced to cut his formal education short in order to help support the family. Consequently, he valued and strongly supported education for his children, all of whom graduated from college or technical schools. Don was awarded an Honorary High School Diploma from the State of Montana at the age of 85.
Don saw Montana as a young man through work with the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) where he hand “whip sawed” the timbers for many of the state historical markers found along Montana highways. He served with the CCC near Great Falls and in Glacier National Park.
Uncle Sam helped him see the world as he served with the Navy Sea Bees in Newfoundland, Canada, and the Pacific Theatre during World War II. Prior to joining the Navy he worked in the Bremerton, Washington Shipyard where he built dry docks used to rebuild ships damaged at Pearl Harbor and repaired the teakwood deck of the Battleship Pennsylvania. He often spoke of his service in Newfoundland and building runways on the Pacific Islands of Saipan and Okinawa for B-29 bombers.
In 1947, Don married Margaret Horinek, a Montana girl from Hingham, and raised five children in Havre: Jean, Bob, Brenda, Lee, and Randy. He was preceded in death by his dear wife Margaret in 1986; son-in-law Jerry Kroese in 1980; son-in-law John Turner in 2003; and his grandson Nicholas Powelson in 2007. He is survived by his daughter Jean Kroese Turner of Fairbanks, Alaska; his son Bob Powelson and wife Barbara Thompson Powelson of Billings; daughter Brenda Powelson-Vick and husband Jerry Vick of Kalispell; son Lee Powelson of Anchorage, Alaska; and son Randy Powelson of Fairbanks, Alaska. He is also survived by three grandchildren: Jean’s daughter Roxane Turner of South Orange, N. J., and Randy’s son and daughter Justin and Larrisa Powelson of Safford, Ariz.
Don spent his life as a carpenter and worked for Fugelvand & Son of Havre for many years as a carpenter, construction foreman and superintendent. He also worked as a Building Inspector for the State of Montana. He was employed on many jobs in the Havre area and often recalled his work on major commercial buildings in the area such as the Elks Lodge, the Havre Clinic, Saint Jude’s School, the Buttrey Building, and several buildings on the Northern Montana College campus. Carpentry work often took him out of town for numerous jobs throughout eastern Montana. He was active in the Carpenter’s Union, serving as the president of the Havre Local, with a continuous membership of approximately 76 years.
Don was an active lifetime member of Saint Jude’s Church. He was a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus, the Elks, and the Veterans of Foreign War. He volunteered his time to many organizations, including the Boy Scouts, where he shared his love and knowledge of the outdoors with young Scouts on many fishing, camping and canoe trips. He donated his time and service to several Hill County 4-H Clubs. In later years, he was active in the Havre Senior Center where he loved to play pool with friends. He enjoyed history and donated many items belonging to his parents to “Havre Beneath the Streets.” Carpentry came in handy when he built the bunks in the Chinese section of Havre Beneath the Streets and worked on numerous projects for the Clack Museum, the 4-H Chuckwagon, and Boy Scout Food Booth located at the Hill County Fairgrounds. Don loved gardening and entered tomatoes in the Hill County Fair; he often worked in the Boy Scout Food Booth and 4-H Chuckwagon during the fair.
An avid reader, Don read every book written by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour more than once. X’s on the book jackets told the story. He loved Montana. If he had been born earlier, he probably would have enjoyed exploring with Lewis & Clark. He had an outstanding sense of direction and rarely needed a map.
Don was a good cook and made fabulous breakfasts. Pancakes were his specialty. He had a positive outlook on life and valued honesty and hard work. He always told his children, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.”
A Rosary Vigil will be held Wednesday, June 30, at 7:30 p.m. at Saint Jude’s Catholic Church in Havre. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Don Powelson on Thursday, July 1, at Saint Jude’s Catholic Church at 10 a.m. Internment will be in the Highland Cemetery. The family invites friends to celebrate Don’s life at a luncheon immediately following the graveside service at the Saint Jude’s Parish Center. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to the Havre Senior Center, Saint Jude’s School, or the H. Earl Clack Museum.