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Joseph Crisafulli
Joseph Crisafulli

GLENDIVE - Joseph Frank Crisafulli, 93, of Glendive, died Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009, at St. Vincent's Hospital in Billings.

Born in Glendive on May 28, 1915, to Giuseppe and Maria Crisafulli, he lived all his life in Glendive. He was called "Papa" by three generations of family members and friends. Joe was widely known and respected. He made significant contributions to the community and the state, and was active in business until shortly before his death.

He attended public schools in Glendive, graduated from DCHS in 1933, and attended the University of Montana, where he was an Intercollegiate Wrestling Champion. He majored in forestry and spent two years in the ROTC program there. His passion for horticulture played a major role in his life. He was a master gardener and tree grafter. He was president of President Roosevelt's Potato Advisory Committee. He invented and built the first Crisafulli Pump, which was perfected and marketed in partnership with his brothers Frank and Angelo. Crisafulli Pump Company was awarded Montana Small Business of the Year Award in the '70s, and Joe traveled with his mother, Mary Crisafulli, and brother, Angelo, to Washington, D.C., to receive the award from President Gerald Ford.

Joe traveled to many countries on a U.S. Trade Mission to educate about water and irrigation. He also patented a unique railroad tie treatment process. As chairman of West Glendive Dike Committee, he was instrumental in getting the dike built. He worked extensively with the Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to facilitate the project. He also served as director of the Montana Water Development Board.

Community involvement and his Catholic faith were a large part of Joe's life. He was a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus. He was a charter member of the Glendive Toastmasters, served many years on the Dawson County Fair Board, was president of the Campfire Girls Board, vice president of the Glendive Chamber of Commerce, served on the Glendive Hospital Board, and the Board of Directors of the Montana State Chamber of Commerce. He proposed the idea for the harvesting of paddlefish roe for caviar to benefit the Glendive Chamber of Commerce and Montana State Fish Wildlife and Parks Department. In a two-page article, Forbes Magazine featured his paddlefish roe idea and its benefit to his community and the State of Montana.

One of Joe's pet projects was to build a huge dinosaur model on the Sidney highway. Undaunted by skeptics who didn't share his enthusiasm for the project, he solicited and received donations locally and from across the country to complete the dinosaur.

In 1938, Joe married Arlene Robertson of Missoula, and they had five children and 10 grandchildren. Arlene preceded him in death in 1991. He later married Teresa Morgen Roberts of Wibaux, and was privileged to add her family to his own.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, Frank and Leonard; his daughter, Mary Lou Watson; and stepchildren, Michael and Matthew Roberts.

He is survived by his wife, Teresa at the family home; his sister, Rose Croonenberghs of Missoula; his brother, Angelo of Glendive; his children, Judy Kline (John) of Helena, Joey T. Crisafulli (Pam) of Glendive, Patricia Evans (Lee) of Cleveland, Tenn., and Kathy Green (Ed Rule) of Glendive; and his grandchildren, Joseph and John P. Kline, Randy, Vicki, Scott and Dawn Watson, Joseph (Mick) Crisafulli, Aaron Evans, D.J. Green and Kelly Green Honigbaum. He is also survived by his stepchildren, Noreen Bold of Ramsey, Minn., Jocelyn Strohm (Larry) of Glendive, James Roberts (Naomi) of Wibaux, and Jeff Roberts (Connie) of Wibaux; Teresa's grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 21, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Glendive, with Reverend Joseph Ponessa officiating. A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20, at Sacred Heart Church. Inurnment will be at Dawson County Cemetery. Arrangements by Cremation & Funeral Gallery. Condolences may be sent online to www.cfgbillings.com.

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