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WILSALL — On Dec. 31, 2011, Michael Richards of Wilsall lost his year-long battle with anaplastic thyroid cancer at his home surrounded by family and friends. Cremation has taken place at Franzen-Davis Crematory in Livingston. A celebration of Mike's life will be held Saturday, Jan. 7, at 11 a.m. at the Wilsall Community Church with a reception to follow at the Wilsall Event Center. There will be an opportunity for friends to share special memories.

Michael Jesse Richards was born to Jesse and Myrtle (Knerr) Richards Aug. 23, 1944, in Lewistown. He grew up in Hanover, graduated from Fergus County High School, attended college in Billings for a bit and then earned his Associates Degree in electronics. Mike married his first wife Mary Lou Bills June 6, 1964, became parents to Mike Jr. (Barb) and Josie (Keith Chromey) in 1965, spent 28 years in Missoula doing just about everything from working for Sears to being an owner-operator of his own trucking business.

Needing a change of scenery, Mike moved to Denton in 1993. He owned Michael J's Bar and eventually became the mayor of the town. Mike married his soul-mate, Mitzi, in 1999. He welcomed Mitzi's children, Christen Loendorf (Shawn), Frank Vincent and Tricia Ayers as his second family.

Mike returned to his trucking career in 2000, leasing on to Whitewood Transport out of Billings. The Whitewood crew truly became "family." He was able to continue his work with Whitewood after he and Mitzi moved to Wilsall in 2004. Due to his illness, Mike had to stop trucking in 2010.

Mike was a drag racer and a NASCAR fan. He helped develop the Lewistown raceway, enjoying the competition and the people. Mike and his family did many special things together. He loved camping in the Belt Mountains, snowmobiling, bowling and shaking for coffee with friends.

Mike was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife and five children as well as 14 grandchildren, brothers, Glenn (Arlee) Richards, Rod Richards and sisters, Neva Crane all of Lewistown, and Jeanette Kotecki of Cascade. Michael is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews.

Each new chapter of Michael's life brought new friendships. He spent countless hours shaking for coffee, playing cards and shooting the breeze. Perhaps his most special friend was his yellow lab, "Mutley," who is surely there to welcome him into heaven.

A memorial fund has been established at the Bank of the Rockies in Clyde Park. Contributions will be used to purchase concrete picnic tables to be placed at favorite camping sites in the Belt Mountains.

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