LAUREL — Ray Michels, age 90, of Laurel, passed away from a stroke on Sept. 17, 2012. Ray was born to Lydia and Francis Michels and grew up at Acton. He graduated from Broadview High School where he could not stop talking about being on the basketball team. He enlisted in the Army during World War II and became trained in automotive repair. He rose to the rank of Sergeant and supervised his own motor pool. He later worked under an inspecting general for the Army Air Corps.
After the Army he worked at Hines Motor Supply, and Loren Anderson Drilling Co. Eventually Ray bought one of the drilling rigs from Loren and became a water well drilling contractor, drilling wells throughout the Yellowstone valley and surrounding area.
While working at Hines Motor he met Louise Jacobs, who was working next-door as a "McKesson girl." They were married in 1948. This was a "city girl" who became the love of his life and she became fully integrated as his partner on the ranch.
In 1957, he purchased a ranch outside of Laurel. He expanded the quality and size of the operation and became a full-time stockman. Later the ranch became known as Rawhide Ranch. Many groups enjoyed the Rawhide Ranch including the Boy Scouts, Black Powder groups and the Laurel Saddle Club, and the filmmakers of “Return to Lonesome Dove.” Besides ranching, he also loved welding. Many of his welding innovations are still in use today.
As a young man he saw Pres. Roosevelt electrify rural Montana. He thought that this was one of the most important improvements for the well-being of people in rural areas. He joined the Yellowstone Valley Electric Cooperative, and eventually became a director and board president, serving 31 years on the board. He truly loved serving in this role, many times attending meetings and events and supporting this organization.
He is survived by children, Colette (AJ) Spurlock of Baldwin City, Kan., Claudine (Jack) O’Connor, Ismay, Frank (Mary Jo) Michels, Billings, Fred (Loretta) Michels, Shepherd, Flint (Bobbi) Michels, Goodyear, Ariz., and niece Raenel (Rick) Larson of Woodland, Wash.
He is survived by 21 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.
The family would like to thank special friend Judy Dustin and also his personal physician Steve Gerstner.
Ray was preceded in death by his mother and father, Lydia and Frank Michels; stepfather, John Uhrich; spouse Louise Jacobs Michels; brother Arnault Michels; daughter Claire Michels; and great-granddaughter Maggie Manas.
Memorials, in lieu of flowers, may be made to Yellowstone Valley Electric, P.O. BOX 249, Huntley, MT, 59037, Attention to: Ray Michels Memorial Scholarship.
A prayer service will be at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary in Billings on Sunday, Sept. 23, at 7 p.m., with visitation from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The funeral service will be held at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Laurel on Monday, Sept. 24, at 10 a.m. Rite of Committal with Military Honors will follow at St. Anthony’s Cemetery in Laurel.
Michelotti-Sawyers is in charge of arrangements and remembrances may be shared with the family at www.michelottisawyers.com.