After 86 years of adventure, Raymond Widenhofer crossed over the great divide on May 29, 2019. Ray was born in 1932, to Walt and Elva Widenhofer in Indianapolis.
At age 5, Ray dropped his first fishing line into his grandfather's farm pond in Ohio. He moved from Indianapolis to Duluth, Minnesota, and arrived in Montana at age 12. He attended high school at Missoula Hellgate, but moved to Livingston during his senior year. Ray then took some odd jobs and spent a few semesters at MSU in Bozeman and at Carroll College in Helena before enrolling full-time at UM in Missoula.
Ray supported his fishing habit during the summers of '54 and '55 by driving a Yellowstone Park Tour bus based in Gardiner. In Yellowstone Park, Ray discovered something he loved even more than fishing. In 1954, Ray met his future wife of 63 years, Helen. They married in 1956 and moved to Billings in 1960.
Ray earned his Bachelor's degree and taught History and Government at Billings West High School for 31 years, beginning in 1960, when the school first opened. While he was a teacher, he earned his Master's in Education, and spent a fascinating summer in Pakistan, studying their system of government in 1971.
Ray stayed in Montana because he loved the outdoors. As a teen, Ray learned to downhill ski, and that became his passion when it was too cold to fish. Back in their university days, he taught Helen how to ski down mountains on 7 foot wooden skis. She married him anyways! They spent years volunteering with the Beartooth Ski Patrol at Red Lodge Mountain. Ray earned an Avalanche Specialist certification and became Senior Patrol Member. Ray had both of his children, Catherine and Christopher, up on skis by the time they were 4.
Ray worked to support his family and his passion for outdoor recreation. He was happiest with a fishing pole (and a fish) in hand. He made yearly fishing excursions to northern Canada with his best friends and he treasured those experiences. As he aged, and technology improved, he traded skiing for ice fishing, much to the chagrin of his family.
Ray and family spent many summers hiking/backpacking in the Beartooth Mountains, floating/fishing on rivers, and exploring the back roads of Montana.
Ray was always a curious person, so after retirement, he and Helen decided to take some trips and truly experience some other parts of the planet. They traveled all around Europe (Ray loved castles and cathedrals), they went to North Africa, Russia, and trekking in Nepal.
Ray was also an accomplished woodworker/carpenter, creating beautiful furniture pieces. He earned 11 Big Sky State Games medals for his bowling efforts.
Ray is survived by his wife of 63 years, Helen; his daughter Catherine of Billings; son Christopher of Portland, Oregon; and brother Allan (Joy) of San Anselmo, California.
Ray was under hospice care with Compassus. The loving care and support provided by their staff was outstanding. The last 9 months of his life were spent in senior living at Highgate. With the loving, compassionate care given to him by Highgate care partners and staff, he soon called Highgate 'home'. Their staff provided outstanding care and compassion to Ray. Our hearts are filled with gratitude to all who cared for him.
Cremation has taken place, and a memorial/celebration of life will be held on July 13 at the Billings Elks Club. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Eagle Mount of Billings, the Elks Memorial Fund for scholarships, or Special K Ranch.
We know Ray is happy in fishing heaven.