LIVINGSTON — Thomas Edward Lane, 81, of Livingston, died Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011, in a single-vehicle accident, north of Big Timber.
Tom was born into a ranching tradition on Dec. 4, 1929, in Three Forks, to John and Elizabeth (Finnegan) Lane. Tom attended elementary school at the one-room Lane School in Three Forks. He graduated as salutatorian from Holy Rosary Catholic School in Bozeman and attended Montana State University. Tom spent a lively childhood on the family ranch, surrounded by his siblings Arnold, Laura and Robert, in addition to many cousins and extended family in the Three Forks area. He started his career as a cattle buyer while still in college and became so involved with his cattle business that he made the decision to withdraw from MSU with only one quarter remaining to complete his degree.
Tom and his brother Robert formed Lane Brothers Cattle Company, in which Tom continued to trade cattle and land throughout the state of Montana, while Robert ran the home ranch. Through much determination, hard work and Irish luck, the two brothers were able to build the basis of a ranching enterprise still going strong today. It was a cattle deal that took Tom north to Canada, where he met his wife Mary Ann Leverick. They were married on Nov. 14, 1959, and embarked on a life of memorable times and hard work. While Mary devoted her time to raising their six children, Tom dedicated his time to growing their cattle and ranch business.
In 1972, Tom and Mary purchased the Windsor Ranch in Livingston and moved from the family ranch in Three Forks. He continued to expand his business, partnering and dealing with lifelong friends. His greatest joy came from "making the deal"- right up to the very end. Tom was larger than life and those who had the opportunity to meet him will never forget him. The stories are legendary, both the ones he told and the ones told about him. Tom was the epitome of the great American cattleman. His final day was spent doing what he loved ... looking at cattle.
Always interested in issues relevant to his community and the ranching industry, Tom was active in local and state organizations and boards. For example, he was instrumental in building the new middle school as a member of the Livingston School Board. In addition, he was appointed to the Montana Board of Livestock. Perhaps Tom's greatest passion was in his faith and in education. He served on the Great Falls-Billings Diocesan Finance Council and on St. Mary's Parish Council. He was a Knight of Columbus and a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. He donated his time, talent and resources to many over the years, but St. Mary's Catholic School held a special place in his heart. Through Tom and Mary's generosity, many people received the gift of a Catholic education, which he believed was one of their greatest works.
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Tom is survived by his beloved wife of 51 years, Mary Ann Lane; and his children, Catherine Lane-Kellerman (Zac), of Livingston, John (Kendra) Lane of Cascade, Ann (Dave) Mepham of Portland, Ore., Tom (Joey) Lane of Livingston, Jim (Kristi) Lane of Harlowton and Bill (Katie) Lane of Ismay. He delighted in his 12 grandchildren, Tegan, Lindsay, Kaitlin, Ashley, James, Brigitte, Jack, Karli, Hayden, Tyler, Colton and Trent. He is also survived by two brothers, Arnold (Ginny) Lane of Plainfield, Ill., and Robert (Marietta) Lane of Three Forks; a sister, Laura E. (Lloyd) Myers of Great Falls; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and a sister-in-law, Carol Ann Lane.
His legacy lives on in the driving determination he instilled in his children, leading them to achieve success in their chosen fields: Catherine as a businesswoman, Ann as a lawyer and the four sons, John, Tom, Jim and Bill, continuing their father's example of stewardship and ranching tradition.
Vigil services will be 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4, and Mass of Christian Burial will be 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, both at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Livingston. The Rev. Wayne Pittard will officiate. A luncheon will be held in St. Mary's Parish Hall in the school gymnasium following the Mass. Graveside committal and burial will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, in Fairview Cemetery in Three Forks, with Deacon Robert Lane officiating. Arrangements are under the direction of Franzen-Davis Funeral Home in Livingston.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to St. Mary's Catholic School, P.O. Box 646, Livingston, MT 59047.