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Vincent Werner

Vincent S. Werner

Saturday, April 11th, 2020
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Obituary

In the early morning of Holy Saturday, April 11, 2020, Vincent Sterling Werner, having almost completed his 98th year, died peacefully of natural causes at the home in Missoula which he shared with his wife, June, until her death in July 2015. Attended in his last months by each of his seven children, he was comforted and cared for in his final hours by those who could be present in this time of a worldwide pandemic.

Predeceased by June and by his parents, Albert and Anna Laura, brothers Martin and Wilbur, and many friends, Vince was often referred to as Vince the Prince or Dadeo by his children, whose ages span 20 years: Joanne Werner (Katharine O’Connor), Fort Worth, Texas; Jeanne Werner, Missoula; Susan Werner, Great Falls; Paula Werner Butler (Brad) and Greg Werner (Susan Hasterlik Werner), Colorado Springs; Mary Werner (Lawrence Duncan), Missoula; and Lisa Werner (Joel Machler), Bozeman.

Vince is survived by thirteen grandchildren: Alison Davis, Douglas Cure, Megan Chalamet, Zachary Weiner, Joseph O’Leary, John O’Leary, Karen Dove, Eric Butler, Kate Duede, Keri Roach, Joshua Werner, Brittany Werner, Samuel Vincent Brown, 26 great-grandchildren, and nieces and nephews: Wilbur’s children Purnee McCourt, Lynn Payn, Chari Nelson, Mark Werner, John Kirwin Werner’s widow, Carol, and the children of June’s sister and brother.

Vince was a much beloved husband, brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather; a proud World War II veteran; a talented architect; a community, professional and church leader, and a cherished friend. Born on a farm near Falls City, Nebraska on May 9, 1922, he was the youngest of three sons of Albert and Anna Laura (Lippold) Werner. During the Depression, Vince shot squirrels for the pot, accompanied by his dog, Jack, and developed a life-long aversion to walking great distances. After attending a country school for four years, he rode into town on his horse, Honeybunch, to attend Sacred Heart School. Folks “could set their clocks” by the punctual clatter of horse hooves passing at the same time each morning.

After graduation from Hamlin Rural High School (over the Nebraska state line in Kansas), Vince purchased gasoline for a gentleman who was driving to Seattle and traveled with him as far as Montana where he joined his older brothers, Martin, a priest in Great Falls and Wilbur, an attorney in Cut Bank. The three were soon joined by their parents.

Vince worked two jobs to afford classes at the Great Falls College of Education (subsequently the College of Great Falls, now UPGF). He was reputedly the first employee of the original D.A. Davidson brokerage firm, chalking up quotations received from the NYSE. His second job, nights at the Great Northern Railway, offered more varied experiences, from counting box cars to rounding up, for the morning shift, railroad workers who had spent the night in “leisure activities.”

In 1942, Vince met June Devine, the woman with whom he would share 71 years of married life. Vince joined the US Army Air Corps after learning of the Pearl Harbor attack and, qualified as a navigator and commissioned as a 2nd Lt., trained in Rapid City, South Dakota, then deployed to the European Theater, after detouring to Northwestern University to give June an engagement ring. He navigated a B-17 aircraft from the States to the easternmost point in Brazil then across the Atlantic to Dakar, the westernmost city on the African mainland, and on to Italy, a 15-leg air journey.

As a member of Crew #515, Vince served as a B-17 navigator in the 15th Air Force, 5th Bomb Wing, 2nd Bomb Group, 96th (Heavy) Bombardment Squadron. While based at Amendola Army Air Field in the Foggia precinct of Italy from March to July 1944, he was credited with completing 51 combat missions in 98 days. Vince was awarded the USAAF Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious missions, including two final missions as Lead B-17 Navigator of the entire 5th Bomb Wing, guiding 168 aircraft from Amendola to the Blechhammer South Oil Refinery (one of four principal synthetic oil plants in Germany) and the Ploesti Xenia West Oil Refinery in Romania (also critical to Hitler’s D-Day war efforts).

On August 22, 1944, 1st Lt. Vincent Sterling Werner, warm in his woolen uniform, and June Myrtis Devine were married at St. Ann’s Cathedral in Great Falls by Vince’s brother, the Reverend Martin E. Werner. Wilbur Werner served as best man. Vince and June moved to Texas where he trained navigation recruits at Randolph Field in Texas. He then left the service and enrolled in the study of architecture on September 1, 1945 at Montana State College in Bozeman (now MSU) on the GI Bill.

Vince having graduated in August 1948, the family moved back to Great Falls where he and his classmate George C. Page, a Great Falls native, formed the firm Page-Werner Architects (later Page-Werner & Associates, Page-Werner & Partners) in January 1953, practicing until their retirement in 1990. The spirit of the firm lives on, first with partner Stephen L’Heureux assuming leadership of L’Heureux Page Werner, and now as LPW Architecture.

Page-Werner designed the campus of the College of Great Falls, C.M. Russell High School and three major additions to the C.M. Russell Museum, all in Great Falls. Subsequent notable projects are the Creative Arts Complex at MSU and the Justice Complex at the State Capitol in Helena. The firm also designed residences, schools and other buildings from Darby to Wolf Point and from Eureka to Terry.

In 1978 Vince, June and their youngest daughter, Lisa, moved to a home Vince had newly built on acreage on Belt Creek, south of Armington (near Belt), Montana, where they lived for more than 20 years. Daughter Susan and her family, June’s mother Isabel Devine Decker, and Vince’s brother Martin lived nearby in three other homes Vince designed. The grandchildren have precious memories of growing up or visiting “Omi” and “Opa” at Wunderbar.

Vince and June moved to Fort Worth, Texas, in 2000, spending six years in the last of the several homes Vince would build or remodel for the family – this one in the Museum District near daughter Joanne and friend Katharine. Their participation in church volunteer service for those in need acquainted them for the first time with a racially and culturally diverse urban community.

They returned to Montana in 2006 and transitioned easily into the Missoula community, living near daughters Mary and Jeanne, and visiting frequently with children and grandchildren. They continued their commitment to service and to their personal spiritual journeys. Their Sunday ministry at Saint Patrick Hospital and the faith community at Blessed Trinity Catholic Community were central elements of their life in Missoula.

Vince and June constantly sought new experiences, joining the first Montana Friendship Force venture in 1979, and traveling to Europe, often with family members, where they made lasting memories and forged life-long friendships, in particular with Robert and Heidi Eichhorn. They made an inspirational journey to the Holy Land with Vince’s brother Martin and June’s mother Isabel. They kept relationships strong by frequently visiting family and friends, here and abroad. And, Vince led many family “roots” trips to Falls City, Nebraska, visiting the original stone house built by his forbearers in the mid-1800’s and reuniting with relatives and dear friends.

Proud of his World War II service, Vince enjoyed regaling friends and family with tales of his adventures, many collected in a treasured memoir, 120 Days – High Adventure. He had kept detailed records which prompted vivid recollection of events. A favorite story was the surprise and gratitude he experienced the first time he saw a Tuskegee airman’s face in the plane next to him, escorting his crew’s B-17 back to base from a long and dangerous mission. He located and was reunited with 13 of his crew/replacement crew members, and was the last surviving member of his crew.

An active layperson in the Catholic Church, Vince was also a member and leader in several civic, professional, and faith-based organizations at the local and state level. An American Institute of Architects (AIA) Emeritus Member, he was the oldest Bozeman architecture graduate to be awarded the Degree of Masters of Architecture retroactively in 2008 after qualifying for same through study and examination.

Vince collected clocks, plates and Falter Saturday Evening Post covers, restored a cabin outside of Monarch and made Wunderbar Vintage chokecherry wine. He pursued the study of spiritual readings, genealogy, art, and architecture. He enjoyed chair yoga. Vince loved numbers. He could find numerical references everywhere, perform complicated math calculations in his head, and tested family members on square roots. He often remarked that his favorite college course, though, was Music Appreciation, and that maybe he would have made a good conductor.

Vince counted his pennies but was always generous, philanthropic with whatever he had. His love for God’s creation particularly included clouds, rocks, chickadees, his gardens, and Montana’s wide open spaces. He consistently identified and rooted for the underdog (except Nebraska teams) and loved to bet with family members on just about anything.

Vince could be impatient, but worked on that to the end. He was forever growing and evolving in his perspective. For one with such experiences and accomplishments, Vince was modest, describing himself in a late writing as one who, “wore no particular crown, except one of love and appreciation for June, his children, and those who will follow their footsteps.” Following June’s death in 2015, he adjusted bravely to that “new normal’ and was appreciative of all the efforts made to allow him to stay in his home until his passing.

Vince was lovingly befriended by neighbor Christy’s family (wonderful meals), Fred Slimp (chocolate shakes and haircuts), and by many members of his Blessed Trinity faith community. Vince and June “adopted” many additional family members over the years, too numerous to name, but they each are aware of their good fortune, and are held forever in his heart and those of the Werner family. Vince was proud of all of his children and grandchildren, and delighted by his great-grandchildren. Not a complainer, he was full of gratitude, inspiring all by his dedication to his family, to his faith, his work ethic, his enthusiasm for life, and his optimistic outlook.

On Easter Sunday, Vince’s family said goodbye and shared memories in a virtual gathering that has left them with grateful hearts for having shared his life and love and for the life lessons he modeled. Interment has taken place at the Western Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Missoula. Vince rests beside June. A future celebration will be held.

We thank the Montana Veterans Administration for its able assistance throughout the years and acknowledge the loving attention and care Vince received from Harvest Home Care and Missoula Aging Services. Vince benefited greatly from Hospice of Missoula Palliative Care and Hospice Programs. If desired, contributions in Vince’s name are suggested to those organizations, to your local food bank, pandemic relief fund, veteran’s service organization, to funds benefitting Montana tribes, or to another organization which brings Vince to mind. Please visit https://www.gardencityfh.com/ to share condolences or memories.
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4 trees have been planted in memory of Vincent S. Werner
MN

Michael Nolan

Posted at 09:36am
Please accept my condolences to your family on Vince's passing. I worked for Vince and George early in my career, and learned from them not only about the design process, but also about integrity and values that drive a sustainable business. I'll always remember being at Wunderbar when the hour struck - all of the clocks chiming! You were blessed with wonderful parents, and I pray that they are enjoying their eternal reward.

Michael Nolan
BC

Betty Cook

Posted at 05:07pm
With deepest sympathy,
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A memorial tree was planted in the memory of Vincent Werner — Plant a Tree Now
BC

Betty Cook

Posted at 05:02pm
Dear Susie and all the Werner family,
I was so sorry to hear of the loss of your dad. I have such great memories of your parents during our high school years, Susie. They were both such wonderful people. My prayers are with all your family.
NM

Nano McCluskey

Posted at 12:40pm
Dear Werner Family,

On behalf of our University of Providence community, please accept our deepest condolences on the passing of Vincent “Vince” Werner, father, husband, grandparent and much more. All staff, faculty and students are privileged to work and learn in the buildings on the beautiful open campus. The buildings Vince and his associates designed for the Sisters of Providence continue to serve our educational and formation needs now and into the future.

Every year, you would be pleased to know how our visitors enjoy walking the grounds and seeing the beautiful architecture.

Vincent truly exemplifies all that we would wish for from alumni of the university in the community of Great Falls and beyond. May he rest in peace and may your memories of him bring you comfort in the coming months and years.

University of Providence Advancement Team,

Lisa Flowers Trace Richburg Nano McCluskey
HS

Heartfelt Sympathies

Posted at 12:06pm
To ensure the foundation of your roots continue to grow. Thanks for giving strength to our foundation. Carolyn Lippert and George Wood
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