1939 Don 2023

Don Loftsgaarden

July 7, 1939 — October 29, 2023

On October 29, 2023 after a short illness, Don Owen Loftsgaarden joined his heavenly family in the same way that he lived his 84-year life - enveloped in the love of his family and friends.

Don was a native Montanan and loved his home state. Born in Big Timber on July 7, 1939, he was raised in the close-knit community of Power where he was a baptized and confirmed child of God, and a member of Zion Lutheran Church with his family.

His dad, Owen, was teacher, coach, principal, and school superintendent. Don and his siblings exceled in basketball, football, track, and school. He was passionate about math, and his last two years of math classes in high school were completed by correspondence course from the University of Montana (UM) - foreshadowing his career as a Statistician and Mathematics professor at UM for 35 years.

Don worked his way through high school and college at the local grocery store, in a cannery, and on a custom-cutting crew. He also repaired railroad track, which required his mother's written approval because he was 'too small' for that type of work.

Don attended Eastern Montana College in Billings, then Montana State College in Bozeman, receiving a BS in 1961 and a PhD in Mathematics in 1964. He taught at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo beginning in 1965. In the fall of 1967, he found his way back to his home state and a dream job in the Mathematics Department at the University of Montana in Missoula, serving two terms as Department Chair. He formally retired in 1998, though he continued teaching one semester a year for three additional years. He loved teaching because he could help his students grow and learn. He was also a leader in a number of national mathematics and statistics associations.

Don applied his statistical expertise working at the Forest Service Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula helping develop tools used by firefighters on the fire line to make decisions based on real-time fire weather behavior. He was passionate about firefighter safety, having grown up in the shadow of the tragic loss of lives during the Mann Gulch Fire in Montana in 1949.

He also worked on community studies that showed support for and resulted in the establishment of the Mountain Line bus system in Missoula - a system that continues to be a success today.

Don married his life-long soulmate, Nenette Marie Blake, in November of 1961 after meeting at Montana State College and working together at the college's Ryon Computer Lab. They were charter members of Messiah Lutheran Church where he remained active until his death. Together, they raised three daughters, shaking larch trees, cross-country skiing, instilling a strong faith in God, and imparting the knowledge that there were no bounds to what they could accomplish in their lives - and they were right. For over a decade, Don coached all of them in soccer, softball, and/or basketball, while Nenette was official scorekeeper. Don's influence in women's sports extended well beyond his daughters to positively impact many others in the Missoula community. He was committed to ensuring every young player had the opportunity to learn, grow, and excel.

While his wife Nenette and children were central in his life, Don became an entirely new character when his five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren arrived on the scene. The father who liked quiet car trips with his daughters later baffled them when he was quickly willing to sing loudly along with his grandchildren on road trips. He jumped on pogo sticks with them and attended every possible sporting and academic event, birthday, graduation, and camping trip. His commitment to spending time with his family carries on. Each family gathering creates many new 'fond memories,' as he called them.

After his family [or sometimes before them :)] Don's biggest loves were Grizzly sports and camping. For 57 years, Don and Nenette rooted for every Grizzly team, and, as MSC graduates, would even support the Bobcats... except of course during the Griz-Cat game.

He introduced his family to the wonders of Glacier Park where he had spent his childhood, and the Park continues to be a family favorite. He loved showing his kids and grandkids new hikes, skipping rocks, and making s'mores over the campfire.

Don never met a stranger, and as a native Montanan had a knack for finding common connections with so many people he met. In his last days, Don shared "I know I have a great family and I love you dearly. I'm sure you'll have lots of fond memories as the days sneak away."

Don is now in the loving arms of Jesus together with those who have entered heaven before him, including his siblings, Alan, Lynne, and Butch, and his parents, Owen and Catherine, along with the many other ancestors he tracked down in recent years while learning the Loftsgaarden history.

He will be remembered with so much love by those he has left on this earth - including his wife Nenette Loftsgaarden; daughters Debra Carlstrom (Ron), Lisa Peterson (Shawn), and Meta Loftsgaarden (Steve Fedje); five grand-children - Katie Speegle (Luke), Bert Carlstrom (Erin), Katya, Cole, and Tasha Peterson; four great grand-children - Arlan, Chloe, and Sully Speegle; Iona Carlstrom, and many extended family and friends.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (I Corinthians 13:13). We love you Don, Dad, and Grandpa. We promise to continue to build 'fond memories' as you taught us to do, and look forward to the day we will see you again.

Services will be held Wednesday, November 8 at 1:00 pm at Messiah Lutheran Church, 3718 Rattlesnake Drive; reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Don's name to:

• Missoula 2-1-1 (connects people to resources for non-emergency needs; checks to Human Resource Council, 1801 S Higgins, Missoula, MT 59801; memo line: 2-1-1 Dept, Don Loftsgaarden Fund),

• Soft Landing Missoula (providing supportive services and welcome for refugees and immigrants in Missoula, checks to Soft Landing Missoula, memo line: Don Loftsgaarden; http://softlandingmissoula.org or 939 Stephens Avenue, Suite C, Missoula Montana 59801) or

• the charity of your choosing.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Don Loftsgaarden, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Starts at 1:00 pm (Mountain time)

Reception to follow

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