Arlee- Larry Ray Clinkenbeard was born on August 10, 1943 in Whittier, California, to Roy and Ellen Clinkenbeard. He was the youngest of four, sister Virginia and brothers James and Arlan. At the age of 17, Larry and his parents moved to Hamilton, MT to join his mother’s family. Montana did not agree with his parents, they returned to California after a short stay, but Larry chose to stay in Montana. His father’s parting words to him were, “You're no better than who you run with, we taught you right from wrong, and the rest is up to you.” Larry took these words to heart and never faltered from his dad’s wisdom. He reminded his children and grandchildren often as a not-so-gentle reminder of his expectations of us. As Dorothy, his loving wife of 58 years, said, “I’m really going to miss him.” his youngest granddaughter Josie chirped in, “he kept us in line.”
He worked at a local gas station to support himself, basically homeless sleeping in his car and couch surfing, until graduating from Hamilton High School in 1962. After graduation he joined the Montana National Guard.
In a classical American romantic tradition, he met his soon-to-be bride, Dorothy Wheeler in the St. Ignatius Malt Shop where she and a cousin had stopped for a cherry Coke. That evening they marveled at the Northern Lights sitting in his 1963 Chevy Impala atop Ravalli hill; they married 5 months later on August 14, 1965 in the Catholic Church in St, Ignatius, Montana.
He began his career in retail business shortly after his marriage when he joined the Safeway grocery chain in Polson, Montana. He then began work with the Fred Meyer chain in a management position. In this capacity, he worked in stores in the Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington areas. He returned to Kalispell, Montana. area about 1970 where he worked for the Fred Meyer chain in their Montana outlets briefly known as B&B Stores.
In 1972 they made their forever home in the Jocko Valley. Their love for each other was special and wonderful to witness. The kindness and respect they showed each other would awe a person; especially the grandchildren, it would be mentioned over and over throughout the years.
From this unity they had his “favorite daughter” Jamie, sons, Lee (Leah) and Jason (Carolyn). Eleven grandkids, Trevor, Cole, Bailey (Riley); Logan, Kyler, Nathan, Josie, Hiram; Carter (Erin), Kara (Tyler) and Piper (Luke). Two great granddaughters, Remy and Murphy, and one great grandson arriving soon, Riggs.
In 1972 Larry, Dorothy and brother-in-law Joe Wheeler began selling discount cigarettes atop Evaro hill, known as Joe’s Smoke Ring. Ultimately they grew their business to two convenience stores, one at the original Evaro location and another in Pablo, a full line grocery store, car wash, a restaurant and a home heating oil distributorship in Arlee.
In the early days, being the dreamer and entrepreneur Larry was, he pursued and operated Pistol Creek Construction, Wooden Nickel Outfitters Trucking, sold Christmas trees in the southern states, sold fireworks which later became known as Northwest Display and Pyromania Fireworks, one of the largest wholesale and retail fireworks distributors in Montana.
From his very early days in Montana he loved wilderness travel and backcountry pack trips. These adventures brought him to realize the value and superiority of the mule in this environment. His passion for these animals led to the creation of Mule Acres, better known as the Busted Ass Ranch. He began to devote his time promoting, breeding, and mule trading throughout North America. Eventually building the Mule Palace and hosting the World’s Richest Mule Race on top of Evaro Hill, complete with concerts and mule competitions. It would be understated to say that he was an ambassador to the species.
He would acquire young mules in the southeastern states which would be trained for riding and packing in his son, Jason’s, outfitting business, World Class Outfitting Adventures and then sold for recreational use. Once in a while he would surprise Dorothy with a misfit pup from the sale barn, but not without fretting the 1,600 miles home, only to be greeted with a big kiss and smile, just as much for him as the puppy.
Larry passed peacefully at his and Dorothy’s winter home, their “happy place" in Queen Valley, Arizona on December 20, 2023. He was surrounded by those who loved him deeply and cherished each and every wink and grin he graced us with in the final days.
Larry was preceded in death by his parents and brothers.
Visitation will be Friday, January 5th from 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM, followed with a Rosary at the Garden City Funeral Home in Missoula. Mass on Saturday, January 6th at 11:00 AM at the St. Ignatius Mission Parish in St. Ignatius. A reception will follow in the church basement. Larry will be laid to rest at St. John Berchmans (Jocko) Cemetery in Arlee at 2:30 PM.