Lawrence (Lyle) Mitchum, a lifelong resident of Missoula and Rock Creek passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Friday March 24, 2023, from advancing stages of COPD. He had recently celebrated his 81st birthday and often stated, "If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself."
Lyle, entered the world as the middle child of three and only boy, born to Benjamin L. Mitchum and Ardith (Shoemaker) Mitchum in Billings, MT on March 16, 1942. His early years were spent living in the small town of Fishtail, MT. He attended Absarokee High School where he played football, something he often spoke about throughout his life. He was a mischievous kid and delighted in playing jokes on his neighbors and family, fishing and hunting and his family's dogs.
Lyle was a hard working man and started working at an early age for neighbors, bucking hay bales for .10 cent a bale. In high school, he started working at the Fishtail Market. After high school graduation in 1960, he attended a few years of college in Billings, studying to become a teacher; before striking out on his own, pursuing a lifetime career in meat cutting, butchery and later as an entrepreneur starting his own equipment distribution company.
In 1963, he wed Judy Schelly in Great Falls, MT having met through mutual friends. From this marriage he was blessed with two daughters, Renee Sue and Schelly Marie. Judy and Lyle divorced in 1971 but would continue to reunite decades later for family picnics up Rock Creek with their shared daughters and grandchildren until Judy's passing in 2018.
Lyle met his second wife, Sharon Galetti, while delivering chicken to the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant Sharon managed. They were wed in Missoula, MT in 1972 and welcomed their daughter Jennifer Lynn in 1973. During this time, Lyle adopted Sharon's daughter from a prior marriage, Julie Ann (Watson). He worked for Thompson Distributing and later began Mitchum Distributing with Sharon before their divorce in 1980.
Lyle maintained Mitchum Distributing, as purveyor of meat slicing-packing-processing equipment, seasonings and spices. Lyle was a highway man traveling the roads of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Wyoming to purchase equipment packages and deliver to customers all around the region. He was well known in the area for being highly skilled in his trade and spent many occasions helping friends (or friends of friends) dress down their game, making sausages and specialty spice blends. He would continue to be an avid hunter and fisherman, until back injuries slowed him down in later life.
In 1984, Lyle wed his third wife Josephine Hayes at the Hitching Post in Coeur d'Alene, ID. He would welcome his fifth daughter Susan Rachel in 1984. While all of his daughters were special to him, he would take great pride and joy in raising Sue as a single father after he and Jo divorced in 1987. Josephine continued to be close to Lyle in years to come and would help provide necessary home care for him in his final year of life. He lived around Missoula, East Missoula and then Clinton before his favorite place of all, Rock Creek.
In 1998, Lyle made the fateful decision to move up Rock Creek, where he would spend the next two decades living off-grid. This is where he was most at peace and loved the responsibility of shooing away the occasional trespasser who wandered onto the land, thinking they had discovered a magical fishing hole (they had, but it wasn't for their use).
He lived a simple but joyful life and felt he was most at home up Rock Creek. When the solitude became too much, and he needed some company he would boogey down to Poor Henry's Saloon in Clinton or the Rock Creek Tavern. His homestead was directly on the river and oversaw a beautiful mountainside that saw a plentiful amount of wildlife. Lyle would often be found, coffee cup in hand watching this hillside tracking the numerous bears, moose, mountain lions, big horn sheep, deer, and squirrels that he shared the land with. Dad was an avid storyteller and would delight us with tales of his interactions and near misses with some of these wild animals. He shared the land with his beloved dog Elvira, who was the light of his life and his best friend and companion for many shared Rock Creek adventures. He had lifelong friendships, and many friends and family members would make the pilgrimage each summer to camp up on the land with Lyle. He always welcomed the company and enjoyed the visits. Lyle was known for being a great fly fisherman and was willing to teach everyone who visited how to cast a line, which includes most of his grandkids and his daughter's husbands.
He had a beautiful love for his daughters and their children and was known to speak proudly that they were college graduates with good careers (three in medical and two in finance). Dad loved a good time and was known to tell a tale that had everyone in stitches and left you wondering which parts were real and which parts he embellished. He spent many summers rafting the Blackfoot river when the girls were young, loved the open highway, exploring back country logging roads-abandoned ghost towns and mines, music, reading, rolling his own cigarettes (kids don't smoke!), eating a good steak, drinking a cold Budweiser and a hot cup of cowboy coffee with a donut or something sweet. In 2020, with his COPD no longer allowing him to weather the tough, winter temperatures up Rock Creek, he moved into town to the Missoula Manor. It was here where he spent the remainder of his life, meeting new friends and discovering a love for watching ladies softball and the MTV show, Ridiculousness (much to the chagrin of his daughters). He never gave up chasing women and was a Casanova to the very end.
Lyle is preceded in death by his parents Ben and Ardith and his older sister Charlotte Cisneros. He is survived by his younger sister Audrey Martin of Lakewood, CO; daughters Renee (spouse Mike) of Missoula, MT and her children Cody and Westley; Schelly (spouse Kevin) and their children Emily and Joe of Warren, MI; Julie and her son Brandon of Post Falls, ID; Jennifer and her daughter Abbey of Post Falls, ID; Sue (spouse Ben) and their son's Henry and Winston of Missoula, MT.
The family would like to thank the wonderful staff of Saint Patrick's Hospital in Missoula, which provided outstanding care over dad's lifetime and in his final days. The folks at the Missoula Manor for welcoming and caring for this mountain man with tender hearts. Partners in Hospice for providing excellent care, especially his beloved nurse Faith. Additional thanks to Josephine Hayes for her care and support in his final weeks of life.
"And when I reach the other side
I'll find a place to rest my spirit if I can
Perhaps I may become a highwayman again
Or I may simply be a single drop of rain
But I will remain
I'll be back again and again and again and again and again and again"
Celebration of Life will be hosted by the family on Saturday May 13th at 4:00 PM at the Rock Creek Lodge, anyone who like to honor and share memories of Lyle are welcome to join.