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Walter "Mick" DezellFebruary 15, 1932 ~ May 17, 2017 (age 85)
Walter Louis DeZell (Mick) of Hamilton passed away on May 17, 2017 surrounded by his loving family. Walt was born Feb 5, 1932 at the old Marcus Daly Hospital in Hamilton, the son of Walter Vern and Margaret (McCormick) DeZell.
He was the youngest of 6 children including 4 older sisters, Margie Allen, Belle McGregor, Elsie Chadwick, and Vina Spencer who were raised by his Mother after her first husband died, and an older brother, John William (Bill) DeZell. His family gave him the nickname “Mick” saying that he looked like a ‘good ol’ Irish Mick’ as a baby. He graduated from Hamilton High School in 1950 and rode the bus from Corvallis after his family moved there his sophomore year. He worked hard at his Uncle Floyd’s ranch and loved to fish and hunt elk every chance he could. Walt was drafted into the Army in 1951 and served in California and Germany. He returned to the Bitterroot as a seasonal worker for the U.S. Forest Service in 1954, clearing trails and planting trees. He worked his way up to Forest Fire Management Director coordinating the logistics for fire response teams and retired in 1992 after 38 years. His favorite part of the job was flying in small aircraft and helicopters over the mountains he loved, spotting smoke and hot spots, delivering supplies to remote crews on the ground, and predicting what the fires might do next with amazing accuracy. Walt was frequently requested by name to help manage fires in many other states including Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, and Nevada. He was called back to teach fire management classes and to advise on numerous local forest fires in the 1990’s through 2005.
In 1960, Walt married the beautiful Shirley Iris Gates of Corvallis and they raised 4 wonderful children – Craig, Kerry, Sheila, and Alysia. Their family enjoyed many picnics, snowmobiling, camping, card playing, hunting and fishing. Walt’s parents owned the original Koffee Kup Café into the mid-1970’s and he cooked and washed dishes to help out. He proudly served as a volunteer fireman for 20 years with the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department from 1966 to 1986 and mentored countless firefighters over the years. Walt also served as a trustee of the Hamilton Rural Fire District from 2001 to 2004. He thoroughly enjoyed the State Fire Conventions, monthly retiree steak dinners and the annual picnics with fire fighters and families.
Loving the outdoors, Walt knew the Bitterroot Mountains “like a farmer knows his fields.” In his words, “I hunted and killed a lot of elk, fished and caught a lot of fish, bowled and rolled a lot of strikes…it doesn’t get any better than that!” He especially enjoyed catching salmon and halibut in Alaska, bowling (he even rolled a 300!), playing pinochle, cribbage, and Soduko. He loved brownies, reading mystery novels, and wrote many stories and poems. He coordinated several class reunions and was a member of the Eagles and the American Legion.
Preceding Walt in death were his parents and siblings, and he is survived by his wife Shirley, children Craig and Nancy (Hamilton), Kerry and Jeannette (Denver) and their beautiful daughters Kyla and Audrey, Sheila and Lee Hawkinson (Raleigh, NC), and Alysia and Dave Phillips (Belgrade) and their sweet children Alexis and Dominic, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, extended family and friends. He loved spending time with his family, especially the grandkids. Walt would sing “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson whenever he headed out for a walk or drive, and left us with this advice, “Life is short, make every moment the best; so relax and enjoy it, only God knows what's next!!”
A Celebration of His Life Service will be held on Monday, June 26, at 11 AM at St. Francis of Assisi Church with military honors and reception to follow at the St. Francis Pastoral Life Center at 411 S. 5th St, Hamilton. The family extends special appreciation to Dr. Randy Stewart (Hamilton), Dr. Alan Thomas (St. Patrick’s Hospital), Community Medical Center, St Francis of Assisi, Daly Leach Chapel, and Marcus Daly Hospice. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at www.dalyleachchapel.com
The family recommends that memorials be sent to your charity of choice in honor of Walt.