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Donald B. Dowling

February 4, 1934 ~ May 23, 2017 (age 83)

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Donald B. Dowling, 83, of Hamilton passed away Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at the Marcus Daly Hospice and Palliative Care center. During the last five days of his life, he was surrounded by the constant presence of his loving family. Don was born in Hamilton on February 4, 1934, to Mable Burnett and John W. Dowling. He was raised in Hamilton, where he developed a deep love for the Bitterroot Mountains and the natural wonders of Montana. He spent his summers hiking, fishing and working in the Bitterroot National Forest and Wilderness areas. After graduating from Hamilton High School in 1952, he married Shirley Rose Evans, the love of his life (they met each other at the age of 5 and held hands under the kindergarten table). Together, they attended the University of Montana, where Don studied forestry science and worked as a USFS Ranger in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Don and Shirley spent their newlywed summers living and working in the remote Moose Creek Ranger Station, where they learned to cook on a woodstove and appreciate the fine art of resilience while honoring nature. In 1955, they moved to San Francisco with their two young children and Don graduated from the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science in 1957. They returned to Montana in 1959 following the death of his father and Don joined his brother Jack in operating the Dowling Funeral Home. He later purchased the Sanderson Hardware Store in Hamilton and operated the main street business until his retirement in 1986. Don was a lifetime member and Elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Hamilton. He served on the Hamilton School Board, and was a past member of the Hamilton Kiwanis, Masons and Shriners organizations. He dearly loved his family, many good friends and sharing quality time with them at the Dowling Lodge on the East Fork of the Bitterroot River. He earned our family doctorate degree in mischief, practical jokes and great sense of humor. Don left us with the gifts of countless memories and laughable moments. He was a great, gentle and humble man. A true dog whisperer who taught his kids to fly fish, backpack and eat more ice cream. He will be remembered for his playful spirit, love for nature, kindness and generosity. Don was preceded in death by his parents, sister Alpha, brothers Howard and Jack and granddaughter, Jessica. Don is survived by his wife Shirley of Syracuse, NY; two sons, Greg and wife Kimberly of Corvallis, Donald and wife Jeanne of Spokane, WA; two daughters, Karlene Holt (Allen) of Hamilton and Dr. Nanette Dowling of Syracuse, NY; Brother- in-law, Bob Evans and Wife Sharon; Grandchildren, Dan Shook, Dr. KariLynn Dowling, Brad Dowling, Katie Dowling; great-grandson, Sean Shook and numerous nieces and nephews. During the last few years of his life, Don and Shirley spent their time living in both Upstate New York and the Bitterroot Valley. He always said the only place he wanted to live was “anywhere with Shirley!” His family is deeply grateful to the outstanding physicians (Dr. Andrea Berg and Dr. Krishnamurthy in Syracuse and Dr.’s Linford, Brouwer, Channer and Navone in Hamilton) and many nurses who cared for him with great professionalism and dignity. Memorial contributions can be made to Marcus Daly Hospice Endowment Fund, 1200 Westwood Dr., Hamilton, MT 59840 or The Selway Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation, P.O. Box 1886, Boise, ID 83701. A celebration of his life will be held in the summer, his favorite season to be hiking the trails in the Bitterroot.  He would say the best way to honor him is by taking time to appreciate a favorite hike this weekend.

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