MISSOULA — Donald Joseph Morman was born on March 14, 1950 to Earl and Verena Morman in Yankton, South Dakota, as he was often fond of describing himself, “just a dumb farm boy from South Dakota.” Those who knew him know how far from the truth this was, however, as over the course of his 67 years Don displayed an intelligence, compassion, and ambition that belied his humble roots. He died on Dec. 15, 2017, just over seven weeks after an advanced, incurable brain cancer was discovered. In those weeks, Don showed incredible grace and courage as he spent his last remaining days with his friends and family. He was then welcomed into God’s kingdom by his own Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
After spending his early years on the family farm, Don was determined to make more of his life through education, and decided to attend college, first enrolling at the University of South Dakota in Vermilion, where he received a scholarship to play football and also ran track, before transferring to Carrol College in Helena. Attending college far away from home, he learned to support himself not only as a carpenter but also occasionally as a pool shark, spending his summers as a park ranger and beginning a lifelong career as a public servant.
One summer in college, he returned home for a visit, where he first met the love of his life, Mary Christine Swanstrom, whom he affectionately called “M.C.,” at The Groveland Park ballroom in Tyndall, South Dakota. Together they started a family, marrying in 1973 after he graduated with his degree in political science. For his first job he joined the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Department in Helena before moving to Missoula, where he would continue his nearly 40-year career in law enforcement as a deputy for the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department, including the honor of attending the FBI National Academy, and found a lifelong home to raise their four children.
A loving husband and father, Don made many lifelong friends throughout his career, first in the sheriff’s department and later as a court security officer for the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse, some of whom he would continue to have weekly “crony coffee” with in his retirement. He was also a faithful Catholic, attending mass each Sunday at Saint Anthony Parish. For those who never had the pleasure of his company, a quick search on Missoulian.com will yield 86 results, ranging from multiple interviews with him as captain of the Sheriff’s Department to his two runs for sheriff, as well as his annual appearance at Stories and Stones each Halloween at the Missoula Cemetery.
A gifted storyteller with a curious mind and easy sense of humor, he was also an avid hunter, card player, outdoorsman, and firearm collector. As generous as he was gregarious, Don will be remembered by his friends and family not only for his playful ribbing, just as quick to lend a helping hand to his neighbor as he was to make a joke with a glint in his eye. He was preceded in death by both his parents, and is survived by his wife Mary, children Joe, Dan (Kristy), Tim (Sara), and Christine Morman, granddaughter Joanna, sisters Barb (Chip) and Linda (Keith), brother Dave (Shirley), as well as all the rest of his treasured extended family and too many friends to mention by name. For any of us who had the privilege to know him, however, there would be no doubt or hesitation to tell him that in living his life, as he might say himself, “ya done good.”
A celebration of his life will be held at Garden City Funeral Home from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 12. Please bring a memory or story about Don to share; both laughter as well as tears will be welcomed, and light refreshments will be served. The memorial service will take place at Saint Anthony Catholic Parish at 11 a.m. on Saturday, January 13. All are invited to attend both events.
Special thanks to Hospice of Missoula for helping us provide Don with peace and comfort at the end of his life.