MISSOULA — Eugene Russell Starlin was born on Sept. 6, 1942, in Akron, Colorado, to Russell and Lola Mae Starlin. He passed away on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. He was 75 years old.

Gene lost his mother at the age of 3 in a house fire. Following his mother's death, the family moved to Charlo, where he grew up. While attending Charlo High School, Gene was a standout athlete, being invited to play in the 1961 East/West Football Shrine Game and earning a football scholarship to the University of Montana.

While in high school, Gene would spend summers in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in the fire lookouts. He had many great memories and stories about his summers in the Bob.

Gene's football career was cut short by a knee injury suffered fighting fires in the summer. After college, Gene was a green beret in the National Guard. 

Gene met Joyce Sessions in the spring of 1964. Joyce was riding a horse and Gene was riding motorcycles with his childhood friend Duane Marquart. Gene and Joyce started talking. Joyce had seen Gene before at a neighbor's house bucking out horses. Later that day, Joyce told her mom, "I'm going to marry a guy like that."

Gene and Joyce were married on Nov. 23, 1965, in Coeur d'Alene. In true Gene fashion, he took his hunting rifle. Joyce and Gene had taken the cutoff road between St. Regis and Paradise when they ran into some elk. Long story short, Joyce spent over two hours waiting the car while Gene went after the elk. For all those that know Gene, this is one of his many hunting tales.

In the fall of 1966, Gene joined the Montana Highway Patrol. He graduated top five in his class and was assigned to the station in Libby. Gene was very proud to be a member of the Highway Patrol and lived by the motto "Treat everyone like you want to be treated." His badge number 261 will always be imprinted on our hearts. He retired from the patrol after 25 years. His time was marked with great kindness to others during some of their most difficult times. To this day, people will stop family members to tell them a "Gene Starlin" story about his kindness to them.

On July 19, 1968, Gene and Joyce welcomed Shanna Mae Starlin. From birth, Shanna was a special child, like she knew her time with us was limited. She passed away May 16, 1973, and left an indescribable void in everyone's life.

Stacey Jean Starlin was born on Dec. 3, 1971, and Stephanie Lynne Starlin was born on Oct. 3, 1975. 

In 1974, Gene and the family entered into the world of horse racing. Horse racing was a true family affair and many a weekend and vacation were spent at a racetrack. Everyone agrees we would not have wanted it any other way.

Many special horses passed through the Starlin Racing barn. Shawne Charger, Sentosa, Miss Walk Tall, Seattle Cue and High Powered Mac were some of the favorites, but Gene held a special place in his heart for all of the horses he owned and trained.

Anyone who knew Gene knows about his love of animals. He was so kind to all animals. Cows, horses, dogs, or sheep, any animal lucky enough to be taken care of by Gene was fat, happy and loved.

His greatest joy in life was his girls and five grandsons. Ryan Gene Glenn joined us on July 12, 1995. He was the apple of his Grandpa's eye and his constant companion. Tyler Lee Glenn joined us June 24, 1998. He was his little toe-head boy. Kyle Michael Glenn was born June 15, 1999. He was Grandpa's bookend, the old one and the new one. Carter Starlin Topp was born on May 16, 2006, he was Papa's Carterbug. Cooper Joseph Topp was born Aug. 28, 2009. He was the last addition to Papa's basketball team. Nothing brought Gene more joy than watching his grandkids. It did not matter if it was a 4H archery contest, wrestling match, basketball game, flag football, the boys and dogs at the river being boys and dogs, or a simple family meal, Gene enjoyed those times greatly. The only thing that would make it better was if he was able to use a coupon at the meal.

Gene was preceded in death by his parents, daughter Shanna, his sister-in-law Diana Sessions and several aunts and uncles.

Gene is survived by his wife Joyce, his daughters Stacy Glenn (Garry Glenn) and Stephanie Topp (Jason Topp), his five grandkids, Ryan, Tyler and Kyle Glenn and Carter and Cooper Topp. His brother-in-law Steve Sessions, brother-in-law Smiley Sessions, his sister-in-law Bonnie Corrigan and numerous neighbors and friends who we consider family. 

As a dear friend recently reminded us, life has a funny way of stopping us in our tracks and reminding us to be grateful for what is in front of us. All the hurt and sorrow we are feeling means we loved someone so fiercely and what a beautiful thing to know that love.  Whether it is the love of your life, your children, your parents, your animals, your dear friends, your someone special. Never take love for granted and never miss a chance to tell someone you love them.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 10 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on South Avenue in Missoula. A viewing will be held prior at 9 a.m. in the Relief Society Room at the Church. The reception will follow immediately after the service with interment at the Pleasant View Cemetery in St. Ignatius, at 1:30 p.m. Sunset Memorial Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.

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