KALISPELL — What a man! What a life!
Barry Dean Abel was born in Texas where his parents ran a fruit shipping business; according to family lore, the doctor was a little tipsy, (or roaring drunk, depending on the version), and filled out his birth certificate with the wrong date, wrong day of the week, and misspelled his name. Years later his 103-year-old aunt vouched for the corrections with the Social Security Administration.
He met Shirley Parks at the Maid-Rite Café in Council Bluffs, Iowa, leading to a 57 year-long partnership and four children. In 1967 they packed up the household and moved to the Bitterroot. An avid hunter and fisherman, for years Barry guided with Dean O’Leary in the Pintler Wilderness to supplement his income and put meat on the table.
Barry was a lifetime NRA member and journeyman electrician, and he fulfilled his curious mind and ‘spare’ time through a lifetime of learning: He was an inventor (with patents in his name), and a scholar and collector of coins, cameras, binoculars, clocks, padlocks, woodworking tools, and hand saws. Then, just when you thought he was done collecting, he became an expert on antique pencil sharpeners. Barry was a self-taught wood craftsman and machinist, making bamboo fishing poles, black powder rifles, and an 18-foot-canoe (built in our dining room to Shirley’s chagrin).
And there were the guns. He was widely known in the Bitterroot as an expert gunsmith and gun historian, particularly in the gun show community. He was the Go To Firearm Guy for anyone with a question and could fix most guns; if a part was unavailable, he would make it.
Love for the flag and patriotism was an essential part of his life, and he sincerely regretted not being able to serve his country in the military, due to his age (too young for WWII, too old for Korea) and ruptured eardrums (ouch).
He looked forward to coffee and breakfast for years with his buddies, whether it was at BJ’s, the Trading Post, Coffee Cup or his kitchen table. The conversation inevitably turned into ‘gun show and tell’.
Barry never stopped working and learning: He started two newspapers — Tool Ads and Air Gun Ads — and built his storage unit business, West Bridge Storage, which he ran until 85 years of age and sold just this year.
To his four kids he was a rock built on a foundation of respect and the Golden Rule, and was a model for raising their own families. Moreover, he was a father figure to people in the many communities he was a part of. During his later days, the family appreciated the visits, phone calls, assistance, thoughts and prayers. Recently he said, “that’s just the way gun people are.”
Barry was preceded in death by his wife Shirley, and grandchild Bailey Dean Abel. He leaves behind his four children: Pam (Tom) of Woodinville, Washington; Shellee, and Lee (Chantel) of Kalispell; Brian (Debbie) of Renton, Washington; along with eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life will be held in Hamilton, at the Eagles Lodge on July 21 at 1 p.m. Johnson-Gloschat Funeral Home and Crematory is caring for the family.