MISSOULA – On Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, we lost the patriarch of our family when our beloved grandfather, father and husband died at 86 years of age. He was the baby of his family, but the leader of ours. Our little Frenchman joined three brothers and two sisters when he was born in Dickinson, North Dakota, on March 9, 1928, to Albert and Adianna (Beaudoin) Ouellette. His first language was French, and he could still throw out a few phrases after all these years. He graduated from St. Mary’s in Great Falls in 1947 and joined the U.S. Army in August 1950, serving in Korea as a sergeant first class in the artillery, 3rd Division. He was honorably discharged in September 1953.
His sister Gladys introduced her very handsome brother to her tenant, a darling, sweet Minnesota girl named Phyllis Bradley. He finally convinced her he was worthy and they were married Sept. 4, 1954, in Great Falls. Just 10 months later, they welcomed their fiery-haired daughter Cyndi into the world. About 16 months later, their shy, little Lynne joined her. Fourteen months later bulldozer Jeff was born. They took a short break from having babies before welcoming gentle Tom to complete their family in 1961.
Ben and Phyllis started married life in a tiny upstairs apartment in Geraldine, where he tried his hand at car sales before moving back to Great Falls. He was hired by the Montana Power Co. in Great Falls in 1954, transferring to the Missoula gas division in 1966 and ended his career as town manager in Hamilton in 1988. During the early years, he often held a second job to support his family and worked at the Red Door Liquor Store and built grain elevators in the summer. He worked hard to support us.
He was gruff, but as soft-hearted as could be. When he gave you “the look,” he meant business though we eventually learned to give it right back. He was at his best in the morning and had a beautiful singing voice, which he used to wake us kids, along with toe pinching and light flipping much to our irritation. He played the ukulele and gathered us around him on Sundays to read us the funny papers while we combed his hair.
He worked hard, but played hard as well. He bowled in league, was a great dancer, gardened, golfed a little, did a little bird hunting and enjoyed camping. As much as he loved fishing on Georgetown Lake and Lake Mary Ronan, he most enjoyed watching others catch fish. He believed he had a great poker face and always had a fun time at whatever he was doing. He was the fun dad of the neighborhood, playing kickball and work up with all us kids. He developed the infamous adult Easter egg hunt, which included money and prizes. He was a great taste tester and lover of Kit Kat candy bars.
He was welcomed to heaven by his parents and his siblings, Ernie, Don, Vernon "Doc," Gladys and Rosemary; and his only grandson, Dylan. He will be forever missed by his wife, Phyllis; and children, Cyndi (Tom) Steigers, Lynne (Al) Gilfillan, Jeff (Suzy) and Tom. Chelsea, Rachel, Annie, Allyse, Dylan, Stephanie, Shelby, Hannah and Libby called him Papa. His great-grandchildren are London, Lane, Anderson, Dylan, Witt and Bennett.
A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 8, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 411 S. Fifth St., in Hamilton, where a memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, with the Rev. James Connor presiding. Inurnment will take place at a later date at the Western Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Missoula.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Dylan Steigers Concussion Project, 1940 Harve Ave., Missoula MT 59801; Emma’s House, 800 N. Second St., Hamilton MT 59840; or Bitterroot Youth Homes, 196 Providence Way, Hamilton MT 59840.
Brothers Mortuary and Crematory is assisting the Ouellette family with services. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at brothersmortuary.com.