MISSOULA – Burton H. Colwell, 99, was born April 29, 1911, and departed this life on April 29, 2010.
The fifth of eight children, Burton was born in Alexander, N.D., to Charles B. and Mable G. Colwell. He attended school in Williston, N.D., and graduated from Williston High School in 1930. He traveled to Montana several times during high school, working on farms and as a firefighter. Burt and a buddy hopped freights and hoboed from Williston to Fort Dodge, Iowa, to visit his grandfather. He worked building cement granaries and hand-digging trench for water mains in Williston. In 1936, while visiting his brother and sister at Southern Cross near Georgetown Lake, he was offered work pouring cement, helping build the mill at Southern Cross. He started that afternoon and when the construction was completed, he was hired as a mill operator.
He married Bernice Hardtla in 1940. Shortly thereafter the couple moved to Los Angeles, where he attended National Schools.
After graduating in 1942, he taught at the school and then worked selling diesel equipment. They returned to Anaconda in 1946, and operated a logging business. Burt went to work for the Anaconda Company, first in the water department in 1948, and then in 1949, at the Butte Anaconda and Pacific Railroad. He began as a switchman and finished his career as yardmaster, retiring from the BA&P in 1976. They built their home at Spring Hill between 1950 and 1952. During this time their son William was born. Bernice and Burt divorced in 1957.
Burton married Mildred “Mitz” Ehlafald in 1960. Burt and Mitz were active in Our Savior’s /Hope Lutheran Church, Sons of Norway, Anaconda Elks Lodge, and the Anaconda Archery Club. They league bowled and were enthusiastic square dancers. Burt loved competition and won many awards at archery, pistol shooting and bowling. He owned a pool table and taught all his grandchildren the game (but never “let” them win). To say Burt was an avid outdoorsman is an understatement. He hiked, fished, snowmobiled and hunted late into his life, killing his last elk when he was 81. He shared his love of the outdoors with his family and friends. Burt also did lapidary and lathe work and was a woodcarver. Burt was an inventor and could fix or improve anything. In 1991, Burt and Mitz moved to Missoula to be closer to family. Burt cared for Mitz until her passing in 2001. He planted fruit trees and enjoyed gardening and remained active well into his mid 90s taking care of his yard, gardening, fishing, playing pool and even buying a computer. He lived at home until his death.
Burt is survived by his son, Bill (Peggy) Colwell of Missoula; grandsons James (Monique) of Washington, Utah, Scot (Shelly), Clint and Jesse, all of Missoula; and great-grandchildren, Aarie, Caleb, Elisa, and Becca.; sister Mary Jean Prince (Tom) of Olympia, Wash.; and many nieces and nephews.
Visitation is at noon Wednesday, May 5, with services to follow at 1 p.m., at Our Saviors Lutheran Church, Bonner. Reception at the church will follow. Internment will be at Sunset Memorial Gardens at 3 p.m.
Family suggests memorials to Our Saviors Lutheran Church, P.O. Box 1009, Bonner, MT 59823.