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RONAN — Dr. Swan Thomas McDonald III passed away peacefully, to be with the lord, at his home in Ronan Sept. 18, 2018, surrounded by family. He was 85.

Dad was born Dec. 16, 1932, to Mary Elisabeth McDonald (Boucher) and Swan Thomas McDonald II in Moberly, Missouri. They lived in Missouri until Tom was six, when they moved several times and then settled in Edmonds, Washington, where he went to high school. He lettered four years in baseball and two years in football and he was class president his senior year. He was offered a baseball scholarship at the University of Washington but his dad was being transferred to Denver so he enrolled at the University of Denver. 

He attended the University of Denver Medical School and was elected Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA). In medical school he met and married Margaret Ann Stearns on March 16, 1956. While living in Denver their first child Kimberly Ann McDonald was born Jan. 3, 1957. After finishing medical school he completed his internship in Detroit, Michigan. The family then moved to Great Falls where he completed a surgical fellowship. Their second child Terry Lee McDonald was born in Great Falls, Dec. 28, 1958. Dad was offered multiple positions, mostly in eastern Montana, but after driving over Ravalli hill and seeing the Mission Mountains, he decided to move to Ronan. They had two more children in Ronan, Swan Thomas McDonald IV, Oct. 22, 1960, and Kristi Ann McDonald, July 12, 1965.

Dad started his practice in the Old Sterling Hotel in Ronan with the family living in one side of the building and his office in the other side. After several years they built a home and started a small ranch northwest of Ronan where they raised Arabian horses and cattle. In the late 70s he designed and built his own medical clinic next to St. Luke hospital. In 1987 Mom died after battling leukemia.

In 1988 Dad married Shirley Wall and was blessed with a loving extended family of nieces and nephews plus a truly amazing sister in law, Dot Bocksnick.

In 40 years of practice in Ronan, many years with his partner and friend Dr. Jay T. Ballhagen, Dad took care of thousands of patients and delivered over 3,500 babies. He commented often about the wonderful doctors, nurses and other medical personnel that he worked with over the years. At his retirement in 1999 he stated that his patients had given him way more than he could give them in return.

Dad loved to hunt and fish from the time he was a little boy. He passed that love on to all his children and grandchildren. (There are a lot of fish stories at our house). At age 6 he was hunting squirrels and fishing for catfish in Mississippi. He spent years fishing and trapping on Lake Ballinger, in Washington. He hunted and fished all over the country but of all great adventures he said his month long safari in Africa and the greatest thing ever. A few months ago Dad said “I can sit back and remember almost every day of that trip.”

Dad had so many interests that he pursued over the years including rodeo, roping, training horses, gardening, snowmobiling, skiing, gunsmithing, fly tying, skeet shooting, sporting clay, golfing, baking bread, training dogs, and he did everything all out!

He was a member of the AMA (American Medical Association), the United Methodist Church, and a lifetime member of the NRA.

Recently Dad was asked if he had a bucket list. He thought for a minute and said “It’s empty because I was blessed to do everything I ever dreamed of.”

Dad is survived by his loving wife Shirley of nearly 30 years, four children: Kim Palmer (Tom  Mitchell), Terry McDonald (Cindy Bartling), Tom (Karen) McDonald, Kris (Dave) Joachim, his sweet little black lab Sadie, his faithful friend Jesse.

Five grandchildren, Brian (Sue) Palmer, Caysie Palmer, Stacy (Cory) Palm, Nichole (Andrew) Bemis, Swan Thomas McDonald V.; eight Great Grandchildren: Billy and Tori Palmer, Bayliegh Palmer, Olyvia Palmer, Caitlyn Palm, Jayden Palm, Brody and Aria Bemis.

We would like to give a very special thanks to the Providence Cancer Center, Dr. Sarah Scott, Dr. Michael Snyder, Dr. Margie Menendez and their staff. Dr. Cullis and all the doctors and staff at St Luke Hospital, Dr. George Reed and Dr. George Bandow, you all gave Dad the best care possible. We would also like to thank our wonderful Pastor Derf Bergman and the entire Methodist church family for all the love and support.

The celebration of life will be Monday Sept. 24, 11 a.m., at the Mission Valley Methodist Church with a reception dinner to follow at the Ronan Community Center. Memorials can be made to the Mission Valley United Methodist Church and the St. Luke Community Hospital. Memories and condolences may be sent to the family at

Arrangements are under the direction of Shrider – Thompson Funeral Home.

the life of: Dr. Swan Thomas McDonald III
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