FRENCHTOWN — An extraordinary man died last week: On March 8, 2019, Joshua Meriah Tripp, 44, went down with his logging helicopter near Port Angeles, Washington. Josh was tireless, compassionate, and magnetic. He gave incredible hugs that wrapped you up in warmth. He listened in a way that made people feel seen. He never hesitated to tell someone how much he loved them.
Born at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, on Aug. 28, 1974, Josh grew up in the Bitterroot Valley. He attended Stevensville Schools and graduated in 1992.
Josh was known for his entrepreneurial spirit and started a lawn mowing business when he was eight years old. He became the youngest person to receive a loan from First State Bank, leveraging the funds to buy a four-wheeler to expand his paper route. As a teenager, Josh built houses. He started a power washing business. After returning from his mission with the LDS Church in San Diego, he bought a logging truck from his dad and ran a successful operation for many years. Later, he became a highly-respected seasonal flood insurance claims adjuster, a position he held in addition to running his own self-loader logging truck company, raising young kids, and, when a conversation with a fellow logger/pilot piqued his interest, learning to fly.
A skilled pilot and inspiring leader, Josh flew a logging helicopter for R&R Conner Aviation of Darby, Montana, and became its chief pilot in 2013. Last July, Josh proudly took flight in his own helicopter as the founder and president of Iron Eagle Helicopter. He had realized his dream and was doing what he loved when he died.
Josh leaves behind the love of his life, Rachelle, and six strong, capable and kind children: Kyleigh, 23, Eylissa, 21, Myles, 19, Ayden, 16, Ellyana, 14, and Brayden, 13. Josh was a devoted father, brother and son. He taught his kids about the value of family, a strong work ethic, respecting others and how to play. Whether it was hunting, fishing, or swimming with dolphins on a family trip to Mexico, Josh knew how to take a step back and truly enjoy the moment together. His last few years, spent with Rachelle, his children and his family, were the happiest of his life.
Josh is preceded in death by grandparents Harry and Betty Tripp; Harold and Claire Johnston, and his Aunt Diane Hamm. He is survived by his wife and children; parents Darrell and Lorie Tripp, sister Alesia Randall and brother-in-law Todd, brother Chad Tripp and sister-in-law Brionn, niece Bailee, nephews Evan, Ryan, Chase and Shea, and the many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who will miss him, every day.
A visitation will be held at Whitesitt Funeral Home on Friday, March 22, 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., and a funeral service will be held at the LDS Church in Stevensville on Saturday, March 23, 1 p.m., burial will follow immediately after at the Carlton Cemetery in Florence. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to Log Jam, Inc. (the Montana Loggers Association) at P.O. Box 3193, Kalispell, MT 59903. Condolences and memories may be shared with the family at whitesittfuneralhome.com.